Power Up Your Compositions With Referencing

Today we’ll be doing something a little different with a post from a special guest, Andy Kumanov. We have a collaboration together on Enhanced Progressive titled ‘Valhalla’ for which Andy provided the initial composition that later became ‘Valhalla’.

Continuing our composition series, Andy’s strength shines in his compositions, which most times can be broken down into methodical steps that we’ll get a glimpse of here. What we will discuss today is Musical Referencing with an example of a chord progression in one of Andy’s released tracks titled ‘Beamlight’. Take it away, Andy…

Composition referncing

Hi, my name is Andy Kumanov and today I will be sharing my experience with Composition Referencing. Musical referencing is an excellent technique to break writer’s block, come up with original compositions, and learn new things in music!

I believe that our best teachers are our biggest inspirations and learning how to learn from your inspirations can go a long way. You can either follow this post in the video below or just read the post. Either way, here’s what we’ll cover today:

  1. Beamlight’s Composition Breakdown
  2. Extracting the Scale/Key From Midi That Inspires You
  3. Combination With Pressure by Oliver Smith
  4. Creating Beamlight’s Chord

Let’s dive in!

Beamlight’s Composition Breakdown

In my track ‘Beamlight’, I was inspired to combine Pryda’s ‘Lycka’ and Oliver Smith’s ‘Pressure’, and I will walk through how I used these compositions to create the melodic structure of my track. To get the midi of both tracks I applied different techniques to find each midi.

For Eric Prydz’s Lycka, I picked the midi file of the track at https://www.nonstop2k.com/, or https://bitmidi.com/, and placed it on a piano. This way I could study it and gain some inspiration and knowledge from it regarding the intervals used in the scale or key. Check the image below to see Lycka’s midi:

Lycka Midi

Extracting the Scale/Key From Midi That Inspires You

After obtaining the midi, I gathered all the notes from the midi over one octave and put them to the side in the piano roll, which we’ll call ‘Lycka set’ (RED). I then drew a Natural Minor scale in F# over 2 octaves to the left of the Lycka set, which we’ll call the ‘F#Minor set’ (PURPLE).

You may ask yourself why are there notes in RED, such as the bottom C#, that are not being played but considered in the scale, and the reason is that I’m aggregating the notes played in one octave, and then I just doubled it down so I’m covering all notes played.

Lyckas Midi F vs F Dorian

If we look closely, there is only one note that doesn’t match the F#Minor set, which is the 6th note of the scale (D), highlighted in green. Lycka set has the 6th note augmented compared to F# Minor (increasing one semitone to D#), which tells me Lycka here is F#, but not F# minor… Lycka is in F# Dorian — a musical mode.

Dorian Mode

Ok, I found the scale and some chords I wanted to work with, which were in F# Dorian. However, since I wanted to transform this into something new, I combined it with Oliver Smith’s Pressure as I really liked the movement of the chords in there — mainly the bass movement.

Combination With Pressure by Oliver Smith

Since the midi of Oliver Smith’s Pressure was not available online, I had to extract the notes myself from an audio file, which I did with a frequency analyzer. Take a closer look in the image below:

Abletons Spectrum highlighting frequencies

Looking at the first 2-3 octaves of the melodic instrument peaks (the fundamentals) and with the help of the spectrum, I was able to detect the notes he was playing with the help of a handy frequency chart.

Frequency Chart

After checking all the notes from all the chords, I found this midi set — the top 3 notes with the ‘staggered’ pattern:

Pressures ABAC pattern

Now that the midi from Oliver Smith’s ‘Pressure’ has been extracted, I looked at the pattern of the bottom notes of the chords and noticed an interesting ‘call & response’ movement in the form of AB-AC, which is what caught my ear. I liked this AB/AC vibe, and I wanted to apply this to my track, where Segment A would play a repeating pattern of notes, and B and C would play different notes.

Ok, now I have the bass pattern and I have the scale that I want to work with, time to create some magic.

Creating Beamlight’s Chords

After analyzing and noting the inspiration of both tracks:

  • Pryda’s ‘Lycka’ Key, Mode and finishing chord resolution
  • Oliver Smith’s ‘Pressure’ AB-AC bass pattern

I thought “What if I picked up the key/mode from Lycka, and the chord root (bass) composition from Oliver Smith’s Pressure to make something new?” and this is what I came up with:

Beamlights final chord progression

Besides matching both chords and structure from my inspirations, I also:

  • I introduced another note (minor 3rd) during the ‘A’ part of the AB-AC structure to create more movement. You can see this note in the midi image above — the single white note during the ‘A’ section.
  • I changed a bit of the rhythm, introducing a few chord stops to enhance the movement & introduce some variety to the first ‘A’ part.
  • I introduced contrast in my progression by having tall chords and narrower chords.
  • I also balanced the transitions between chords with many overlapping notes, although not used in all transitions.

And this is how I came up with Beamlight! It seems complex, but basically, it’s just a way of referencing the key of one track and the structure of another, combining them and making some changes to make it even more unique.


Now It’s Your Turn

I hope you’ve learned something new today and I’m eager to listen to what you come up with after trying this technique with tracks that inspire you!

Let me know in the comments below with which tracks you will apply this technique to your tracks!

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Leo Lauretti

Leo Lauretti

Born and raised in São Paulo, Brazil, Leo Lauretti has been producing since 2013. With releases on SONY Music, Armada, Enhanced Music, Leo Lauretti accumulates multiple supports from artists like Above & Beyond, Ferry Corsten, Cosmic Gate, Nicky Romero, and many others all over the world.

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