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There are certainly people who have natural ability, and compose melodically, applying varying levels of knowledge in music theory.

There are other people who can't make heads or tails out of a keyboard, compose a tune in their head, or understand chordal progressions, but nevertheless compose music in layers and still do extraordinary work. They find what they like by playing with notes on the screen. Joel Zimmerman, a.k.a. Deadmau5, is an example of this.

I am an example of the former, with natural ability, bolstered by training in music theory. But I still use a layered approach when I am composing, generally starting with a beat or bassline, playing with melodic progressions in snippets, and eventually moving into a traditional composition process when I have something started that I like. Ableton makes this process extremely easy and productive.

Indeed. As a classically-trained musician, watching Joel's class on Masterclass and seeing him compose melodies by dragging notes around in Ableton until they "sound right to him" was eye-opening.

What surprised me was how he makes melody lines: Playing with chords until he likes the progression, and then pulling notes out of the chords to form a melody. And of course it makes sense on one level.

But I think melodically and tend to do a lot of counterpoint. Getting the chords out of my head and onto the screen is often the last thing I do. I don't know how well his approach would work with counterpoint, since counterpoint often creates and resolves dissonance using passing tones in double time.

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