Copying in music production is often regarded as cheating straight away.

But here’s why I highly encourage everyone to go ahead and do it. DO NOT try and sell the exact replica as your own though of course, but that really should go without saying.

Ravenswood_Student-largeFirst of all, either we’re aware or not but to some extent we all take ideas from other producers, artists, or pieces of art. We use it as an input, as inspiration, develop it further, add our own touch to it.

Shame we don’t really get to do it properly, though. We just don’t quite have the time and opportunity to try and copy something as accurately as possible.

But we’re missing out big time. Here’s why.

I don’t think anything helped me more to develop my critical listening skills than one of the assignments we had at Thames Valley University, London.

We had to pick a two-minute clip of a movie of our choice and create
a) the exact replica of the soundtrack (supportive)
b) an alternative soundtrack that changes the meaning of the original clip (subversive).

Even though part b) was tremendously interesting, too, I’ll only focus here on the first part.

You could use any resources you wanted, DAWs, software, hardware, samples (except for the ones in your reference clip), studio and equipment for dialogue or foley, etc. After a long rummage trying to locate a movie clip with no dialogue and as few sounds as possible, I found a little bit in Artificial Intelligence that I could use.

Well, at first you realise that in a movie there is basically no silence. Ever. Even when you’d think there is, there just isn’t – there’s always some ambience or tiny noises or breathing or what not. So you listen carefully a couple of dozen times, take notes, place markers in your project, and start building the first sounds.

And then it starts to become really interesting.

The closer you get to the original, the more difference you begin to notice. It’s as if the object that you’re observing was literally expanding in front of your eyes. It’s an unbelievable experience. The closer you look, the higher the resolution, like a real-life living fractal of sounds. Mind boggling.

Not only was it one of the most exciting and useful assignments at Uni but probably in my life.

All because I had the time and opportunity to copy something as accurately as possible.

So if you feel like copying something you hear, my advice is:
go ahead and experiment, it’ll most likely teach you a great deal about critical listening.

And don’t forget: imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.

Do you have any questions? Have you found the same? Have you found the opposite?
Let me know in the comments below!

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