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Old 04-06-2009, 07:08 PM   #1 (permalink)
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How did Stevie Wonder "write" music?

I'm a HUGE Stevie Wonder fan, have all his albums. Still, I can't fathom that someone who is unable to see could write over 30+ albums worth of original music. Especially since the music writing process requires so much editing and incorporating many layers of elements.

My guess is that he receives a LOT of assistance from various musicians around him who take his main musical ideas and transcribe them into musical notation, then lead him along when it's time to coordinate all the pieces. I still can't come up with a good explanation for how he's also able to write lyrics accompanying the pieces.

Regardless, his talent is otherworldly.
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Old 04-06-2009, 07:15 PM   #2 (permalink)
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He probably didn't write sheet music, at least not the sheet music you or I might know. Braille music has existed for many years, but it's likely he simply used his ears.

You can play piano purely by ear, without ever seeing any music.
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Old 04-07-2009, 01:44 AM   #3 (permalink)
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Not like he's the first blind person ot write music.

Hell, Beethoven did it deaf.
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Old 04-07-2009, 03:12 AM   #4 (permalink)
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Steview Wonder was a child prodigy and got signed by Motown at age 11. He was teamed up with producer songwriter Clarence Paul. He released his first 2 albums aged 12. At about age 17 he began co-writing his songs and having greater control over his music. By age 21 he had written or co-written every song on his latest album. At about the same time, he took music theory classes for the first time. He started his own recording company and recorded and produced an entire album where he played almost all the instruments you can hear. It's called 'Music of my Mind'.

His most acclaimed albums are: Talking Book, Innervisions, and Songs in the Key of Life.

I can imagine he did his own song creating by ear, then record himself. Maybe later he found a way of writing it out, or someone did it for him. Stevie Wonder was gifted at several instruments (piano, drums, harmonica), so I can imagine he had no trouble playing what he wanted on a few other instruments to give musicians a base of what he wanted.

Stevie Wonder is awesome.
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Old 04-07-2009, 03:55 AM   #5 (permalink)
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John Milton "wrote" the epic poem Paradise Lost while blind. He dictated it to his daughters.

History is filled with extraordinary people who contributed much to this world despite a "disability."

Stevie Wonder is no exception.
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Old 04-07-2009, 10:59 AM   #6 (permalink)
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Old 04-07-2009, 02:01 PM   #7 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by essendoubleop View Post
I'm a HUGE Stevie Wonder fan, have all his albums. Still, I can't fathom that someone who is unable to see could write over 30+ albums worth of original music. Especially since the music writing process requires so much editing and incorporating many layers of elements.

My guess is that he receives a LOT of assistance from various musicians around him who take his main musical ideas and transcribe them into musical notation, then lead him along when it's time to coordinate all the pieces. I still can't come up with a good explanation for how he's also able to write lyrics accompanying the pieces.

Regardless, his talent is otherworldly.
I write music all the time without notation. MIDI sequencers have been around since at least the late '70s/early '80s.
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Old 04-09-2009, 06:26 AM   #8 (permalink)
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I write music all the time without notation. MIDI sequencers have been around since at least the late '70s/early '80s.
So you're suggesting he played music into MIDI sequencers to write his music? That still wouldn't explain the 20 albums or so he wrote in the 60s and 70s.
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Old 04-09-2009, 07:40 AM   #9 (permalink)
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So you're suggesting he played music into MIDI sequencers to write his music? That still wouldn't explain the 20 albums or so he wrote in the 60s and 70s.
Yes. I am suggesting that. But you'll note that I didn't say that was the ONLY way he wrote music. I didn't think I needed to explain much else as it has already been discussed.

However,

Before MIDI sequencing became the norm there were multi-track recording devices. He could play the drum part, piano/keys parts, bass parts, sing the vocal parts, and probably guitar parts to some extent one track at a time.

Before mulit-tracking became the norm (late 60's) it was pretty much just get a bunch of guys together and jam while recording with one microphone (or a couple of mics if there was a mixing board). Then rework those jams into a song. Or when there was already a strong structure he would probaby just explain the groove to the players and go from there.

It's really amazing to watch session players work. They don't (as a rule) use sheet music or need anything other than their own musical style to work out a song.

Very, very few pop/rock artist take the time to actually score and notate the song.
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Old 04-09-2009, 02:22 PM   #10 (permalink)
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Popular music is usually improvisational, and almost always originates as sound before it is written down on paper. Some is never written down and some is written only with a few guidelines.
Stevie Wonder probably didn't "write" music in the same sense that Beethoven wrote music. Not meaning that as a criticism. He certainly did --create is probably a more accurate word than write-- some fine music. There are many ways to create music. Musical notation on staff or score paper is only one way.

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Old 04-09-2009, 06:12 PM   #11 (permalink)
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I'm sure that anyone who is blind didn't actually write music in the way that we know it. They just sat in the studio and recorded tracks based of chord structures and whatever else by ear. Then someone who really cared about having it written down took the time to write it out.
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Old 04-26-2009, 06:29 AM   #12 (permalink)
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It's really amazing to watch session players work. They don't (as a rule) use sheet music or need anything other than their own musical style to work out a song.
Well kind of. Depending on the session.

Usually tv and movie sessions require a score to be read. A cool example was in the old Guitar Player magazines where Tommy Tedesco would show the score used as well as explain the session of different tv and movie themes played on.

In alot of sessions the musicians will be given a lead sheet( chord symbols and melody line - or in Nashville numbers to correlate the degree of the chord to be played. ie Chords C, F, G = 1, 4, 5). Having said that, the musicians still have alot of room to do their own thing in their style provided it meshes with the context of what is going on.

Rock sessions are the most free flowing. I think Reb Beach of the groups Winger and Whitesnake said once he never saw a sheet of music in his time doing rock sessions, but probably was to do with not having the ability to read music and also much of the playing was off the cuff and at the discretion of the player.

But with people like Stevie Wonder and tons of other artists, the need to score your music was really not necessary since someone at the publishing house was already going to do it for sheet music sales. And besides at that level, musicians don't need the sheet music, they just need the key and an idea of the arrangement to do their thing.
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Old 04-26-2009, 07:57 AM   #13 (permalink)
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I don't get this thread. It seems to imply that a blind man should have difficulty writing music. Lots of musicians (myself included) don't write as they work out how a song's going to sound. For me, the notation is more like an afterthought than anything. A lot of musicians don't even bother with it at all, particularly within the rock/blues/pop arena.
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Old 04-26-2009, 03:18 PM   #14 (permalink)
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For you musicians out there, or for those who know a lot about the process, how do they usually write the lyrics (if they have it)? Do they start by like, just writing a paragraph and then try singing it a few different ways? Do the instrumentals tend to come first or last? I'm sure there are different techniques, but what's the standard for each genre?
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Old 04-26-2009, 04:40 PM   #15 (permalink)
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In my experience there is no "right" way to do it. In every band I've ever been it has come any way it can. Lyrics first, music first, same time ... whatever.

I'm actually at Dockside Studios right now working out a few things. Check it out:

docksidestudios.com

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Old 05-20-2009, 04:55 PM   #16 (permalink)
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In my experience there is no "right" way to do it. In every band I've ever been it has come any way it can. Lyrics first, music first, same time ... whatever.
That's right. An artist's process is their own. I usually write music through improvisation. I'll begin playing something I dig and I'll just get the recorder and get the rhythm and usually I'll improv some melody on top of it. Lyrics at the same time sometimes. It depends. Then I'll rework it, play it live a few times, rework it depending on how it works live.

When I write it's usually just a blast of whatever. Sean Connery said it best in Finding Forrester: first you write.
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Old 05-21-2009, 07:49 AM   #17 (permalink)
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As a former music minor, I can write down all sorts of correct shit about theory and progress a chord like nobody's business. I can't improv worth shit though, which is the mark of a decent musician. I was in my 30's when I finally figured out that if I play with the key of the song, I could improv. Even then, not decently.

Paul McCartney wrote a symphony and does not know how to read sheet music.

Town Criers back in the dark ages had set songs they followed and embellished on, as well as Catholic masses that were learned by rote and not written down. Music is basically a folk tale, passed from generation to generation. About 99% of the music created through history was created by people who never read a stanza or clef.

Given Stevie's potential compenstation to the ear, it probably made him an even better composer.

Beethoven, by the way, heard his music through the vibrations in his feet when he could no longer hear. He never lost the ability to imagine.
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