Creative Strategies by Dennis Desantis Vespers

Have you ever opened a new Live Set, pondering the blank slate of an empty Session View window, wondering how to begin? Or, not knowing how to get from that first spark of inspiration to a finished piece of music. The fact is, despite all the music tools and technology at our disposal nowadays, making music remains as difficult as ever.

Dennis DeSantis, is Ableton’s Head of Documentation, tackles this subject of his new book entitled “Making Music – 74 Creative Strategies for Electronic Music Producers”. The book is not an expanded Live user’s manual. Instead, as the title implies, it’s meant to help you actually make music – Dennis shares concrete tips for solving musical problems, making progress, and (most importantly) finishing what you start. Regardless of what DAW, software or hardware you use.

What is the book?

Making Music is divided into three sections, the first of which deals with problems (and solutions) at the beginning stages of the music-making process. It presents a systematic, concrete set of patterns that you can use when making music in order to move forward.

Each pattern is presented in the following way:

  • A problem is stated. A problem is a roadblock that stops you from making progress with a particular piece of music. The problems in this book are real-world situations—you’ll likely recognize many of them as things that have held you back in the past. A problem might appear at the beginning (e.g., you don’t know how to start), in the middle (e.g., you’ve created lots of material but don’t know how to organize it), or near the end (e.g., you keep making changes and can’t decide how to finish).
  • The problem is explained in more detail via examples and (sometimes) references to other patterns.
  • A solution is provided. A solution is a concrete instruction or small set of instructions that will solve the stated problem. Like the problems, the solutions are also real; if you apply the solution,
 the problem will be solved. Note that this requires you to actually do the solution; in most cases, reading it won’t be enough to move you forward. Making Music can show you the way, but you still need to do the work.
  • The solution is explained in more detail via examples and (sometimes) references to other patterns.

Who is this book for?

If you make original music using computers and you’ve ever found yourself struggling to complete your musical projects, Making Music was written for you. While many of the patterns discussed here can probably be modified or directly applied to other types of music-making (such as composing for rock bands or string quartets), the goal of this book is to solve the specific problems that people have when working with machines, rather than with instruments or other people.

Who’s the author?

Dennis is a musician with a background in a variety of different worlds. He studies classical composition, music theory, and percussion, although these days he primarily writes electronic music in the direction of house and techno. He grew up just outside of Detroit, and all of the amazing music that came from and through that city was a big influence in his early musical development. Although this book aims to be as genre-neutral as possible, it’s very much written from his personal perspective—the things he talks about here are a reflection of things he actually thinks about and employ in my own music.


Read the full blog write up over on Dennis has also uploaded select chapters of the book and a more detailed and in-depth description here.