What exactly is a pro musician ?

It is a person able to read and write music scores or drum scores, arrange harmonies, play instruments, and name a pitch or a rythm by ear. Maybe I idealize the concept, but to me a “true” musician would master his instrument and write down in an intelligible manner all of their experiments, in order to communicate with their fellow musicians.

On this field, I am clearly lacking! They say “fake it until you make it“, so let us break through some concepts I have grasped on the Internets, unfortunately without turning them into reflexes :

Temperament

Most trained musicians are vaguely aware about temperament but stick to 12-EDO as the norm. Further research in xenharmonic music ends up in the hands of total nerds (and I like to call myself one of them, just because I am aware of this concept), or is more commonly seen in as part of culture foreign music (Balinese, Arab, Indian, …).

Scales

A list of scales is already accessible in Live Coding environments, meaning if you want to experiment the fate of a beginner musician who doesn’t know how to tone their scores or play their instruments, you would have to use the chromatic scale only… Using a listed scale makes the production process a bit easier.

Modes

Modal music is a declination of scales. Either you know it or not, but usually Live Coding Environments provide them as well.

Chords

When you are using scales, you may want to know how to build chords. While some live coding environments may include a chord list, some websites provide them as a list of numbers as well. Clearly, some chords sound extremely bad and should be used only under specific circumstances.

Melodies and arranging

The most difficult part to me, since it needs knowledge in harmony and also in rythm. The melody must have some sort of relationship with the chords, and must build what is called a “hook”. The hook is the earworm that gets stuck in your listener’s head. Of course this can be skipped in “experimental music”.

Song structure

verses, choruses, bridges, cadential formulas… Really difficult to get when you don’t know where to go. It is a question of technique but also a question of creativity : how do you want to write this story.

Rythms

Also another difficult part, but some basic rythm structures can be found on the google, for starters.

Sound design

A part of the work that takes importance in what a Digital Audio Workstation (DAW) musician does. It can be nice to have extra knowledge on how to craft instruments and apply sound effects, in order to know what to do when given the sound design tools in Live Coding.

Music history and trivia

It really is an asset when you know how to build a specific style (waltz, salsa, typical garage rock, etc, you name it). This allows to keep some consistency in the production process.

What are the differences between music live coding and using a DAW?

The DAW has a notable advantage in being able to access a great sound design and mixing technique. Every known artist has used a DAW at some point in their life. The tracker system is also nice in a way, since it allows to convert a a piano roll into a table, which may give something accessible to persons not trained to use a piano.

Live Coding allows to express our creativity in small lines of text, which also is a technical prowess. It benefits from large chunks of data made just to make our lives easier (scales encyclopedia, built-in instruments, built-in samples). It is also a runtime system with a built-in clock, which calls a loop of all active tracks, meaning we get to experiment our song output in a heartbeat.

Myself not being a trained musician, I find some solace in this idea I can write nice pieces of music, using different rythms, tempos, time signatures, even temperaments, without much effort.

But I’d clearly recommend getting the needed reflexes to play this unique set of instruments. A programmer is able to noodle a bit while learning his programming language of choice, conversely a musician may experiment some trouble setting his sound design and writing his note pitches as numbers.

So we can say a serene Live Coder is at ease with both aspects.