1. jg22

    jg22 Member

    Oct 15, 2011
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    How do you describe music in fiction?

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by jg22, May 31, 2012.

    Hello folks,

    I have an interesting quandry. A scene in the chapter I am currently writing involves an elaborate ritual accompanied by a range of classical Indian instruments being played. I can describe the players and their instruments well enough, but how do I go about writing a convincing description of the sounds they produce? Not many western readers of the book will be familiar with the sound of the instruments (sitar, veena, sarod etc), so should I aim to use simile and other devices to atleast persuade the reader to want to know what the instruments sound like? How do you go about describing the sounds of music?

  2. louis1

    louis1 Contributing Member

    Jan 3, 2012
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    I'd go with describing how people react to the music, more that the sound itself. or a mix of both for a sitar for example
    ''the sitar played a heavenly sound resembling one of a metallic guitar making it irresistible for people to retain form chanting the ancient words''

    Something like this. i guess would be good.

    note that I write in french and english is not my first language so probably my idea sucks terribly and i just don't know it.
  3. Human Nature

    Human Nature New Member

    May 31, 2012
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    Im a music producer, I also incorporate music/sound in to writing...
    My advice, don't dumb down first of all use the instrument names a they should be ..dont find something you think people might know ...
    From the sounds of it I i'm guessing you are not a musician so are asking basically how to describe a sound beyond your current vocabulary of musical terms..
    Well my advice (its annoying but you will benifit from it) is to learn, you dont have to learn an instrument dont worry ...how about just spending a day on youtube finding the sounds you imagine fit the contaxt then asking someone who might know what those sounds are called.

    Also dont underestimate the power of the Sitar, you would be suprised how manypeople have heard it played and its distinctive sound is not something to be forgotten.
    Another suggestion if you REALLY want to do it right is to do some specific research and interview some people ...get your self down to an indian marke where they play/sell music and ask a few questions.
    ....alternativly just pop down to your local school/college and ask to speak to someone in the music department ...I lived with a music teacher for about 6yrs, trust me they know the terminology ... :-D

    words that spring to mind that you need to be aware of (with regards to describing a sound) are tone, timbre, tambre, glide/portomento.

    if for whatever you see to hit a brickwall and dont think you can get the right phrasing try simply describing the instrument its self, you may find the correct term presents its self (most musical terms are actualy self explanitory in the realm of the instrument)

    Also as someone that creates and records audio would suggest from time to time not focusing on the sound so much as the effect the sound is having on the room ;) <--- that wont make sense to anyone outside music production lol, a bit of acoustic theory for you free of charge :-D

    I hope that helps in some way
  4. Mark_Archibald

    Mark_Archibald Active Member

    Jan 12, 2012
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    Music, lyrics, poetry, most of the time these translate horribly into written form. I stay away from them personally, with the exception of digital books where you can put an audio file into the book that the reader can play when prompted.

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