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#1149940 - 08/21/06 08:03 PM Difference between "compose" and "write" a song.
jowook Offline
Full Member

Registered: 02/25/06
Posts: 53
Loc: Kansas City, MO, USA
Hey guys. I don't have any musical background. I am not even a native English speaker. I am an engineer who always struggles with damn difficult English conversation with co-workers and clients. So please don't blame me too musch because of this stupid question. So the question is what is the difference between "compose" and "write" a song. Thanks guys.
One of Charlie "Bird" Parker's neighborhood

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#1149941 - 08/21/06 08:09 PM Re: Difference between "compose" and "write" a song.
signa Offline
8000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/06/04
Posts: 8483
Loc: Ohio, USA
none whatsoever.

#1149942 - 08/22/06 05:35 AM Re: Difference between "compose" and "write" a song.
stephenc Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/15/06
Posts: 693
Loc: Australia
i agree with signa, but i've often noticed people (including myself) referring to piano solo or other instrumental pieces as having been 'composed' whereas songs with lyrics often tend to be referred to as 'written'.

The word 'composed' seems to carry a bit of prestige or something. For example if 'writers' of Britney Spears songs were referred to regularly as 'composers' (which they are of course), it would sound a bit out of place to some.

#1149943 - 08/22/06 04:35 PM Re: Difference between "compose" and "write" a song.
193866 Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/02/06
Posts: 777
Loc: Manassas,Va
To me, composed is a classical or new age composition concept...A more serious piece of music... without words... When referred to as written ...not composed ...I think of a song with words...Sandy B
Sandra M. Boletchek 08/02/06

#1149944 - 09/18/06 04:34 PM Re: Difference between "compose" and "write" a song.
Poof Offline
Full Member

Registered: 12/06/05
Posts: 53
Loc: TX
Ok, I know this topic is kind of old, but I was thinking about this the other day. It seems to me that composing refers to a song without words-just notes, and writing refers to just the words of a song. Of course, I'm no expert here. Actually, I think the terms can be interchanged. It just seems logical to me for them to be separate, though. \:\) But then what if it has no words and you add them later???
Think of the fierce energy concentrated in an acorn! You bury it in the ground, and it explodes into an oak! Bury a sheep, and nothing happens but decay. ~George Bernard Shaw

#1149945 - 09/18/06 05:12 PM Re: Difference between "compose" and "write" a song.
g#maj Offline
Full Member

Registered: 03/08/05
Posts: 126
Loc: No. Va
I think I compose, rather than write, music because I take the terms literally. At best, one of my pieces will have only a few notes sketched out on paper -- call that 'written.' Writing, then, just lets me see a pattern instead of only hear it. Writing is painfully slow and unattractive because I do it longhand; I do it only for selected parts. I record full compositions on tape, and none has lyrics.

For these reasons I don't think I 'write' music.

To me, 'compose' is a broader music term that simply means I've created something. I do record it on tape so I can recall it. Recording is a separate activity from composing.

I probably got these notions from reading instructions at the Copyright office. My notions could be errant, for all I know, but they make sense to me.

If ever I registered a copyright for an instrumental melody, then added words later, I'd just file a copyright correction form to amend the first filing. But I think you could also file a registration of lyrics, and on that form you could reference the prior registration? I realize this thread wasn't about copyrights, but copyright processes give structure to my thoughts about writing vs. composing.

#1149946 - 09/29/06 08:22 AM Re: Difference between "compose" and "write" a song.
I. Bruton Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/20/04
Posts: 861
Loc: Raleigh
Hey guys,

A song with lyrics or an instrumental piece is composing. In other words, if someone has taken the time to place notation on a sheet of paper, then it has been composed and/or arranged.

Writing a song implies that there is only a lyric sheet/chord chart available or the song is passed around aurally through folk gatherings, recordings, etc.

JMHO, hope it helps.
I. Bruton
B.A. Music Composition
M.M. Music Education
High School Choral Director
Church Music Director
Pianos owned: Yamaha C3
Pianos at work: Yamaha P22, Kawai K3, Steinway B

#1149947 - 10/04/06 04:50 PM Re: Difference between "compose" and "write" a song.
vik Offline
Full Member

Registered: 10/01/06
Posts: 20
Loc: Canada
This is my personal opinion. It differs a bit from I. Bruton's but not by much.

Writing a song = applies to lyrics ONLY.

Composing a song = applies to anything that will give a harmony, rhythm or melody.
University of Western Ontario - Piano Technology

#1149948 - 01/07/07 08:08 AM Re: Difference between "compose" and "write" a song.
t_noble77 Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 01/06/07
Posts: 1
Loc: Aberystwyth, United Kingdom
Old topic, I know, but it grabbed me as I went through the old posts, so I felt like blundering in with my opinion ;\)

I think, to pick up on things said by the other posters, the generally accepted difference is that "compose" is associated with so-called "high culture" (ie. art music) and "write" is associated with low culture (ie. popular music such as rock or R'N'B). If you stop to think about it though, it is quite ironic that someone making art music will, for the most part, "write" his or her music down on paper before it's ever performed. In what seems like a previous life, the rock band I played in never wrote down a single note of the music it played but, now that I compose string quartets and clarinet sonatas, I spend my days and nights scrawling arcane symbols on bits of paper.

Even more interesting to me is that the Latin origin of the English word "compose" is "compono", which means "I put together". Whether we make art music, rock or jazz - and don't even get me started on the problems with labelling different styles of music - aren't we all, in the end, just "putting together" sounds, in various combinations, to form melodies, harmonies and rhythms? Only the unfortunate few are forced to write it down...


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