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#1205845 - 05/25/09 11:36 PM How do you compose?
pianojerome Offline
9000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/01/05
Posts: 9868
A few starter questions - feel free to answer any or none at all, and add your own:

1a. Do you have set forms that you work with?
1b. Do you create your own forms?
1c. Do you let the music take whatever form it seems to "want"?
1d. If the latter, how do you know when to end the piece?

2a. Do you always want a clear melody, or mostly more motivic, or some combination of the two?
2b. If you have a melody, do you write the melody first and then arrange it, or do you write it together with the rest of the music at the same time, or is it a sort of see-saw process of writing melody, arranging, writing more melody, arranging, etc?
2c. Do you view your work generally as 'melody with accompaniment', or 'composition, only one part of which happens to be melodic'?

3a. When composing a piano piece, do you tend to think orchestrally, with several contrapuntal lines going at once?
3b. Do you think more as melody and accompaniment?
3c. Do you not think about it at all, and just let it come out?

4a. Do you tend to be "bird-like" in your melodies, as some have put it, in that you can spin out long, beautiful melodies at the drop of a hat?
4b. Is it more of an effort to compose a melody, as opposed to 4a?

5. How do you come up with suitable rhythmic/harmonic backdrops for the music? Do you find that it just comes naturally, or do you work with certain idioms depending on the forms/styles that you're going for?
5b. Do you have set styles that you are going for, or do you just compose as you like, however it comes out?

etc.
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#1205849 - 05/25/09 11:44 PM Re: How do you compose? [Re: pianojerome]
pianojerome Offline
9000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/01/05
Posts: 9868
As for myself, I tend to like writing variations on my own themes, as it seems like an interesting challenge to work with a small amount of material in many ways.

I always think very melodically - the melody always comes first, then I arrange it as the theme, and then I write each variation in turn. In that sense, I'm very 'birdlike' in that the melodies come out while I'm walking around during the day. It's not often such an effort to come up with a tune - the challenge is in turning it into a whole composition. I also think very orchestrally, and I'm particularly sensitive to the bass line, not just the melody.

I never have a sense in the beginning how many variations there will be, or what overall structure it will take. Usually, I stop when I feel like stopping! Although it's a challenge that I've thought about quite a bit, how to know when to stop. But what I always do try my best to ensure is that each variation flows into the next; I prefer a single piece of music in the form of variations, as opposed to a "variation set", which just strings together many small pieces, that all happen to be variations on a theme but otherwise don't feel connected. (There may be many interconnections in a piece like the Diabellis, for example, but it doesn't have that sense of flow that I'm so interested in. That's not to say Diabelli isn't a great piece, just not exactly my ideal style for myself.)

In terms of harmony, I am very diatonic (plus augmented seconds, which I happen to enjoy), but I always try for surprises/contrasts. If a melody is repetitive, I try to set repetitions to different harmonies (for example, a motif in one of my pieces that goes D-E-F-E-D is set initially in D minor, and then in B-flat Major).

In generally, I also try to have a sense of humor. And on that note, I try to make it obvious to others where the jokes are - not just to myself! (which is often not as easy as I'd like!)
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#1205904 - 05/26/09 03:06 AM Re: How do you compose? [Re: pianojerome]
currawong Offline
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/15/07
Posts: 5930
Loc: Down Under
Hmm - interesting things to think about.

1a. Do you have set forms that you work with?
Not usually, though I have used a free variation form. I also write a lot of music for voice, and the text usually guides the form to some extent.

1b. Do you create your own forms?
Well I do plan the structure of my pieces, if that's what you mean.

1c. Do you let the music take whatever form it seems to "want"?
1d. If the latter, how do you know when to end the piece?

I suppose sometimes, to some extent, but more often it's planned. I do try not to meander smile

2a. Do you always want a clear melody, or mostly more motivic, or some combination of the two?
Depends what I'm writing. I like long lyrical lines, but with piano pieces, for example, it might be more about figuration than melody.

2b. If you have a melody, do you write the melody first and then arrange it, or do you write it together with the rest of the music at the same time, or is it a sort of see-saw process of writing melody, arranging, writing more melody, arranging, etc?
More often than not the melody evolves with the accompaniment present at least in general shape.

2c. Do you view your work generally as 'melody with accompaniment', or 'composition, only one part of which happens to be melodic'?
This varies from piece to piece. Probably closer to the latter, in general.

3a. When composing a piano piece, do you tend to think orchestrally, with several contrapuntal lines going at once?
I tend to think more of textures.

3b. Do you think more as melody and accompaniment?
3c. Do you not think about it at all, and just let it come out?

See answer 3a. But there will be some pieces which are melody and accompaniment.

4a. Do you tend to be "bird-like" in your melodies, as some have put it, in that you can spin out long, beautiful melodies at the drop of a hat?
I don't know about "at the drop of a hat", but I do compose melody fairly easily.

4b. Is it more of an effort to compose a melody, as opposed to 4a?
There have been pieces where I've worked at a melody for a long time - but often the sections I end up liking the most took the least effort. Not always, but often.

5. How do you come up with suitable rhythmic/harmonic backdrops for the music? Do you find that it just comes naturally, or do you work with certain idioms depending on the forms/styles that you're going for?
I don't really see the rhythm/harmony as "backdrops", but part of the conception.

5b. Do you have set styles that you are going for, or do you just compose as you like, however it comes out?
My styles range from chromatic to mildly atonal smile though it depends on the piece and its purpose. My personal style could be described as something like "post avant-garde neo impressionist" smile smile
As far as composing "how it comes out", I do aim for some sort of stylistic unity within a piece. So I wouldn't write a piece which starts like Beethoven and ends up like Webern. (though that sounds like a rather fun thing to do . . .)
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#1205911 - 05/26/09 03:31 AM Re: How do you compose? [Re: currawong]
lisztonian Offline
Full Member

Registered: 09/29/07
Posts: 266
I don't know if you listen to much Liszt, but his composition style is very creative and intriguing. Thought I would put that out there.
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#1206009 - 05/26/09 10:06 AM Re: How do you compose? [Re: lisztonian]
Claude56 Offline
Full Member

Registered: 03/02/09
Posts: 469
I usually use a systematic approach when it comes to writing music. Here is the steps that I usually take in order to complete my piece/song. Writing a piece of literature is the EXACT same process we use in music. After all, music is a language. You get better after you practice writing music.

Steps-


1. Rough Draft

1.1. Write the form(for example: ABA, sonata, impromptu, etude)
1.2. Determine the key and write the key signature (Major or Minor)
1.3. Write the chords
1.4. Write the melody
1.5. Write lyrics/ if any
1.6. Write markings(crescendo, decrescendo, tempo....)




2.Edit:

Change anything that doesn't sound right.


3.Let someone view your work:

Let someone view your work and make judgments on how well you have written your piece.



4.Redo the edit process

5. Write your Final Draft


Oh... And as far as composition style, just copy off of your favorite composers styles and you'll get ideas from them to use in your own music. Then you can actually make variances to those ideas. Soon, you will become more creative and you will have your own unique style of music.





Edited by noSkillz (05/26/09 10:24 AM)

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#1206058 - 05/26/09 11:27 AM Re: How do you compose? [Re: Claude56]
Steve Chandler Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 02/18/05
Posts: 2737
Loc: Urbandale, Iowa
Sam,

You've gotten some good responses. I agree with some of what the others have said, but everyone's workflow will be different.

1A, In general I don't like set forms. The few exceptions are fugue (which isn't really a form so much as a process) and variations.
1C, This is really the way I work. The melodic/thematic material will determine the substantialness of a piece. What I mean by that is the melodic/thematic material will determine how much you can do in developing it by it's nature. Some themes are more pliable without losing recognizability. Thematic material that is rife with short easily recognized motifs can be more easily developed and extended.
1D Determining when to end is easy, when it's no longer easy to come up with something new that's good then it's time to wrap it up. Composers should be cognizant of the long line. Every piece has an overall structure or dramatic progression. Being aware of where you are on that line as your piece progresses means composing material appropriate for that spot in your dramatic progression.
2A, 2C, Melody has its place, but composing means more than having a melody. It means expressing something and that generally means that texture, melody, and rhythm are all part of creating a piece of music that will entertain the mind (even if only your own) over a period of time.
3A, You're limiting yourself if you only consider melody and no I never let it "just come out." Every note is carefully considered.
4A, 4B. This question once again shows your fixation with melody. If I compose a melody my next step is to look at what's in it that can serve as a transitional element. What are it's motives? What is the underlying rhythm and how can that be varied? What other harmonizations will work, how can I vary the harmonic density, etc? How much I can do with it will determine how substantial the overall piece will be.
5A, Trial and error, however I never consider accompaniment to be just backdrops to a melody. Accompaniment and melody are organically interdependent.
5B I find working in set styles valuable mostly in variations. They are what give each variation a particular flavor. I often to give them names. In my Spring Hop the second to last variation is the Retrograde Inversion Blues.

For me melody is sometimes the starting point, but if your focus is melody then you might benefit from composing a chord progression and writing a melody to fit it. This could be a valuable way of giving your compositional process a new and interesting twist. I've found that shifting your process is often inspirational because it gets you out of what's comfortable and it's only then you're really creating something new (for you).

I hope these thoughts are helpful.


Edited by Steve Chandler (05/26/09 11:30 AM)

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#1206085 - 05/26/09 12:04 PM Re: How do you compose? [Re: Steve Chandler]
eweiss Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 02/28/09
Posts: 2393
Loc: Beautiful San Diego, CA
Here's my methodology for creating a complete piece of music at the piano. At the risk of oversimplification, the steps are as follows:

1. I sit down at the piano without any thought of creating something and tune in to my feelings.

2. I start to play the first thing that comes to mind. In other words, my fingers come before my brain. I let it all hang out and see where the music wants to go. If something resonates or has energy I stay with it until the energy dissipates. If the music does not seem to want to go anywhere I get up and leave.

3. Now, (assuming that I am on to something) I draw bar lines - enough for an 8-measure phrase. I then write down the chord changes on top - hopefully for the entire 8 bars. If the entire 8-bars don't come, I try for four - but I usually succeed in filling up this 8-bar space. I'll then pencil in the melody, but only the first 2-bars.

This way, I let the rest of the melody come of its own accord. The first 2-bars is enough to allow me to improvise the rest until it gels into its final form

4. After the first 8-bar section is complete (or incomplete, it doesn't matter) I'll write down another 8 or 4-bar phrase and listen for the next section of music - if there is a next section. If something comes I follow the same procedure as above.

What I usually try for in this section is contrast. Something different. In this regard, I do usually start out with a preconceived idea of what the final form of the music will be. It will be A-B-A form 90% of the time. Knowing this allows me to use the techniques of composition (repetition and contrast) better.

Although this seems to contradict the idea of letting the music tell you where it wants to go (improvisation) it is useful in composition to give shape to the music.

5. Now, I have the rudimentary parts of the entire piece. If I only have the A section and the B section does not want to come, I leave it and come back to it. Sometimes it never comes and that's all right too. I can then combine different sections to different pieces of music and all works out. I give it a title (nature titles for me since that is my inspiration).

6. The piece is finished only after I play it a number of times and it has a chance to gel. I can't think of a better word for this process. After you play what you have written down a number of times, the music settles into what it will finally become. You just know when the piece is finished. It is an intuitive thing. Sometimes I'll repeat sections a number of times because the inspiration is fresh and because it feels right. Other pieces are very short because more repetition of a section just does not work
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#1206551 - 05/27/09 04:09 AM Re: How do you compose? [Re: pianojerome]
Tar Offline
Full Member

Registered: 10/25/08
Posts: 296
Loc: Munich, Germany
1a. Do you have set forms that you work with?
No. Being an untrained composer means that I have been largely ignorant of most formal guidelines for such things until very recently. Ask me to write in Sonataform now and you have my hands tied behind my back! Nevertheless, When I conceive a piece, I conceive a structure from the beginning and stick to it. The "structural template" is often so abstract it doesn't define anything but the momentum of each section and how each section relates to others in terms of motif-borrowing, complexity, "sharpness/flatness", "majorness/minorness", etc.

So I think that answers 1b, 1c and 1d now. Very rarely (but it does happen), the structure will change as the piece evolves. I have a particularly difficult time ending a piece forte and it's something I have to keep practising on that front.

2a. Do you always want a clear melody, or mostly more motivic, or some combination of the two?
It really depends on what "seed material" I stumble across. These days, a melody hardly ever comes without some sort of "instant" harmonisation behind it. However, there are times when I try to construct a piece from just figuration on the piano. This happens with faster piece where my brain clearly doesn't work fast enough on the improvisational scale to come up with a melody. The latter is harder to develop because I'm a great fan of having a good melody. However, my idea of what a melody is is quite obscure and it's sometimes not immediately obvious to other people when the piece is played (bad delivery).

Think that answers 2b.

2c. Do you view your work generally as 'melody with accompaniment', or 'composition, only one part of which happens to be melodic'?

My composition of "idealised sophistication" is a "melody with melodic accompaniment", i.e. that there is a contrapuntal structure to the piece but counterpoint is not the main feature. Rather, there are so many independent lines (and often ambiguous) that different listeners will differently recognise. At the "point of complexity" in my compositions, I try to incorporate elements from different themes (not necessarily melodies) that I have introduced earlier quasi-simultaneously, e.g. using the melody of A to the chord progression of B. There are times when what runs in my head end up having so many parts that pianistic hands won't cope, I regrettably cut them and only pick the few that work best together.

And that answers 3a and 3b too.

3c. Do you not think about it at all, and just let it come out?

I think very little at the "draft" mode when I try to decide the vague harmonic structure of a passage. When I refine it, I still don't mentally think much, but rather actively try different hand shapes on the piano. Often I make a "mistake" that actually leads to my exploring new harmonic avenues. It's usually when I try to bridge passages together that I need to actively use my brain.

4a. Do you tend to be "bird-like" in your melodies, as some have put it, in that you can spin out long, beautiful melodies at the drop of a hat?
I can do that, but most of the times such melodies will be (a) homogeneous in style, (b) of low complexity, (c) of low musical sophistication and (d) generally not evolvable (lacking a potential of developing into something that creates more interest). The few times (a) and (b) are violated, I get a great melody which I use for a basis for a piece.

5. How do you come up with suitable rhythmic/harmonic backdrops for the music? Do you find that it just comes naturally, or do you work with certain idioms depending on the forms/styles that you're going for?
My style is mostly restricted to Romantic and Modern so there are few idioms I use time and again. I don't take long to decide what sort of backdrop I want for a melody, but I take ages perfecting it. Should the left hand arpeggio of bar 14 be C G E' G G' or C G E' C' G'? A "dilemma like that" can occupy me for hours.

5b. Do you have set styles that you are going for, or do you just compose as you like, however it comes out?
I only go for styles I like... so I guess it's one and the same smile


Edited by Tar (05/27/09 04:12 AM)
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Tar Viturawong
Amateur composer and pianist
Known on YouTube as pianoinspiration
verbis defectis musica incipit

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#1206575 - 05/27/09 05:52 AM Re: How do you compose? [Re: Tar]
Ted Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/03/02
Posts: 1507
Loc: Auckland, New Zealand
1a. Do you have set forms that you work with?
Most of the time in the past, but not so much now.

1b. Do you create your own forms?
Yes.

1c. Do you let the music take whatever form it seems to "want"?
Often.

1d. If the latter, how do you know when to end the piece?
I don't know this in advance.

2a. Do you always want a clear melody, or mostly more motivic, or some combination of the two?
A combination.

2b. If you have a melody, do you write the melody first and then arrange it, or do you write it together with the rest of the music at the same time, or is it a sort of see-saw process of writing melody, arranging, writing more melody, arranging, etc?
Everything usually comes at once.

2c. Do you view your work generally as 'melody with accompaniment', or 'composition, only one part of which happens to be melodic'?
The latter.

3a. When composing a piano piece, do you tend to think orchestrally, with several contrapuntal lines going at once?
Very much so.

3b. Do you think more as melody and accompaniment?
No, the melody is more like a highlight in a wash of other things.

3c. Do you not think about it at all, and just let it come out?
Yes and no. All my compositions tend to be crystallised from improvisations, and may form slowly over very many playings and versions. Sometimes I have carried many pieces around in my head for months. I have to say that most of the ideas I like best do seem to "just come out". I might fiddle with them in minor ways later on though.

4a. Do you tend to be "bird-like" in your melodies, as some have put it, in that you can spin out long, beautiful melodies at the drop of a hat?
Yes, now that I think about it. Trouble is there are so many I forget half of them.

4b. Is it more of an effort to compose a melody, as opposed to 4a?
No, but whether the results are as good is another matter.

5. How do you come up with suitable rhythmic/harmonic backdrops for the music? Do you find that it just comes naturally, or do you work with certain idioms depending on the forms/styles that you're going for?
Everything comes at once, all mixed up. I do not think in terms of things being backdrops to other things.

5b. Do you have set styles that you are going for, or do you just compose as you like, however it comes out?
Certain styles, some out of fashion, I have always loved and probably always will. Rags, blues, swing and the short romantic virtuoso piece are some conventional styles I never tire of. Aside from these few, I like my music to constantly surprise me, hence my deepening love of improvisation, which I record in far greater quantity than I used to.


Edited by Ted (05/27/09 05:57 AM)
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#1206666 - 05/27/09 09:45 AM Re: How do you compose? [Re: Ted]
musiccr8r Offline
Full Member

Registered: 01/16/08
Posts: 268
Loc: Denver
Wow, I love this thread. It has helped me crystallize exactly where I need to focus on change/growth.

Quick summary: I don't work from a form (lack of education) though my husband (music guy) says my works have a strong sense of form or structure. (I agree, in a bad way, not a prideful one; there's always a point where I "have" to do such-and-such, and the result is, there's always a feeling of "Oh, yeah, that's HER again, that style/form was just like all her other stuff"). I can't write a melody to save my life. I think "orchestrally" I guess, in that I am trying to paint an overall picture/feeling/energy. My mind gravitates much more towards the background stuff like rhythms. Now, rhythm may be my stronger suit, if I have one, I love to mess around with mixed meters of all kinds and feel I generally can get good results with them. I guess I write more like Eweiss in that the initial stage usually involves 1.sitting down and messing around with whatever my hands want to do, tempered with 2. more often than not, having a title or idea of what this piece is going to represent. I find it helps (for me) to work from a theme or idea of some sort as it automatically eliminates so many options! smile "OK, I'm writing bluebirds on a sunny morning, need to avoid those tritones/minor seconds and heavy 7ths pounding down in the bass"..........

Steve I know you've often emphasized melody, and Tar, I really liked what you wrote about how if you just let the melody happen,it tends to be not complex enough (to paraprhase very loosely). I think the next time I'm inspired to start a project I'll at least attempt to start with some melody, and work it hard, instead of getting a riff/feel/etc. and tacking on a "melody" to fill in around that. I don't know if I'll have any success with that but it will be a great new goal.
Thanks to all who took the time to answer this and everyone keep responding! I think this is fascinating

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#1209910 - 06/01/09 05:54 PM Re: How do you compose? [Re: musiccr8r]
Tar Offline
Full Member

Registered: 10/25/08
Posts: 296
Loc: Munich, Germany
Originally Posted By: musiccr8r
there's always a point where I "have" to do such-and-such, and the result is, there's always a feeling of "Oh, yeah, that's HER again, that style/form was just like all her other stuff").

I get people saying that to my stuff, too, especially the comment on the structure which invariably ends up being (in momentum terms) small, bigger, small, very big, very small. So I do try to be more creative at the level of structural organisation of the piece too.

At smaller scales, I find it satisfying to reuse musical ideas in different contexts. There's one particular three-note motif in 3/4 that goes supertonic, median, dominant which I have deliberately reused in at least three pieces written in the past twelve months. I think it's nice when a subtle "signature" like that is established and even more gratifying when people pick up on it.
_________________________
Tar Viturawong
Amateur composer and pianist
Known on YouTube as pianoinspiration
verbis defectis musica incipit

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#1210236 - 06/02/09 10:19 AM Re: How do you compose? [Re: Tar]
musiccr8r Offline
Full Member

Registered: 01/16/08
Posts: 268
Loc: Denver
At smaller scales, I find it satisfying to reuse musical ideas in different contexts. There's one particular three-note motif in 3/4 that goes supertonic, median, dominant which I have deliberately reused in at least three pieces written in the past twelve months. I think it's nice when a subtle "signature" like that is established and even more gratifying when people pick up on it.

(Sorry that isn't a quote, I'm stuck with the old-fashioned cut-and-paste until I figure out for sure what I'm doing)

Tar, this totally intrigues me. In the hypothetical sense I think it makes sense to reuse an effective idea (ever notice how John Williams is fond of 6ths for his love themes? Indy/Princess Leia have very similar themes). However in the practical sense it drives me to distraction in my own work. I have this odd obsession with the I-IV relationship. It seems I hardly get the least little bit into something new and the next place my head/heart/hands go is IV. It might be a minor IV, or even a diminshed or augmented or otherwise altered IV, but it is there. Sometimes I think I've avoided it and then find later I brushed thru it as a sort of passing chord (but just long enough to settle on it, not just cruise by) in my original exposition. It makes me frustrated that not only do I have to avoid writing something that relates too closely to something I played long ago that sank into my subconscious, but also have to avoid playing my OWN stupid stuff again! I'd prefer to imagine myself to be the sort of person that writes things that are always new, fresh, and unexpected....but what I am is I-IV. *sigh*

I guess what I am saying is there's some part of me that rejects having a "signature style", as if that would somehow equate to predictability or lack of creativity (and BTW I am NOT suggesting that you are at all predictable or uncreative). So I find it a fascinating mental shift to imagine simply embracing that or purposefully using it (i.e. revamping previous material). Food for thought, for sure!

ETA: As I read your post again I realize "signature style" is beyond what you were decribing, you were referring more to a small theme or motif (or whatever) that could be used as a signature of sorts, rather than an overall style permeating all your work. But hey, I still think the whole topic of signature styles and such is very interesting, if you or anyone else has more thoughts on that! ha


Edited by musiccr8r (06/02/09 10:24 AM)

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#1212167 - 06/05/09 10:20 AM Re: How do you compose? [Re: musiccr8r]
Tar Offline
Full Member

Registered: 10/25/08
Posts: 296
Loc: Munich, Germany
Originally Posted By: musiccr8r

In the hypothetical sense I think it makes sense to reuse an effective idea (ever notice how John Williams is fond of 6ths for his love themes? Indy/Princess Leia have very similar themes).

smile

Originally Posted By: musiccr8r
I have this odd obsession with the I-IV relationship .. ... but what I am is I-IV. *sigh*


I guess there comes a point when we get tired of a particular musical idea. Having written almost 20 piano pieces in the past three years I can say I have a similar experience. In the early days, I was very fond of chords with a subdominant bass (e.g. D/G) and when I realised that it was getting predictable I resolved not to use it in the next piece.

What happened? I succumbed to the progression i-v-VI-v instead (because you can make the bass line go down in a scale; Autumn, posted last October, I think). I daresay this is equivalent to your I-IV obsession. wink If that's not enough, I also succumbed to a cyclic permutation of it: VI-v-i-v!! (Snow Fantasia, posted in March, and my new piece Meteor Shower, still being worked on). I'm now trying to get out of this one!

Another strange feeling is that when I stopped using a musical idea for a while, I felt myself "worse" at reusing it. It's almost like forcing yourself not to use a particular word in writing a poem for several years and suddenly find that you don't know how to relate that word anymore. I listen to some of my older pieces and I know that at the present moment I wouldn't've thought to write such and such, and as a consequence I always feel that the older pieces are strangely more refreshing than the ones I'm writing! I guess either I haven't found my "true voice" yet, or that my "true voice" evolves with time.


Edited by Tar (06/05/09 10:44 AM)
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Tar Viturawong
Amateur composer and pianist
Known on YouTube as pianoinspiration
verbis defectis musica incipit

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#1219727 - 06/19/09 03:53 PM Re: How do you compose? [Re: pianojerome]
adamscottneal Offline
Full Member

Registered: 06/19/09
Posts: 36
Loc: New Jersey
Hi Sam - good questions! Here is how little ol' ASN composes...


1a. Do you have set forms that you work with?
No.

1b. Do you create your own forms?
Yes. Generally I determine about how long I want the piece to be first. Then I divide that length into smaller sections. I like to use the Golden Section and Fibonacci series to do this, and I also like to use poetic forms (like Haiku: 3 big sections of equal length, with 5 equal subsections in the A and C sections, and 7 equal subsections in the B section).

1c. Do you let the music take whatever form it seems to "want"?
Sometimes. On my pieces for my CD "Late Frost," I wrote purely intuitively, without preplanning the form. 95% of the time I plan the form first.

1d. If the latter, how do you know when to end the piece?
On those pieces, I told myself to keep moving away from the original idea, then move back. So I went until I felt I had drifted away just enough, then tried to find my way back.

2a. Do you always want a clear melody, or mostly more motivic, or some combination of the two?
I want a combination, but I write more motivically in general.

2b. If you have a melody, do you write the melody first and then arrange it, or do you write it together with the rest of the music at the same time, or is it a sort of see-saw process of writing melody, arranging, writing more melody, arranging, etc?
I almost always hear the harmony first, and that is what interests me more. But there is always a see-saw process.

2c. Do you view your work generally as 'melody with accompaniment', or 'composition, only one part of which happens to be melodic'?
The latter. Like I said before, I am more interested in harmony. Texture is also vitally important to me.

3a. When composing a piano piece, do you tend to think orchestrally, with several contrapuntal lines going at once?
I think about the overall texture, which will sometimes be polyphonic and sometimes be homophonic or even monophonic.

3b. Do you think more as melody and accompaniment?
Sometimes, as this is what I grew up playing. I think it is an effective texture, but should not be used exclusively.

3c. Do you not think about it at all, and just let it come out?
I try to vary everything, to sustain interest.

4a. Do you tend to be "bird-like" in your melodies, as some have put it, in that you can spin out long, beautiful melodies at the drop of a hat?
I can come up with melodic fragments fairly easily, but not long, fully realized, compelling melodies.

4b. Is it more of an effort to compose a melody, as opposed to 4a?
It would take some effort, definitely.

5. How do you come up with suitable rhythmic/harmonic backdrops for the music? Do you find that it just comes naturally, or do you work with certain idioms depending on the forms/styles that you're going for?
As I alluded to above, melody is the least important aspect to me, and I am more interested in the "backdrops" as you put it. I don't like writing "in the style of" as a general rule, so coming up with textures and harmonies comes relatively easily, as I am relying on my instinct, training, and whatever caveat I have proposed for myself for the piece (e.g. let's do something really dissonant and mostly on the upper half of the keyboard, let's do something that sounds like a haunted swamp, or let's do something with loud, driving rhythms).

5b. Do you have set styles that you are going for, or do you just compose as you like, however it comes out?

I definitely compose as I like. This is why I don't want to write film music, or musicals! I am trying to forge my own style and vision - once I figure out what that is.
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