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#1966658 - 09/30/12 04:36 AM How to improve composition skills?
mpmusic Offline
Full Member

Registered: 08/28/12
Posts: 101
Loc: Portugal
How to improve composition skills?

Hi, I uploaded today a new original composition:


Currently I don't have teacher (I had some lessons in summer) so if you have any comment or suggestion about what I’m doing right or what not, or just if you like more or less this or that part I will be very grateful smile

I want to ask too, the question in the title “How to improve composition skills?”.
There are any good book for that? Which one do you suggest?

Thanks,
Miguel
_________________________
http://www.miguelmotapinto.com/
http://youtube.com/user/miguelmotapinto

"Music is the key to understand the universe..."

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#1966844 - 09/30/12 02:19 PM Re: How to improve composition skills? [Re: mpmusic]
mpmusic Offline
Full Member

Registered: 08/28/12
Posts: 101
Loc: Portugal
I found some books searching on google, anyone have this? Is a good book? Music Composition For Dummies

Thanks,
Miguel
_________________________
http://www.miguelmotapinto.com/
http://youtube.com/user/miguelmotapinto

"Music is the key to understand the universe..."

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#1966901 - 09/30/12 04:16 PM Re: How to improve composition skills? [Re: mpmusic]
1RC Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/28/06
Posts: 502
Loc: Alberta
I don't consider myself any sort of composition expert so I don't want to critique but I have some suggestions that might give you some ideas:

modulation and secondary dominants (no specific book comes to mind, you could probably find the info free on the net somewhere),
counterpoint (I went through most of the exercises in this book: http://www.amazon.com/Study-Counterpoint...of+counterpoint)

I also picked up a lot of ideas by analysing the classics. Puzzling over a passage wondering "just what the heck IS Bach doing there? Why those notes and why do they sound so good?".

Oh I remembered a website I read a long time ago that seemed to be pretty comprehensive, looks like it's still here: https://www.webdepot.umontreal.ca/Usagers/belkina/MonDepotPublic/bk/index.html

I hope some of these suggestions help you find some different ideas to try out in your music. I heard an interview with Philip Glass recently where he told of his teacher's explaination of style: learning all the tools and techniques available and then a composer's style emerges based on what elements they gravitate toward.

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#1966926 - 09/30/12 04:53 PM Re: How to improve composition skills? [Re: 1RC]
mpmusic Offline
Full Member

Registered: 08/28/12
Posts: 101
Loc: Portugal
Thank you very much for the suggestions =)
_________________________
http://www.miguelmotapinto.com/
http://youtube.com/user/miguelmotapinto

"Music is the key to understand the universe..."

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#1966971 - 09/30/12 05:47 PM Re: How to improve composition skills? [Re: mpmusic]
kayvee Offline
Full Member

Registered: 09/29/12
Posts: 135
Loc: Santa Barbara
First, learn theory:

http://www.amazon.com/Complete-Idiots-Guide-Theory-Edition/dp/1592574378/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1349041573&sr=8-1&keywords=idiot%27s+guide+to+music+theory

Then, try a beginner book in composition ideas:

http://www.amazon.com/Complete-Idiots-Guide-Music-Composition/dp/1592574033/ref=pd_bxgy_b_text_y

Then, continue onto more advanced theory (harmony and counterpoint) while continuing to study composition.

The two books I linked to are very well-regarded, but there are many other resources. There is also a Composer's Forum, which may be a better place to ask for more specific resources from people in the field!

Good luck!
_________________________
A linguistics major who loves piano and knows too much theory/history without knowing how to play it as well as he wants to be able to.

Let's hope that changes. Taught piano for almost two years and currently working on:
"Going back to the basics..."

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#1967060 - 09/30/12 08:17 PM Re: How to improve composition skills? [Re: mpmusic]
Sand Tiger Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/25/12
Posts: 1098
Loc: Southern California
There was this thread in August 2012
http://www.pianoworld.com/forum/ubbthrea...%20beginne.html

it suggested the books:
>>
The plan is to work through William Russo's Composing Music together. The book relies heavliy on exercises, so it will probably be much nicer to get critical feedback on them than to work through it alone. The Complete Idiot's Guide to Music Composition has also been strongly recommended, so it might be nice to use as a companion volume.
>>

The thread died from lack of interest with only one person completing the second exercise.

While that may mean nothing, it also may mean that those books aren't that worthwhile, not for people that actually want to write music instead of reading books.

I am fan of process, the Nike slogan Just Do It, applies. What jump started me as a songwriter was immersion. 50/90 is winding down for 2012, but I recommend that kind of immersion experience. There is FAWM (February Album Writing Month), which is a shorter but similar community immersion experience.
http://fiftyninety.fawmers.org/recent_threads

For most prose writers, devoting time to the task and writing every day is what makes a writer. For composers, it can be similar and that is why immersion works: devote time to the task.

I like to do what I call free play. I play, record, and then listen back and then work on the best of what I have. Repeat. If I devote time to it, I almost always come up with interesting stuff.

The quip that goes with that is this: Question: What is the secret to being a good writer? [this is for prose, but I think it applies]
Answer: glue, as in gluing one's butt to the seat until they have written something that day.

Especially for beginners, it can be important to develop and expand vocabulary. Listen to music, try to write derivative music, derived from another piece on purpose. This is one way to expand one's musical vocabulary.
_________________________
my piano uploads

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#1967189 - 10/01/12 05:59 AM Re: How to improve composition skills? [Re: mpmusic]
mpmusic Offline
Full Member

Registered: 08/28/12
Posts: 101
Loc: Portugal
Thanks for the suggestions, I now have a clearer idea of what I need to study. Now it's a matter of having the time and motivation to study the theory and practice enough the new concepts smile
_________________________
http://www.miguelmotapinto.com/
http://youtube.com/user/miguelmotapinto

"Music is the key to understand the universe..."

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#1967265 - 10/01/12 11:41 AM Re: How to improve composition skills? [Re: mpmusic]
Starr Keys Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/07/09
Posts: 1010
Loc: california
Has anyone experience with the Berklee Press Songwriters Workshop series? The reviews say the one on Harmony is a great source of ideas and good for getting you over writer's block. It comes with a cd.

http://www.amazon.com/Songwriters-Worksh...+in+songwriting

I have Melody in Songwriting which one of the reviews says is a great follow-up to the Harmony book. I bought it at Half-Price Books cheap. Trouble is, I never have time to read it because I'm always at my keyboard harmonizing melodies by trial and error.


Edited by Starr Keys (10/01/12 12:50 PM)

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#1976365 - 10/20/12 05:04 PM Re: How to improve composition skills? [Re: mpmusic]
mpmusic Offline
Full Member

Registered: 08/28/12
Posts: 101
Loc: Portugal
Already finished reading "The Complete Idiot's Guide to Music Theory" and I'll soon read The Complete Idiot's Guide to Composition smile The first I can say it was very useful, I learned a lot.

And here I leave the link to a music I wrote last week for 3 cellos:

_________________________
http://www.miguelmotapinto.com/
http://youtube.com/user/miguelmotapinto

"Music is the key to understand the universe..."

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#1976382 - 10/20/12 05:51 PM Re: How to improve composition skills? [Re: mpmusic]
TrueMusic Offline
Full Member

Registered: 04/30/12
Posts: 254
Loc: San Diego, California
Your pieces are lovely! Nice work. I like your cello piece a lot, the percussive use of the body is great. What I would suggest improve skills, aside from what's already been said here [LEARN THEORY!], find a teacher if you can, and study scores. You play piano, so take some works for string quartet, or woodwinds, or brass, or even orchestral scores, and create reductions. That will help you see what the composer was doing and help you get ideas. Learn more about variation technique and how to move a piece forward.

Also, study counterpoint. I used Kennan's text on counterpoint but I'm sure there are other great ones. If you want to write orchestrally, you need to study orchestration. I use Adler's text which is a GREAT resource on learning the principles of writing for each instrument group, what instruments double well, how to voice chords to get a desired effect, and other things. But really, study scores and really analyze that the composer was doing and how they voiced his chords and think about why they did it that way and what effect it gives. Also playing/listening to a lot of music helps. You get to hear great ideas and how they are transformed in a piece, which helps give you inspiration for what you want to do. The advice of being dedicated, writing some every day, and think deeply about your music. Try to use as few notes as you can to express your ideas, don't use extra notes. Justify everything you put on the page, be able to tell someone exactly why you chose a specific note rather than another. This adds depth to the music.

I'm still learning about composition, I'm a novice. But, those are the things I'm currently doing to get better and it definitely all helps.
_________________________
Piano/Composition major.

Proud owner of a beautiful Yamaha C7.

Polish:
Liszt Petrarch Sonnet 104
Bach WTC book 1 no. 6.
Dello Joio Sonata no. 3

New:
Chopin op. 23
Bach WTC book 2 no. 20

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#1976389 - 10/20/12 06:05 PM Re: How to improve composition skills? [Re: TrueMusic]
mpmusic Offline
Full Member

Registered: 08/28/12
Posts: 101
Loc: Portugal
Originally Posted By: TrueMusic
Your pieces are lovely! Nice work. I like your cello piece a lot, the percussive use of the body is great. What I would suggest improve skills, aside from what's already been said here [LEARN THEORY!], find a teacher if you can, and study scores. You play piano, so take some works for string quartet, or woodwinds, or brass, or even orchestral scores, and create reductions. That will help you see what the composer was doing and help you get ideas. Learn more about variation technique and how to move a piece forward.

Also, study counterpoint. I used Kennan's text on counterpoint but I'm sure there are other great ones. If you want to write orchestrally, you need to study orchestration. I use Adler's text which is a GREAT resource on learning the principles of writing for each instrument group, what instruments double well, how to voice chords to get a desired effect, and other things. But really, study scores and really analyze that the composer was doing and how they voiced his chords and think about why they did it that way and what effect it gives. Also playing/listening to a lot of music helps. You get to hear great ideas and how they are transformed in a piece, which helps give you inspiration for what you want to do. The advice of being dedicated, writing some every day, and think deeply about your music. Try to use as few notes as you can to express your ideas, don't use extra notes. Justify everything you put on the page, be able to tell someone exactly why you chose a specific note rather than another. This adds depth to the music.

I'm still learning about composition, I'm a novice. But, those are the things I'm currently doing to get better and it definitely all helps.


Thanks for the suggestions! I have been studying theory, piano technique and ear training, but sometimes it's hard to have time for all this because I am currently a university student and therefore have to study other things too... I will also try to study more scores and sight reading.
_________________________
http://www.miguelmotapinto.com/
http://youtube.com/user/miguelmotapinto

"Music is the key to understand the universe..."

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#1976955 - 10/22/12 01:30 AM Re: How to improve composition skills? [Re: mpmusic]
TrueMusic Offline
Full Member

Registered: 04/30/12
Posts: 254
Loc: San Diego, California
I know the feeling of being a university student and not having time for everything you wish you could do....sigh. I'm even a music major and don't have time for all the music stuff I would want to do!!! Good luck in your musical, and school, journey!!
_________________________
Piano/Composition major.

Proud owner of a beautiful Yamaha C7.

Polish:
Liszt Petrarch Sonnet 104
Bach WTC book 1 no. 6.
Dello Joio Sonata no. 3

New:
Chopin op. 23
Bach WTC book 2 no. 20

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#1976996 - 10/22/12 07:23 AM Re: How to improve composition skills? [Re: TrueMusic]
mpmusic Offline
Full Member

Registered: 08/28/12
Posts: 101
Loc: Portugal
Originally Posted By: TrueMusic
Good luck in your musical, and school, journey!!


Thanks! smile
_________________________
http://www.miguelmotapinto.com/
http://youtube.com/user/miguelmotapinto

"Music is the key to understand the universe..."

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#1977008 - 10/22/12 08:04 AM Re: How to improve composition skills? [Re: mpmusic]
tangleweeds Offline

Silver Supporter until Jan 11 2012


Registered: 12/21/08
Posts: 1269
Loc: Portlandia
Mostly I just wanted to say that I really enjoyed Dreams of the Ocean.

But I also wanted to note that I was one of the participants in the Russo book composition thread who dropped out of sight, not out of lack of interest, but because I was having endless chronic migraines (headaches that hurt so much you vomit. No fun :P ). Sounds or lights make them hurt worse (puke!), and unfortunately the whole point of piano is to make sounds. So the migraines did no good for my piano playing or my compositional attempts.

Now I'm on a medication to prevent the migraines, but it makes me fall asleep instead (sigh). Last night I accidentally fell asleep at 7pm, and found myself wide awake at 4am this morning. Bleah!
_________________________
Oops... extremely distracted by mandolins at the moment... brb

neglected piano blog

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#1977015 - 10/22/12 08:45 AM Re: How to improve composition skills? [Re: mpmusic]
Foxes Offline
Full Member

Registered: 10/16/12
Posts: 36
A lot of traditional composition books wont go well with your style - they tend to focus on more technical classical stuff. Most people who play instrumental classical on the piano would snub this kind of thing.

I suggest you listen to as much piano music as you can, just as writers must read a lot and painters go to galleries, we gotta listen a lot, it inspires us.

To get to started, try these guys. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r28oA0W_u5I http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AS2rGkQSu-4

They're both in melodic minor scales, and judging by your own composition you're probably attracted to melodic minor - as am I.

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#1977126 - 10/22/12 01:53 PM Re: How to improve composition skills? [Re: Foxes]
BeccaBb Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/09/11
Posts: 905
Loc: Thunder Bay, On Canada
Originally Posted By: Foxes

I suggest you listen to as much piano music as you can, just as writers must read a lot and painters go to galleries, we gotta listen a lot, it inspires us.


I have to address this. This is just not true. Writers must learn the rules of the language they are going to write in and write. They must write lots. Your writing improves only with practice. Over time you develop a voice, a style of writing and your preferred method. Painters would be the same (I have a lifelong friend that paints for a living and I started writing when I was 10.)

I read lots because I love reading. It has nothing to do with writing. When I was young and learning my style and voice, reading the different kinds helped me discover what I loved but did not help me write.

I also want to get into composing someday. Right now I'm learning the basic rules (theory, technique, performance.) Once I have the basics down I will begin to compose simple pieces, over time those simple pieces will become more complicated. Eventually I will find my style and my voice.

My suggestion, start composing now. Doesn't matter if it's crappy or simple. We all must crawl before learning to walk, walk before running. As you compose more you will discover how to improve it by doing it.

My two cents.
_________________________
Becca
Began: 01-12-11


Floundering and Lost
Roland RD300NX

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#1977245 - 10/22/12 07:04 PM Re: How to improve composition skills? [Re: mpmusic]
Foxes Offline
Full Member

Registered: 10/16/12
Posts: 36
Thanks Becca, I must grudgingly agree with you - I misspoke: writers must not read, they must write.

One thing, I'm paraphrasing Dustin O'Halloran now: a lot of composers add a load of notes they don't need to make a piece more ornamental, don't do that; make every note matter.

You don't need to see complexity as something you need to strive for, strive for beauty first.

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#1977312 - 10/22/12 10:56 PM Re: How to improve composition skills? [Re: mpmusic]
BeccaBb Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/09/11
Posts: 905
Loc: Thunder Bay, On Canada
smile I agree. Simplicity is often more beautiful than complication.
_________________________
Becca
Began: 01-12-11


Floundering and Lost
Roland RD300NX

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#2012380 - 01/10/13 05:23 PM Re: How to improve composition skills? [Re: mpmusic]
mpmusic Offline
Full Member

Registered: 08/28/12
Posts: 101
Loc: Portugal
Hello, I’ve uploaded another original composition.



Any suggestions?

I’ve already read the books:
The Complete Idiot's Guide to Music Theory
The Complete Idiot's Guide to Music Composition


And studying classical pieces gives lots of ideas too!

This sixth composition it's more challenging for me to play but it's a nice training smile
Maybe I will try Chopin Nocturne Op. 9 No. 2 in the next summer holidays, it will be a great challenge indeed!

Another thing I would like to ask is if you saw the video I posted up completely, how many cuts did you noticed? I've tried to match the cutted sections well but there are some cuts very obvious...

Thanks,
Miguel


Edited by mpmusic (01/10/13 05:24 PM)
_________________________
http://www.miguelmotapinto.com/
http://youtube.com/user/miguelmotapinto

"Music is the key to understand the universe..."

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#2012432 - 01/10/13 07:28 PM Re: How to improve composition skills? [Re: mpmusic]
Mark Polishook Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/29/12
Posts: 753
Loc: Leicester, UK
Miguel, the best way to improve as a composer, as others have noted in this thread already is to, well, COMPOSE! Listen to music that inspires you. And however you do it and it's not always easy (although it doesn't have to be hard!), get yourself into an inspired, creative state and WRITE MUSIC.

Whether you write it or capture it as a recording of an improvisation doesn't make a whole lot of difference. It doesn't make a difference the stage you're at, that is. For now, the most important thing is to WRITE MUSIC.

Yes, of course, more formal knowledge of harmony, counterpoint, orchestration, repertoire, etc. is useful. My advice though is write first and justify later! (Compose and then figure out afterwards what techniques you might be using and then you'll know from that which ones you should study).

Of course, it's straightforward and simple as I'm describing it here .. everyone has their own learning style and their musical tastes they bring to composing and a million other things don't translate well into the words we post on a forum.

Now, one last ESSENTIAL detail that hasn't been mentioned - at least I didn't see it - in the other posts in this thread. My opinion: It's essential for a composer to have their music played by performers other than themselves. The reason for this: You'll quickly see what you've composed that can be played easily, what can be played only with difficulty, and what can't be played at all. You'll hear what you really like in what you've composed and what you're not so crazy about. You'll also hear all the places in the composition where had you done it differently you might have liked it more! You'll learn where and how to notate dynamics and articulations and other details that performers rely on when they're learning music they haven't previously played. Most of all, you'll learn how much easier it is to compose when you can get the feedback that almost any performer will give you.

One last thing I've observed is that after you've composed something and after a performer (other than yourself) has played it - in public if at all possible although, certainly, it doesnt have to be a formal performance ... well, after those things, if you STILL want to compose, whether to revise the piece you've just completed or start something new. Well, if you want to keep going, then you're a composer! Regardless of your ability level - beginner or expert, whatever.

You mentioned you're a uni student. Why not go to the music department and see if they have a composition class that you can take or audit? Music departments often have beginning composition classes. You'll find in that setting that interaction with your peers - other students - is also an amazing way to learn. Because you and your peers can work together, support each others efforts, etc.

But most important is: enjoy composing! Try to get out the music you're hearing in your head! And try to compose on a regular basis. And, yes, of course there's a lot I haven't mentioned and there are as many ways to compose as they are stars in the sky! And other composition teachers (I'm writing this from my experience as a professor of composition) can and will and may suggest other ways to go about composing. Really, the only WRONG way is is the one where you never actually make music!

You might also get a copy of Rilke's Letters To A Young Poet (a very short and inexpensive book and something that's surely in your uni library) in which he tells a young poet who comes to him for advice that he (the young poet already has all the answers inside of his head!

Hope this helps! Listen, compose, and hang out w/other musicians as you can and your abilities will grow!
_________________________
PolishookPiano

mark@polishookpiano.com

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#2012482 - 01/10/13 09:09 PM Re: How to improve composition skills? [Re: 1RC]
PaperClip Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/21/09
Posts: 522
Loc: Amsterdam, Holland
Originally Posted By: 1RC
Oh I remembered a website I read a long time ago that seemed to be pretty comprehensive, looks like it's still here: https://www.webdepot.umontreal.ca/Usagers/belkina/MonDepotPublic/bk/index.html


Thanks, thats a great tip!

And many thanks to Alain Belkin who wrote this and made this free for public!
_________________________
Chris

Playing since May 02 2009

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#2012620 - 01/11/13 05:47 AM Re: How to improve composition skills? [Re: Mark Polishook]
mpmusic Offline
Full Member

Registered: 08/28/12
Posts: 101
Loc: Portugal
Originally Posted By: printer1

Now, one last ESSENTIAL detail that hasn't been mentioned - at least I didn't see it - in the other posts in this thread. My opinion: It's essential for a composer to have their music played by performers other than themselves. The reason for this: You'll quickly see what you've composed that can be played easily, what can be played only with difficulty, and what can't be played at all. You'll hear what you really like in what you've composed and what you're not so crazy about. You'll also hear all the places in the composition where had you done it differently you might have liked it more! You'll learn where and how to notate dynamics and articulations and other details that performers rely on when they're learning music they haven't previously played. Most of all, you'll learn how much easier it is to compose when you can get the feedback that almost any performer will give you.

I never thought about that! It makes all sense!
Unfortunately do not know of many people who play the piano. But I know at least one person who may be able to play my compositions smile

Originally Posted By: printer1

Why not go to the music department and see if they have a composition class that you can take or audit?

Currently I haven't much time to have extra classes, but I will try to get information about that. It would be a great experience indeed. And this would help to solve the problem of knowing few people who plays the piano.

Originally Posted By: printer1

You might also get a copy of Rilke's Letters To A Young Poet (a very short and inexpensive book and something that's surely in your uni library) in which he tells a young poet who comes to him for advice that he (the young poet already has all the answers inside of his head!

Looks interesting, I will try to find it smile

Originally Posted By: printer1

Hope this helps! Listen, compose, and hang out w/other musicians as you can and your abilities will grow!

It was a big help for sure, thank you very much for all those tips and suggestions!
_________________________
http://www.miguelmotapinto.com/
http://youtube.com/user/miguelmotapinto

"Music is the key to understand the universe..."

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