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#2047223 - 03/12/13 07:47 PM New to piano, interested in composition
johnny931 Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 03/12/13
Posts: 4
I'm a new-ish piano player. I've been playing for about a year and half now, and have been teaching myself to play. Just can't afford lessons, though that should be changing soon, hopefully. I've been advancing fairly quickly, and have been really wanting to get into composition. My issue though is that I'm not really solid on my music theory. I *understand* how it all works. Like, I understand key signatures and how scales are built, what chord inversions are, etc. The issue is that I don't have the scales or chords down to muscle memory, so it's hard to just throw something together on the fly.

I don't even want to compose anything terribly complicated. I'm a sucker for those slow, relaxing piano songs, and that's really what I'd like to do. Examples below.


Any advice? I'm not even sure how to get started.

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#2047308 - 03/12/13 10:27 PM Re: New to piano, interested in composition [Re: johnny931]
mr_super-hunky Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/17/05
Posts: 4289
Hi Johnny. I do loans, backhoe work, and composition writing on the side. Nobody has ever hired me before because I always end up giving my work away for free like a sucker.

I guess this is no exception.

First off, have you ever considered doing everything wrong but attempt to make it sound right? That's what I'm somehow doing. I think Sam Rose is doing this too in a way.

You see, neither one of us are sightreading the music. Sam looks at the music only long enough to figure out the notes and once he does, he 'gets it'. That means he understands what is being done/asked for in a particular section, figures out that section, and then put that section into memory.

That's it. He doesn't overcomplicate it.

I do pretty much the same thing other than instead of figuring out the notes in any particular section, I will figure out the melody instead. At that point we both 'get it' and it goes into memorization.

I can't speak for Sam, but I don't know a thing about music theory. And I don't care because I only want to play the melodies in my head and I can't be taught them. Trust me when I say I can figure out the melodies much faster than what it would take for me to learn theory and apply it. Even after hitting lots of wrong notes, my way will still be faster. For me.

I use my own feedback as a guide to my learning and improvement. If I listen to my recording and a specific section is too soft or loud I will try and correct that. This holds true for just about anything. Of course, I will only sound as good as I can for my abilities and experience level.

Playing piano is like many things in life. You usually get out of it what you put into it. People who play occasionally or once in a while will sound and perform like they play occasionally or once in a while! The same can be said for those who spends hours on the bench every day.

Instead of spending the time properly learning my chords and scales along with musical theory and countless method books, I spend it on discovering new melodies and experimenting with new sounds. This is because it is what I actually want to do. I only want to produce beautiful melodies and could not care about how I learned to do it. As long as I can do it.

People learn things differently and should try and choose the method of learning that is most compatible for them. That means before you do anything you try out various different methods of learning to play piano before you hit the gas pedal going in the wrong direction.

Sams method is different from my method. My method is different from many others here.

Are you a more structured and analytical person or more a creative person? Only you know what method will work best for you.

So ultimately the best advice I can give you for longevity, satisfaction and lack of stress/frustrations is to pursue what you love and what comes to you naturally. You love the soft-mellow melodies you hear so now you just need to produce them by learning how to in the way you do best. Simple.

#2047312 - 03/12/13 10:32 PM Re: New to piano, interested in composition [Re: johnny931]
Sand Tiger Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/25/12
Posts: 1152
Loc: Southern California
Welcome Johnny931

Someone else recently inquired about getting started. I compiled some suggestions on the thread below in the Composer's forum.

link to thread

What I always try to get across to would be composers and songwriters, is that time correlates with results. There is a craft to composing, and just like learning to play piano, the more time a person puts in, the more likely they are to progress. If a person has a real passion and desire to write music, they will put in the time, and results will follow.

Good luck on your journey. Writing music can be one of the most rewarding things a person does. It certainly has been for me.
my piano uploads

#2047627 - 03/13/13 12:18 PM Re: New to piano, interested in composition [Re: Sand Tiger]
johnny931 Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 03/12/13
Posts: 4
Thanks a ton for both answers! Both were incredibly helpful!

I'll also start looking through that thread you had linked. I'm sure it'll help out a ton as well!

#2047812 - 03/13/13 06:43 PM Re: New to piano, interested in composition [Re: johnny931]
PaperClip Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/21/09
Posts: 522
Loc: Amsterdam, Holland

Alan Belkin has written some free pdf books on the subject. Composition, counterpoint, orchestration and harmony.

Here is the one on composition.

The prerequisites are:
A basic knowledge of tonal harmony.
An understanding of motives.
Enough knowledge of instrumentation to write idiomatically for keyboard and perhaps one or two solo instruments. This implies some understanding of the creation and differentiation of planes of tone.

You could also get a teacher for learning composition, if you like it very much.

Playing since May 02 2009

#2047820 - 03/13/13 07:00 PM Re: New to piano, interested in composition [Re: johnny931]
rnaple Offline

Silver Supporter until April 24 2014

Registered: 12/23/10
Posts: 2117
Loc: Rocky Mountains
I took a different avenue for composing. I hired a teacher. He is starting me out beginner piano. Day one...forward.

When I told him my goal was to compose. He told me I'm looking at a whole lot...ya gotta...ya gotta...ya gotta...It will take years!
EDIT: I wanted to add. This teacher knows what he's talking about. He earned his degree at college in composing. With a piano. He writes his own music as well as for others.

Yet....I want to do it right. Learn piano that well. Write what will be readable to accomplished, talented people. "Then my heart will be calm when I'm laid to rest."

Edited by rnaple (03/14/13 04:58 AM)
Your brain is a sponge. Keep it wet. Mary Gae George
The focus of your personal practice is discipline. Not numbers. Scott Sonnon


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