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#2178311 - 11/07/13 05:01 AM Skills and musical knowledge a good composer should know
pianolover85 Offline
Full Member

Registered: 05/07/13
Posts: 94

Hello everyone

It all started one day with a decision to learn piano and along the way I discovered something as rewarding. I became increasingly interested in composition and writing music! But to my surprise there are very few actual resources to learn composition. I have even decided to go to college for that but many have advised against it since I never have professional ambitions. I also heard music composition is not a career per se and can be learned since it is a personal skill that needs to be developed. Please note I understand that university provides the best education but also at a very high cost and I already have advanced degrees. Although it is the ideal choice.

What are the backbone knowledge required to be a composer. What are the specific topics. I gather theory is essential but what else? are there specific aspects to sharpen?

Thanks for your comments
Regards,
_________________________
Peace and love and play smile

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#2178321 - 11/07/13 05:38 AM Re: Skills and musical knowledge a good composer should know [Re: pianolover85]
Ganddalf Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/28/09
Posts: 701
Loc: Norway
I have been playing for ages, and occasionally I compose some music, but as always I have to emphasize that I'm not a professional musician. Already as a kid I made my first attempts, and was fond of improvising. This was something I did without really understanding how, but I believed that I quickly learnt basic musical elements from other music I played. I somehow found out that by combining elements I already knew I could make something new. For me adding second voices or even four part arrangements of songs was easy, but all the time I was re-using known basics without really being concious about it.

As I got acquainted with more advanced music I added elements from these styles to my toolbox. For instance I have written four-part fugues and also made pieces with an impressionistic tonal language.

The bottom line is that I have got my composition skills from listening and playing different kinds of music. I have experimented a lot, but not read much about composition.

What I suggest, however, is that you get some books about general music theory.I don't know anything about what is available in English language, but in Norwegian books on basic music theory there are some chapters about composition and form. Apart from that - play a lot of different music. Maybe one advantage I had, was that I was not a perfectionist. Therefore I played a large number of songs and melodies and got myself a good general understanding of music in the "natural" way.

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#2178362 - 11/07/13 08:07 AM Re: Skills and musical knowledge a good composer should know [Re: pianolover85]
Mark Polishook Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/29/12
Posts: 763
Loc: Leicester, UK
Pianolover85,

It comes down to what you're goals are and whether or not uni study will help you to meet them. Some of the advantages of uni study are (a) you get a built-in community of peers, (b) you're working with experienced teachers and composers, (c) it's a structured (formal) environment that can make learning a lot easier but also a lot more in-depth and (d) you have access to all the resources of the university including library, concerts, etc, etc. How in-depth you want to go is always a question worth asking yourself. Some students find when they enter formal composition studies that that's really not what they want - because they just want to compose and enjoy that experience. And that's perfectly fine and valid too!

In terms of what you can do with an undergrad composition degree, the answer to that usually is go into a masters' degree program. The answer to what do people do with a master's in composition is go into a doctoral program! A doctoral degree as you know if a terminal qualification, which makes it sound incurable - perhaps it is. But to teach in a university the terminal degree is USUALLY a requirement and not an option.

I'm not all all suggesting that advanced degrees and teaching should be your goal (or anyone's goal). Lots of composers take what they learned at university and go apply it in the world to writing chamber music, concert music, film music, theatre music, pop music - you name it - any kind of music. And lots of composers do all of that without any formal training in composition.

Without exception the adult students I've taught composition to (in a university) have been wonderful students - wonderful beyond belief. But that's been because they really treasured and took advantage of the opportunities before them.

The adult learners who have studied with me have gone on to varied things - one's a creative person who likes to be creative. Another one finished a PhD in composition, directs a university music program, and was just made composer-in-residence of a very good orchestra. Anything's possible (nothing's easy!)

All advice you've received and will receive about "no need to go back to school - just compose" is perfectly valid too. Instead of going back to school you could find a good composition teacher and put funds that would have gone to tuition to hiring good musicians to play whatever it is you're composing.

It's always good to meet the composition and music faculty at the school where'd you'd like to study. As I'm sure you know, education isn't something that's 'done' to you by a great school. It's more the case that you're entering into a collaborative partnership with faculty. If they seem interested in you and your plans - and if they seem interested in having you in their program as a student - that's a really good sign. If they're less than interested then that's also telling you something about the school and what you're experience might be were you to go there.

If you want to discuss specific options or school possibilities send a PM. Am happy to help. What I'm hoping comes through in what I wrote is there a lot of paths you could pursue. So just a question of finding one that works for you. Of course you can always change your mind later!


Edited by Mark Polishook (11/07/13 08:11 AM)
_________________________
PolishookPiano

mark@polishookpiano.com

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#2178393 - 11/07/13 09:30 AM Re: Skills and musical knowledge a good composer should know [Re: pianolover85]
keystring Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/11/07
Posts: 11880
Loc: Canada
What knowledge do you have right now?

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#2178420 - 11/07/13 10:58 AM Re: Skills and musical knowledge a good composer should know [Re: pianolover85]
RonDrotos Offline
Full Member

Registered: 08/31/13
Posts: 82
Loc: New York City
I agree with what the other replies have said, and have 3 points to add:

1. You're way ahead of the game since you've started on your own. (And congratulations on the 4-part fugues!) As a teen, I was in a similar position: very motivated and creative, and ready for some instruction. I ended up studying music composition at a great university with some wonderful teachers. Both the learning environment and the quality of instruction helped me thrive. You might enjoy something similar.

2. Even while taking classes, I spent time on my own, handcopying music from scores I liked. This is the way that Bach learned, and I found that it helped me internalize the composition process. For example, I got better at writing counterpoint by writing out Bach fugues than I did by taking a counterpoint class. (I still recommend the classes, though!)

3. Get other musicians to play your music, if possible. You'll learn more than you might expect from this process.

best wishes,
_________________________
Ron Drotos
rondrotos@keyboardimprov.com

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#2178655 - 11/07/13 07:43 PM Re: Skills and musical knowledge a good composer should know [Re: pianolover85]
Batuhan Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/21/09
Posts: 908
Loc: Istanbul
unrequited love
_________________________
Sorry for my English, I know it sucks, but I'm trying to improve.


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