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#2224493 - 02/02/14 06:10 AM Pianists and Composers?
DanL Offline
Full Member

Registered: 11/27/13
Posts: 57
Hello everyone! smile

We all know about Chopin, Liszt, Rachmaninoff,... they all were the greatest composers in the classic era and also, incredible pianists. So the do BOTH thing, playing and composing.

My question is, what if one only composes music? For example, I compose many songs, piano piece but I don't really have the incredible skills like a full-time pianist. I've seen people who didn't start early (some started playing piano at the age of 17-18 or so) and then they go learn in music conservatory AS a composer, not a pianist. Is that possible?

In my country, students who want to go study in the National music school must be from 16 to 25. When they meet the requirement the must take a "pre-exam" exam, the PIANO EXAM, it's quite simple, you can choose the piece like Beethoven Sonata no 20 in G major, or Tchaikovsky March/April,... If good enough (no need to be as good as a student who's been study since age 6), then you can take the real exam. This is where things get tough, you have to write music for a poem which they give to you as a main test, then they test your music theory, and finally, the ability to identify notes and chords by HEARING.

If I start late, (I've only been playing since I was 14 and now I'm 18), can I become a composer, my teacher said if I take the "pre-exam" piano exam, I can certainly pass but I don't have the ability to identify notes and chords by hearing, also don't have the ability to write music for a random poem. If I have the melody in my head, then I can't write down the note for that melody. I haven't learnt anything about those skill, so if I start now, can I do it? Can I have the ability to identify notes and chords by hearing, of the ability to transcript a melody in head to notes, notes on the sheet music?

My musical friends tell me that I don't have to start early to become a composer, but I see so many composers start early. I started late, is that a big setback for me? Still, I think I can do it! Even if I can't compose complicated piece like Liszt's or Chopin's, I can still compose songs, right?

Please give me some opinion if you have the time.

Thanks in advance!


Edited by DanL (02/02/14 06:13 AM)

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#2224526 - 02/02/14 09:05 AM Re: Pianists and Composers? [Re: DanL]
bennevis Offline
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/14/10
Posts: 5265
You can become a composer at any age. But you must be able to to write down what you hear in your head, or what comes to you when you sit down at a piano, and play. (Most composers can easily write music down without needing the piano, though some always compose at the piano.)

If you have a natural gift, this comes fairly quickly, but even the most gifted composers have to 'learn their trade' - including the three composer-pianists you mentioned. That only comes with lots of practice, and the assiduous study of the theory of music and harmony.
_________________________
"I don't play accurately - anyone can play accurately - but I play with wonderful expression. As far as the piano is concerned, sentiment is my forte. I keep science for Life."

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#2224551 - 02/02/14 09:59 AM Re: Pianists and Composers? [Re: DanL]
Pathbreaker Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/18/04
Posts: 1092
Loc: Massachusetts
You should be able to succeed at this with some focused effort. Sounds like you are talking about a need to train your aural skills.

Courtesy of Google/WMU:

http://www.wmich.edu/mus-theo/etg/et_guide.html

Quote:
TO UNDERSTAND WHAT YOU HEAR: This is the primary goal of music theory (including aural skills)...One activity practiced in aural skills related to these skills is dictation. The end-product of a dictation is a visual representation of the music: you write down what you hear. While this is a useful musical skill by itself, it is important to remember that this is not the sole purpose of dictation. Dictation is used to develop your ability to comprehend music aurally, and to evaluate your level of comprehension. You learn to hear more and hear better by writing it down. It is also a means of communicating to someone (an instructor, a study partner, or even yourself with an answer sheet) what your understanding of the music is, so that you can receive feedback for improving.

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#2224561 - 02/02/14 10:31 AM Re: Pianists and Composers? [Re: DanL]
Sand Tiger Online   content
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/25/12
Posts: 1068
Loc: Southern California
DanL, I am only a low level amateur, so keep that in mind. There is good news and bad news. The good news is that with the Internet, and modern tools, someone like you can get their music out there even if that person can't play an instrument well.

The bad news is that instrumental music, especially in a neo-classical style has a tiny audience, maybe 1% of all listeners are at all curious. I go to a lot of live concerts. As one might expect, the bulk of the program is written by dead people. Living composers are either the performer, a close friend or a mentor. Personal connection is essential to getting works performed. More bad news is that the pay is near nothing, for the few that get their works performed. The performers can barely eek out a living, the writers get a tiny slice of that ration.

You mentioned being unable to write music for random poems. This is more bad news, because that is another important skill. I encourage you to cultivate writing to lyrics and writing lyrics as well. It is a totally different world, but one with the potential for a much wider audience.

You also mention a weak ear in that you can't identify notes and chords. There are websites and apps that can help with that, if that is a skill you want to acquire. A beginner may have to start at the bottom, doing basic higher/lower exercises before they can move up to intervals and chords. (Higher/lower sounds two notes, and a person has to say if the first is higher or lower than the second.) Almost all can improve their ear by training. A beginner may take a year or more of ear training, before they reach a useful skill level, depending on how much they apply themselves and natural aptitude.

Some people write because they have to write. If a person is writing derivative work in the style of the old masters, it may be tremendously rewarding and fulfilling on an emotional level. So I encourage you to keep at it. With the Internet and modern tools, a person with the will, can get their music out there. Whether there is any audience for it? For most of us, there isn't, but that doesn't stop us from writing.

Good luck to you and keep writing. If you ever want to get your music performed, I encourage you to make as many friends with performing musicians as possible. I observe that as the way most modern works get on to a classical program.

/edit to add: some on the forum are taking a free online course on composition at:
https://www.coursera.org/

The Write Like Mozart Course on music composition is almost over, but similar courses or perhaps even the same one will be offered again. A person can sample some of these to see if they enjoy them. These are intro level courses or below, so if a person finds them frustrating, seeking a degree in that specialty is likely a bad idea. If on the other hand, a person loves this kind of stuff and excels at it, it might be good news.


Edited by Sand Tiger (02/02/14 10:55 AM)
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#2224888 - 02/02/14 09:49 PM Re: Pianists and Composers? [Re: DanL]
hreichgott Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/11/13
Posts: 1092
Loc: western MA, USA
Originally Posted By: DanL
my teacher said if I take the "pre-exam" piano exam, I can certainly pass but I don't have the ability to identify notes and chords by hearing, also don't have the ability to write music for a random poem. If I have the melody in my head, then I can't write down the note for that melody. I haven't learnt anything about those skill, so if I start now, can I do it? Can I have the ability to identify notes and chords by hearing, of the ability to transcript a melody in head to notes, notes on the sheet music?

This skill is gained by learning and practice, not by magical ability. Ask your teacher to coach you, and practice it just as you'd practice piano.
_________________________
Heather W. Reichgott, piano http://heatherwreichgott.blogspot.com
Sometimes a bagatelle is just a bagatelle. Beethoven Op. 33
Daily 16th notes: Chopin Op. 10 no. 2, Pischna
Loving Fauré/Barcarolles and Ravel/Tombeau de Couperin
Always a fan of Mozart, Haydn, Beethoven and new music

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#2224896 - 02/02/14 10:20 PM Re: Pianists and Composers? [Re: DanL]
Bobpickle Offline

Gold Supporter until July 10  2014


Registered: 05/24/12
Posts: 1383
Loc: Cameron Park, California
a semi-relevant article I just happened to be reading simultaneously: http://jamesclear.com/deliberate-practice

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#2224899 - 02/02/14 10:27 PM Re: Pianists and Composers? [Re: hreichgott]
Polyphonist Online   content
7000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/03/13
Posts: 7648
Loc: New York City
Originally Posted By: hreichgott
Originally Posted By: DanL
my teacher said if I take the "pre-exam" piano exam, I can certainly pass but I don't have the ability to identify notes and chords by hearing, also don't have the ability to write music for a random poem. If I have the melody in my head, then I can't write down the note for that melody. I haven't learnt anything about those skill, so if I start now, can I do it? Can I have the ability to identify notes and chords by hearing, of the ability to transcript a melody in head to notes, notes on the sheet music?

This skill is gained by learning and practice, not by magical ability. Ask your teacher to coach you...

That is, if the teacher knows what they're doing.
_________________________
Regards,

Polyphonist

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#2224907 - 02/02/14 10:55 PM Re: Pianists and Composers? [Re: DanL]
Ed McMorrow, RPT Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/09/12
Posts: 2192
Loc: Seattle, WA USA
For setting a poem to music start by marking the strong beats of the rhythm of the words. This will help uncover melodic shape and reveal harmonic tension options.
_________________________
In a seemingly infinite universe-infinite human creativity is-seemingly possible

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#2224985 - 02/03/14 03:24 AM Re: Pianists and Composers? [Re: DanL]
StarvingLion Offline
Full Member

Registered: 06/30/13
Posts: 226
"Liszt's or Chopin or Rachmaninoff"

There is your problem. Worshiping those titans will send you to the poor house. Bad return on investment and all that.

The only way a nobody can make it is the same way Mozart had to: writing and performing enchanting brand new piano concerto's for old ladies and selling them subscriptions. As long as you can churn out the *enchanting* concertos on a regular basis, you can make it.

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