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#426061 - 01/11/02 05:17 PM How To Compose Music
all thumb Offline
Full Member

Registered: 09/21/01
Posts: 29
This may be one of the dumber questions. But I am quite new to music and have always been intrigued by it. How do you learn how to compose music, classically if that matters? Are there books on it, do you take course (I cant seem to find any) Is it a University course?? Is it osmosis?

Any insight or suggestions are appreciated. Thanks.

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#426062 - 01/11/02 06:31 PM Re: How To Compose Music
Praetorian_AD Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/24/01
Posts: 717
Loc: England
Yes, I think this is an excellent question. I'm taking music A-Level at my school and we are having to compose a theme and variations and a song based on a poem.(Any advice on those would be much appreciated, anyone!)

I've found the best way to compose is to come up with a main theme, create some kind of accompaniment to it (no matter how simple: it develops as you play/write) and then a couple of musical ideas or sequences to follow it using chordal developments, and perhaps a couple of variations on them/it. It helps to have a background in theory because you know what chords sound good to shift to.for instance, C sounds good if you shift to F or G, or its relative minor, a. I find the best way is to try and steal some of Beethoven or Haydn's structures (though not too much) and use their ideas to fuel mine. This may be incorrect, but I don't have too much musical experience either. Hope it helps.

#426063 - 01/11/02 09:01 PM Re: How To Compose Music
SethW Offline
Full Member

Registered: 06/24/01
Posts: 106
How does one compose? ... the same way one paints or accomplishes anything else. You need to learn. Getting a degree in musical composition is not essential to composing. However, a degree ( it does not neccesarily mean a course in composition -- music theory, for instance) is probably neccesary to actually make something of quality, and it is definitely essential in order to create large orchestral pieces. Music composition is the route I took.

Creating music involves more than just learning the basic technicalities. An understanding of musical form is also neccesary. The thing that seperates music theory from music composition courses, in the latter stages atleast, is that music composition courses are less concerned about learning the *theory* of music; It's main focuse is how that theory is applied. An understanding of the structure of pieces as a whole is essential. Examining a sonata or symphony, for instance and seeing how the piece is constructed. This is a topic that could go on forever, thus ... I shall end it here.

#426064 - 01/12/02 10:13 AM Re: How To Compose Music
T2 Offline
Full Member

Registered: 12/18/01
Posts: 341
I agree with SethW about learning your A-B-C's at the University. But the actual creative part doesn't always get taught too well in Universities. I don't know--maybe terminology and analysis is easier to grade.

The best experiences I have had are in working one-on-one with a teacher. They started me out with one structural element and had me create the rest. For example, my teacher would lay down a harmonic structure and have me write a harmonic rhythm, melody and orchestration. My teacher had me do this many times while each time supplying me a different element of music. This helps especially in overcoming the hump about getting started.

One of the methods I liked the best was to find your own voice by starting with a few words of somebody else. That may be a theme from a Bach fugue or a little transitional theme drawn from a sonata or an intro riff played by Art Tatum.

If you're looking for sources for melodic ideas I would suggest a book by Nicolas S. Slonymsky called "Thesarus of Scales and Melodic Patterns" in which he starts with an interval container and by introducing additional notes systematically maps out thousands of possible melodic variations. Forget about his needlessly complex terminology though. It is much easier to refer to a 'sequesti-quinquitone' as a 'minor 7th'. :rolleyes:

Once you get a draft out to your teacher it seems that what follows is an intense, sometimes withering, challenge to what you wrote. "Did you really mean that?" or "That doesn't really work." Depending on how hard you worked on it and how thick your skin is it can be a really difficult phase. But hopefully your teacher can also show you a way out of the corners you've painted yourself into. If they can't then you need another teacher.

I had one teacher in particular that was brilliant at generating variations off of my ideas. He would go through a score with a pen and seize on one idea and then create variations on it for 20 minutes--frequently with such clarity, beauty and honesty it nearly brought me to tears. Then I would go home and take hours to expand on one of his variations on my ideas. Then I would bring back the revised version and the whole process started again, back-and-forth it went. It was thrilling and it got me really pumped up to go home and take another crack at the piece.

I think the biggest hurdle I had to overcome was actually my own harsh criticism of my writing. I kept comparing my writing with great composers. While that may spur you to improve your playing it may also leave you with so little self-confidence that your productivity is crippled. Um, don't do that.

If I could leave you with any one piece of advice it would be: Keep writing. Don't worry about whether it's good or not. Just keep writing. The music will find you if you keep at it.

[ January 12, 2002: Message edited by: T2 ]

#426065 - 01/12/02 11:11 PM Re: How To Compose Music
SethW Offline
Full Member

Registered: 06/24/01
Posts: 106
Those points are wisely said. The actual creative part of music needs to be cultivated and developed individually. But that is a topic all its own.

#426066 - 01/12/02 11:27 PM Re: How To Compose Music
jazzyd Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/16/01
Posts: 1861
Loc: United Kingdom
Wow that was some post T2!

Originally posted by T2:
I think the biggest hurdle I had to overcome was actually my own harsh criticism of my writing. I kept comparing my writing with great composers. While that may spur you to improve your playing it may also leave you with so little self-confidence that your productivity is crippled. Um, don't do that.


Funny, but so true... :rolleyes:
"After silence, that which comes nearest to expressing the inexpressible is music." - Aldous Huxley


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