Dec 22, 2011

How to compose in 4 steps

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I was asked to tutor a musician in my area who never faced composing from scratch. Of course, there are several approaches to composition, but here’s what you will refer to as a composer:

- Harmony
- Melody
- Rhythm( and time )

These are the fundamentals of music. You can order these three milestones as you like, merge some together or even ignore some of them.
A lot of composer experimented pieces with no harmony and/or no melody or no time and to me that is where music is going, to some degrees.

Once you have an idea of how to put these elements in your own piece you can start compose.

Here’s a checklist of steps you want to accomplish:

1. Brainstorming
Have you already some musical ideas?

If so, bring a piece of paper and start writing down those. Ideas are fleeting.

If not, what inspires you? Go for that and being inspired.
Read a book, listen to music, go jogging. Whatever.

2. Arrange your ideas

Which ensemble do you want/have?
Which instruments would you like to have in your piece?
Do you want some text to be sang or recited?

Which people/musicians would you like to bring in?
This is very important. I know many composers who don’t think for their fellow musicians when they are composing. They simply write down some stuff which doesn’t fit with the musicians they brought in their project. You are going to write for your musicians.

3. Arrange the structure

What kind of piece do you want to write?
What’s the time? What’s the pulse?

Is it divided in different parts? Has it a well-known form( sonata, suite, etc.. )?

4. The idea.

So at this time you probably will have a detailed idea of what your piece will be in terms of time, structure, etc.

Now, go on your instrument or at the piano and start playing whatever you have in your mind. Now. If you don’t have a piano or an instrument, simply sing it.

It could be a melody, it could be a certain progression of chords or even a rhythm.

Congratulations! Now it’s simply a deal of memorizing and writing down what you just played or sang.

Then, you will add what’s missing to your existing material.
Just like making a layer cake. If you have a melody, you can poking with some harmony to support it and then add the rhythm or vice versa. It’s up to you.

Note: Music theory

I just want to add some thoughts about theory.
Often people ask me: “Mike, how can I compose if I don’t know music theory?” Well, to me learning the music theory is not essential. If you have it, the better.

Usually when people asked me that I demonstrate them how they can compose by ear. I have a method in which I teach how to trust your ear actually. Results are astonishing.

Let me say just that: if you don’t know what is it, don’t care. Just care about the sound of it.

Thanks,
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P.S. If you are interested in my method I’m also available to teach by Skype. You can e-mail me anytime. Thanks.


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I strive to make music that moves people and hope to make an impact in the music scene as an open-minded and innovative musician. Please visit the about page on the blog or head over to my website for further info about me.