Getting Started with the Art of Composing
So you want to become a composer? The rabbit hole goes very deep and there are many things that you need to know, not just to get music down on paper, but to have that music actually move people in any meaningful way. Whether you are a classical composer, looking to learn about sonata form, or you are a singer songwriter, I think you will find plenty here to move you along your journey.
Who Am I?
I won’t go into too much detail on this page about me. If you are interested in my story, you can check out my about me page. I love to compose music, and I love to teach people about composing. But over the years I haven’t had much of an opportunity to get lessons. This, while on the surface could seem to be a problem, has actually taught me much about teaching myself to compose.
Music Composition in a Nutshell
Composing music is a both a skill that can be learned and a talent that can be cultivated. To improve, you have to focus on improving. The process of improving happens through specific directed exercises that incrementally advance your understanding of all aspects of the technical side of music.
Understanding the mechanics of composing will not make you sound mechanical.
Start With Basics
- The Fundamentals of Music - Why you should focus on learning, or re-learning the basics? In this article I talk about the basics of not just composing, but being a musically minded person. Having the skills to look at and understand written music, or to play back by ear something you’ve heard, or even just listening to music is very important, and should be cultivated by anyone wanting to learn the fine art of music composition.
- The Stages of Learning to Compose Music - Where are you on the path to becoming a composing master? Not all people are at the same place in their efforts of learning music composition. It is very important to take a step back and evaluate where you are in the spectrum of knowledge. Why? Well for one, it will give you focus in what you are learning, but almost more importantly, it will allow you to accept what you compose, based on your actual knowledge of the craft of composition. You can’t be too hard on yourself if you want to write like Mahler, but you’ve only been composing for a month.
Start Composing Now
This series of articles was written for the beginner composer in mind. Where do you begin to learn music composition? What kinds of stuff do you need to have? Do you need a computer, a piano, or a pad of sheet music?
- How to Compose Music, Part 1 - The Composing Mindset. Music composition first starts in the mind, and having a clear mind and an acceptance of who you are is key to clearing your conscience for creativity.
- How to Compose Music, Part 2 – The Home Composing Studio Setup. Once you’ve got the right mindset, it is important to create a space for yourself to get away and compose. You may also be interested in this article about having a composing sanctuary.
- How to Compose Music, Part 3 – Melody or Harmony First? The age old question of the chicken or the egg, just rehashed. The answer may not be what you think.
- How to Compose Music, Part 4 – Start Composing Now! Now that you’ve read all about music composition, it’s time to start. With all this talk about theory, and fundamentals, the most important thing you can do to become a better composer is… actually compose something.
- How to Compose Music, Part 5 – Simple Musical Form for Composing. Are you looking for some direction in your compositions? The place to start is musical form.
- How to Compose Music, Part 6 – Simple Functional Harmony. Tired of C, F, and G chords? So am I. Learn how to harness harmony. After this, you’ll want to get into more detail with Unlocking the Secret to Diatonic Harmony.
Free Composing Software
There are many ways to compose. I am personally a big fan of getting away from the computer to do your initial creative work, coming up with melodies, key harmonies, themes and so on at the piano with nothing other than a pencil and staff paper. But computers offer a great tool for realizing your music beyond the initial stages. One of the keys to this is the computer can play your music back, without error and without having to practice. While this can be a problem, tricking you into writing music that isn’t actually playable (assuming that is what you are going for), it can also mean that you are able to hear your creations in ways that composers of the past would be drooling over.
The best part is, you don’t have to spend a ton of money. In fact, you don’t have to spend any money at all. There is a great notation software program called musescore, and it is available for mac or pc for free. The sound is usually not the greatest, but you can also look for SF2 sound files on the internet and load them into the program.
A great place to learn about using musescore is http://www.musescoretips.com/
Sign up for the Free Beginner’s Composing Course Below
Finally, I have put together a free music composition course, that covers the basics of what I’ve talked about in the previous articles, but it also takes you step by step composing your first classical piano piece. This is a great little course and I highly recommend that you sign up. When you do, you’ll also get occasional emails from me about things that are going on at artofcomposing.com. It is still relatively early in the stages of this website, and I plan on many more things in the future. One of which I am really excited about is a full membership site, that covers in great detail the aspects of composing full sonatas and symphonies. If you want to be notified of the membership site when it is coming, then sign up for the free course.