I’m a big fan of your way teaching composition, finding it both flexible enough for individuality, but, with enough limitation to fource creativity.
I have gone through music composition 101 and I have a basic grounding in music theory so I’m not completely lost. However in working through 201 I have come to a dead end when composing themes. I’m struggling to find a balance between completely plagiarising Beethoven and writing memorable, individual themes.
I feel like my problem lies in trying to think creatively, while remaining within the limitations, I have tried most of the composer workouts but to no prevail. Are there any tips or tricks you find useful when you are struggling with inspiration.
This is always a tough thing to deal with, as creativity and inspiration have a lot to do with other aspects of your life. I would first take a look at other things, such as stress, diet, sleep, what your doing to creatively recharge (reading, listening to different kinds of music, going on trips – even local ones). This can make a big difference.
Generally, when I am feeling uninspired, it is because I have some unfinished projects, or stressful deadlines. If I started some pieces, and never finished them, I would try to finish them up, or completely abandon them. Unfinished work has a tendency to really cloud your mind. Going on a thinking trip, to a local destination, maybe an hour or two away, can always help.
As far as the nitty gritty of composition, sometimes it helps to approach with the mindset of actually writing something “bad”. That sounds counter intuitive, but what it really does is take the pressure off. If you feel you need to write something unique, or something that is outside your comfort zone, you begin to second guess yourself. But saying, I am going to write a very simple theme, and it won’t be special… that automatically brings down inhibitions. More often than not, I find I write better music when I am trying to write worse music.
- Other ideas:
- Compose different aspects separately. For instance, start with the rhythm first, and then harmony, and then add melody to the rhythm.
- Start with a basic idea by a composer you want to sound like, and then add the rest. Once you’ve done that, go back and change the basic idea so that it sounds completely different.
- Compose using a different medium. If you’re use to paper and pencil, use a DAW. If you use a piano all the time, try using your voice.
These are just a few ideas. But I think it would be great to get more from other members of the academy.