I’d like to start off by saying I hope everyone had a Merry Christmas!
Learning to Cook and Learning to Compose
For some reason, learning to cook popped up in my mind as similar to learning how to compose music. When you think about it, you have some of the same things at play.
Do you want Chinese or Italian?
With cooking, it all starts with the style of food you are cooking. This is important because not only does it dictate the ingredients, but process, cooking utensils and time. If you are gonna make some spaghetti, it could be a lot quicker than say, roasting a turkey. Most of the time you don’t mix different styles, although it can be done. It takes a master chef to do this.
Do you want High Viennese or Ska?
The same goes for music. If you are trying to compose something in the style of Mozart, which there is nothing wrong with copying a style, then you probably wouldn’t have a drumkit and trombones playing a ska beat. I think you know where I am going with this.
Next if you don’t have fresh ingredients, then your food won’t taste very good. What is a fresh ingredient in composing music? I believe we get fresh ingredients from listening to music, studying scores and learning music theory. Not just western classical music theory, but also other cultures.
Fresh Musical Ingredients
A podcast that I recommend listening to is the Labyrinth of Music Theory. I’ll warn you now, it is a little creepy sounding, with a drone in the background, and the guy’s voice is compressed, which adds to the creepiness. But the info in the podcast is awesome. Unfortunately, he only made 8 episodes and stopped in 2008, but it should still be enough to start whetting your appetite on studying deeper music theory.
Other People’s Recipes and Learning How to Compose Music
The main difference between learning to cook and learning to compose, is that people who learn to cook, are willing to use other peoples recipes to start. They realize there is a lot that goes into the process and mixing ingredients and cook times, etc. And yet, when they serve their meal, no one says to them “You just copied someone elses recipe, that means you actually suck at cooking.”
Sure, they may have used another guys recipe, but did they cook the meal? Yes they did. Did the meal suck? Maybe, hopefully not. But if it didn’t they can take the credit because the recipe is just a guideline, its not the meal.
But in music, everyone seems to be against using “the other guys recipe.” In reality, using the wisdom from composers in the past is a great way to find out why they did what they did, so you can come up with your own “musical recipes.”
Beethoven’s Final Piano Piece
What struck me immediately about this piece was it’s simplicity. This was written at the end of Beethoven’s life, mixed in between pages of sketches for his String Quartet Op. 135. This is written by the same man who wrote the 9th Symphony!
It is in ternary form, uses simple harmony, a repetitious motive and musical periods, and yet, it is still nice to hear. I wouldn’t say its his opus magnum, but its not bad by any measure.
Don’t Be Afraid to Be Simple and Use Familiar Recipes
My point is, if Beethoven wasn’t afraid to write simple periods in ternary form, using simple harmony, then maybe as composers, we shouldn’t be afraid either. Don’t be afraid to follow Beethoven’s lead and use a “recipe” that you or others have used before. The worst that will happen is that you get better at making that recipe. No one even has to taste it but you! You never know when you are going to happen on something that you really like, and turn it into “Sonata No. 1.“
Free Beginner’s Course in Compose Music
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