So where to begin. Composition is a huge field, spanning hundreds, if not thousands of years. What do you learn first.
Well for this I will turn to some of the ideas from the past in terms of what we should be learning.
Writing Down What You Hear in Your Head
I assume your goal in composing music is similar to my goal. You want to be able to write down what you hear in your head. This on the surface seems pretty simple. If you play an instrument, then you can probably read music.
(I say probably, because for the first two years that I played trumpet, I would write the fingerings below the notes, in an attempt to not learn the names. When I finally got a trumpet teacher, he was not happy. He was from Austria by the way, and not the softest personality, I was 11, so you can imagine how much I liked my lessons at first.)
If you can read music then you probably have a good idea about how to write down what you hear in your head. And you can probably sing what you see, right?
This is just one example from Paul Hindemith’s Elementary Training For Musicians.
Elementary? Now this is by no means the hardest thing I’ve ever seen written down, and it is definitely not the most difficult in the book, but it is tricky to look at and immediately understand.
So what’s my point? I am rusty. I am rusty on my musical understanding, ability to sight read and sight sing, tap rhythms… you name it, if it is basic, I probably think I know it, but I really don’t.
What Does “The Basics” Entail?
The basics, I’m sure, mean different things to different people. If you grew up learning to play the guitar, and you learned from the internet, probably the basics are the E, D, A and G Chords.
Not really what I have in mind.
And if you learned to play in grade school band, the basics are probably “Hot Cross Buns,” or some other really boring song you never heard of until your parents bought you the “Essential Elements” band book.
No the fundamentals I am talking about getting a true understanding of rhythm, meter, notation, intervals, scales, etc.
The stuff, that normally students pick up one at a time, over the course of years, instead of hard, consistent study.
How can I talk about plagal cadences or neapolitan chords without the foundations of music theory firmly in place?
The First Step
So my first step in my journey towards becoming a real composer, and not just someone who composes blindly, is to take a step back. To reconnect with the “Elementary” side of music. Who knows, I will probably learn something I didn’t actually know, that I didn’t know.
Tell me what you think.