Learning music is much easier than composing your own music. It is such a difficult task to compose music of your own. It requires enough of your time dedication, involvement and skills to compose music along with knowing the importance of music in everybody’s life. But, if you learn the right way, passionately follow a routine and engross yourself in it, you can achieve your music composition target with some really good compositions.
If you are thinking of composing your music, that means you have the passion for music and have learnt enough to move in the direction of learning the music composition theory this post is for you. So now make yourself ready with all that is required to have a good musical composition.
- What Does it Take to Learn Composition?
- Learn to Compose Music with Following Steps
- Important Tips to Consider while Composing Music
- Do’s and Don’ts of Music Composition for Beginners
- Listen a Lot
- Score Reading and Analysis
- Learn Music Theory
- Play an Instrument or 2
- Don’t Write Chords and Melody Together
- Sing and Train your Ears
- Practice your Composition
- Organize Your Work
- Learn the Software
- Compose a Piece for Other Musicians
- Compose Honestly
- Judge Your Work
- Don’t Ignore your Score Details
- Join a Community
- Don’t Write a Symphony
- Don’t Revise an Older Piece Endlessly
What Does it Take to Learn Composition?
The best as well as the easiest way to learn composing music is to memorize the small fragmented music and then combine them together in the best possible form. This is the easiest way to explain how to start composing music. This means, while you think of composing music, you might add different melodies or harmony or anything, you must first fragment different parts of it, then compose each differently and then merge them together.
This is how traditionally music was composed by the popular musicians. But as the time changes, the way you compose the music differs. This also happens because of the ever-evolving forms of music and diversity of people composing music. I said diversity because, music is an art and every artist have some different way in which they like to create their musical composition. Even when each one follows the same steps, their minor (sometimes major) techniques differ. So here is my and some of music friend’s commonly used methods to compose the music.
What is your Motivation for Composing?
This is one important question you must ask yourself before composing any kinds of music. Some new instrument learners feel that they have the skill to compose the music just because they play their instrument better than some of the other friends or colleagues.
But that isn’t the correct motivation as music composing is an art and you require a lot of efforts to learn that. Efforts in terms of learning the instrument from basic to core to advance stage, knowing what kind of compositions other musicians are preparing and what kind of passion you have to continue composing music for a longer period of time.
I learnt my first musical instrument in 2001 and then learnt some more instruments to gain knowledge but eventually I started liking those instruments too. And so, I continuously keep learning new chords, new music and new instruments year after year. For me, playing music is happiness and so that is my basic motivation to learn and explore new avenues to music.
I personally feel that the basic motivations that a person has while composing music are:
- Your emotional attachment towards the genre of music that you play
- Other musical compositions inspire you to write one by your own
- When you play any instrument, there are different tunes you hear in your head that you want to bring out
- You continuously opt for some or the other music sources around you
For me and many other musicians I met feel the music and find music in everything. Do you have that zeal? Are you really opting out to create your own composition? Do you want to know how to compose classical music? Then follow the below steps and do’s and don’ts guide to composing music.
Learn to Compose Music with Following Steps
While you learn the music composing basics, you need to understand that this is the standard method everyone follows, you can add or subtract some of the parts as I said music is an art and every individual has his/her own way of composing it.
Step 1: Set Pre-decided Restrictions for Yourself
Start with having a goal of composing one piece of music. So, focus on that one piece and initially develop the piece in that itself. Then lay boundaries for yourself as to help yourself understand what kind of music are you thinking of developing or composing and you can then get the hold of it.
Once you have selected the type of composition you are willing to make, then start sketching and/or writing the each of the elements of music, how you want it and how are you going to move ahead with it. Select the tempo, then the other elements, then the time signature, then the key signature you want to have, and then the most important one, the instrument with which you want to compose the music.
So, have you selected the tempo? How many beats are you thinking of having in a minute? For keeping the time signature simple, keep it 4/4, select the key signature of your choice like G string or C major etc and then select the instrument.
Step 2: Composing Process
We will first start with the note in your mind. Ask yourself first what kind of note are you thinking of composing? Is that going to be a high pitch composition, a medium pitch one or a low pitch one? How would be the rhythm, texture, dynamics for the composition? Write everything down – your pitch, rhythm everything.
Now that you know what kind of composition you are willing to create, build everything around it, follow strict restrictions, give it enough time and achieve great results. As discussed earlier, process of composing the music is different for each individual or composer and so, I cannot give you a deeper process understanding. But I can definitely give you some tips along with some do’s and don’ts while you compose your music.
Important Tips to Consider while Composing Music
The following are the common tips that will help you in deciding how you can go about with composing your original musical composition. You might have some additional tips to the following and might have some subtractions. This isn’t a complete list for everyone, but it is definitely very much useful to the first timers.
When we talk of solo music, bass lines come under low register and so might get ignored or might get less importance. You need to understand that while you compose a musical composition, every beat counts and the time between the beat also counts and so, none of it can be given low or no importance while you compose. I find piano and pipe organ’s excellence in lower register and as tune picks up, the depth of the bass line also goes up. You can choose your bass line and start with that.
No music has a single tempo or chord, there needs to be a combination of different chords and tempo. So, balance becomes super important here. You need to create and maintain balance between the tempo, tunes as well as the chords. Every composer wishes to have one unique tone in between the other chords. But what I would suggest is that take up the common chords only, just arrange these chords in a fashion that turns out to be a unique composition. This advice is specifically for new composers and creators for getting an ease in composing the music.
Listen to What you Love
The music you love never fails in helping you derive the music of your choice. When you listen to the music you love, you get innovative ideas to create a brand-new composition of your own. So, keep listening to more and more music you love to develop the music you want.
As discussed in the above section, different tunes add up to become a composition. So, you need to have balance while developing your composition. Along with the balance, you need to create a relationship between each melody, tone and tempo. This relationship between the tunes gives the composition a better understanding and a better flow in music.
There should be a continuous succession of tunes when we talk of melody. Personally, I prefer having multiple melodies in a composition along with some complexities. This is my suggestion as complexities in melodies give an upper lift to the composition and gives a better touch to the song. All of it makes the entire composition more impressive.
This might not be directly related to the composition but it is something that is really helpful. I have a habit of meditating for few minutes before I start with my composition. Every composer has a different technique. Some do it post a walk while some take a nap to get fresh and some hear other people’s compositions to get a clarity on what they want to prepare. So, choose a movement that gives your mind a push and a fresh start to prepare your composition.
Do’s and Don’ts of Music Composition for Beginners
These do’s and don’ts will help you improve your musical composition. These are simple techniques that will help you through your composition and make it more pleasing and impressive. Even if you have been composing, these do’s and don’ts will let you give a better touch to your compositions. The first and foremost thing is you need to do is practice a lot. Allocate some of your time each day to work out and practice your composition. Here are the other important do’s and don’ts you need to take care of.
1. Listen a Lot
It is quite obvious that whatever you want to pursue in life, you first need to understand the industry, what others are currently doing and how apt are you to enter the industry. So, the same goes for music industry too. You need to properly learn what compositions are already there in the market. This will give you an overall idea as to what kind of music you want to make and will develop your instincts with respect to your composition.
Here you need to understand that listening to other compositions do not only mean to listen the music that is on around, it means listen to all kinds of musical compositions, in your as well as some other languages, to understand different instruments, and other important parts of the compositions. This is because, when you listen to different kinds of music, you get to choose your area of liking from a wider variety and this also gives you a clearer picture on what kind of music do you wish to compose. Also, every musical creation has something to say, so the one that matches best to your interest and understanding is the one with which you will prepare your composition.
While you like or dislike a composition, you need to critically analyse the factors you dislike and the factors you really like. By this, you will be able to narrow down what all you would like to have in your composition. And what all could you adapt from the best composition that you heard and really loved. So, listening plays a super important role not only for a beginner, but also for the composers who are there in the industry for long.
2. Score Reading and Analysis
The written version of a musical composition is called a musical score. You can read the score of other musical compositions and analyze the way they have portrayed the entire composition. You can also analyze while you are listening to the composition. You can continuously keep a track on the chords and the composition that is being played.
This way, you will get an idea as to what other musicians do to avoid mistakes in their composition and what all are important things you need to take care of while writing your composition. This activity is generally underestimated as the new composer’s think that they want to compose a new tune and that doesn’t require analysis of the older tunes. But unless you know what are the minute things that you need to take care of, how can you compose a completely new and crisp composition?
While you read a composition, you need to analyze by asking what all things are uplifting the music and what all things are degrading it, what all is making it interesting and how is it progressing. And what all things are absent in the composition that you can add up to. Most interesting thing about this learning is that every time you hear the same composition, you get to learn something new in the same composition. And, so learning should never (I repeat Never) stops!
3. Learn Music Theory
As said earlier, music is a vibration which continuously plays, so overall, music is quite a wide term. And learning theory can mean learning all kinds of music, which might not be possible but, understanding how each kind of music works and why it works that way is important to know.
It’s not that you need to learn everything beforehand and then try your hand on composing, you need to know about what music you actually want to play and what kind of music do you wish to compose. Later, you will further get the answers as you explore more in the field. So, you can keep learning and composing together.
4. Play an Instrument or 2
As I said earlier that I, initially started with one instrument and then slowly tried to get into some more instruments. By this, I got to merge music from different instruments into one composition. All of it increases my creativity as I have got more chords and strings that I can run in my composition as per what music I really want to compose.
You need not go deep in each instrument, even some simple chords from one instrument and advance from the other gives a better balance to your composition. Along with this, you get an advantage of getting more innovative with your composition as more the music you play, more you get to learn about the different tunes that you can prepare and tunes that you can merge to create a composition.
5. Don’t Write Chords and Melody Together
Decide the melody first before you start composing your music piece. Harmony too is important but deciding on melody first gives your broad music some boundaries which will make composition preparation easier for you and melody is the basic thing that a listener follows and so it needs to be apt.
While you start composing, you have a broad range through which your melody can run through and it gets the freedom to move up, down and even twist without any restrictions. Once you have decided your composition’s melody, you are now ready to set the harmony and then the chords that will be played in your composition. It is always the best to not write your composition’s melody and chords together.
6. Sing and Train your Ears
Did you know, the voice with which you sing is also a type of an instrument. Even if you are not a great singer, still it is an instrument and has its own value in your composition. But it is quite a different instrument as compared to the other instruments. This is because, it has its roots deeper inside each one of us.
Even when you do not know to play any other instruments, still every person has their own singing form and their own tune. And hence, the benefits of training your ears with your song are immense. Have you heard that when you read something aloud, you remember that even better, it is because when you read, your eyes send signal to the brain and when you read it aloud, your ears too send the signals to the brain. This in turn helps the brain to memorize the content easily.
The same thing happens when you are composing your music. you have a tune in your head, when you sing that tune, your brain remembers the tune and then helps you in adding creativity to the piece. Also, when you play and sing the minutest things, your brain easily differentiates between the chords, music, melody and you get a clearer picture as to what will work out and what won’t.
For example: Try out reading basic musical chords silently for a few times. Now, take a break for some time. After that, read or sing (play) the same chords with the instrument aloud. You will find the difference in your understanding about each chord.
7. Practice your Composition
Here comes your action plan. Till now, you were preparing yourself to make a composition, but now you need to act. You need to start writing your composition. The composition can be a super simple one like a solo flute music or a basic guitar chords music. It can be as simple as the basic melodies of any instrument you like to play. As a beginner, it is important to you to start writing in lots and lots of quantity.
As I have been in that position, I know that initially, we all try out to be different yet end up creating a very similar content to the existing one. So, is it worth? Yes. A 200% yes. A consistent effort backed by a lot of research, will definitely pay off. Slowly, you will create a content that you will be completely proud of. Some of my current trainees think that they practice enough when they think of what they actually want to compose.
That means, they want to create a unique content, for which they think, think and think or directly start playing it. But unless you pen down a lot of content in your mind, how will you actually create the unique parts you created each time? For example, when I think of composing music using the guitar tune, I create my first content (pen it down and play it), find faults, write the next content (same process), and work it out till I could find a unique mixer of contents that will make one piece of my composition using all the unique ideas from different content ideas. Sounds interesting right? For beginners, this method is super important and necessary.
Playing right kind of music doesn’t just require the talent, but also research, practice and a lot of efforts. Unless you put in your best, you won’t be able to get the best. There are many composers who feel that first you must write your entire composition and then let others hear. But I have personally experienced a little different thing. When I create some small piece of content, I play it in front of someone to understand their views. For me, this gives an edge to my music.
8. Organize Your Work
Organizing your work basically means categorizing what kind of tunes, melody, harmony, etc will fit in which part of your composition. For many students who self-learn music, they oftenly try out learning different things at the same time and gets completely confused. If you are a self-learner, then go topic by topic, try to understand each topic deeply and then move forward. This way it will be easier for you to organize your work and create your composition.
9. Learn the Software
These days there are so many apps and programs that lets you organize and produce the musical composition of your choice. There are software that help you in producing sheet music i.e. the musical notation software along with that, you can try out digital audio workstation software that helps you edit and mix tracks of yours to line-up and organize your entire composition.
There are several software companies that offer these services, pick one that best suits your requirement as well as budget and learn it aptly. This will make your composition track play smoother and have a proper flow. So, you need to understand and practice these software really well.
10. Compose a Piece for Other Musicians
It’s a universal fact that experience mixed with practice improves every effort. So, when you compose a small piece for other experienced musicians, you get a better picture in terms of gathering up your music, how it should be played, how it will impact the audiences etc. Along with these benefits, it also offers one major benefit which is you get to learn from someone else’s experience.
This is because, they will first give you the instructions as to what kind of music is to be played – here you understand the trends, then when you prepare, they might like some part, might not like some other parts, so will ask you to make changes – here you will learn what kind of music is your speciality and where you are weak and got to work on. And this goes on till the perfect piece is finally played and so, you have gone through someone’s music composing journey – which will help you learn a lot.
11. Compose Honestly
One super important thing especially in today’s times of internet and knowledgeable audiences is to be honest with your composition. A lot of new learners, immediately try to compose a music piece which in turn sound like a copied or not-so-good-versions. Also, instead of just trying to make an impressive musical composition, try and create an impactful composition.
This means you need to understand what kind of music or piece is required here and then create it in that form. By asking yourself to create an impactful composition, you are not only showing respect to your skills, but also are working towards the betterment of it.
12. Judge Your Work
It goes without saying that when you want to create an impactful piece, you hear your composition and judge where it is going well as well as where it is not along with what all improvements are required to be done. Also, you need to understand how effective is the piece. Like I said, I do this by calling in some people and understanding their opinions and I listen to my composition several times. By this, I get a clearer picture about the effectiveness of my composition.
13. Don’t Ignore your Score Details
Like you read and analyzed the score of other musicians, you must score your content too. You will look for nods, chords, melody, harmony and everything like you are listening to someone else’s composition. This way you can perfect your composition from every part of the piece.
Give marks to each part of your composition and then check the scores to know which part requires more improvements and which are really good parts. Even if you do not wish to publish your composition, still you must score and better your composition each time.
14. Join a Community
For whatever you wish to pursue in life, you must have people around you who discuss on the topic and some might as well encourage you and check your progress in the field. This community can be any like the people with whom you pursued your course, small music communities around your house or a forum over the internet (can even be social media).
Communication with these communities help you understand their experience in the field, motivate you to compose, you can get help for your composition, challenges you for improvement and many more. There a several online as well as offline communities who actually have a number of members that motivate and advice you.
15. Don’t Write a Symphony
You need to understand that everything happens step-by-step. It is a lot difficult to start music with the longer and difficult pieces. It’s better to go slow, start with smaller pieces and create your understanding around the piece while improving your skills.
When the beginners suddenly start out with the advanced musical composition instead of starting with basic composition, it looks like trying to paint without colors. It’s just worthless and also increases stress as they feel they cannot compose a piece by themselves.
16. Don’t Revise an Older Piece Endlessly
Music is an art. While you create any kind of art, there are some creations that you leave half way or you do not know what you shall do to move ahead with it and so you abandon it. While you try to create a musical composition, try out your best to finish it and have it published. But if you weren’t able to finish it and started another piece, then just forget that piece.
You must not go all over again to that piece and try to rewrite the piece. If you do that, you will lose focus on your current work and might lose out the motivation to compose some more compositions. For most of us, staying off an old piece becomes little difficult but we do not realize that we are trying to give an excuse for feeling productive while we are not utilizing that time to create a new piece.
The issue isn’t about the piece, it’s about the valuable time that you spend behind that piece. If you really want to re-visit the old piece and make it right, then lend it a dedicated time. Like you will work on it for 2 hours on alternate days for 3 weeks, etc. Do not over dedicate your time or do not over-stress about it.
Composing music requires your talent, skills, dedication and endless efforts. It might take a little time to adjust and get into the zone. Give it some time and you will definitely shine. As a beginner, do not stress on remembering each and every principal, just stick to the basics and go ahead to make your passion for music worthy and satisfactory!