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I Want to Start Composing (Read 2000 times)

Offline kedix1414

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I Want to Start Composing
« on: August 09, 2012, 03:27:31 PM »
I know that this is an exceedingly broad question, but I want to compose music.  Unfortunately, I don't know where to start.  How much music theory do you have to know to start composing?  Do you know of any books or other resources that could help me?  I just want to write music for fun.  My music doesn't have to be exceptional, but I don't want my music to stink either.  Do you guys have any tips.


Offline emrysmerlin

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Re: I Want to Start Composing
«Reply #1 on: August 09, 2012, 03:42:21 PM »
hi,
I'm also an amateur at composing and so far I've composed around 10 pieces, mostly for strings. For me composing for strings is a good starting place since you only need to compose for 1 line. I tend to look at Mozart's music before I compose (when without keyboard), since it gives me ideas about good harmonies. My advice: just make sure you put repeats, and always think of a second ending to a theme. Reading the sonata chapter in Aaron Copland's book also helps.

PS: Fugues are easier to compose for a starter, but difficult to master

Offline quantum

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Re: I Want to Start Composing
«Reply #2 on: August 09, 2012, 05:49:05 PM »
Theory will help you to write music that would replicate the style of any particular theory in question.  However, it is by no means a necessity to mirror a particular genre in order to successfully compose. 

If you are new to creating your own music, it is probably better to just start composing.  Regardless if you are breaking traditional theory rules left-right-and-centre, start writing music.  You want to develop your creative flow.  If you get too anxious about following rules, it can hamper your efforts.  Once you feel more at home in your creative output, then you can begin to refine your efforts by studying and applying theories. 
Made a Liszt. Need new Handel's for Soler panel & Alkan foil. Will Faure Stein on the way to pick up Mendels' sohn. Josquin get Wolfgangs Schu with Clara. Gone Chopin, I'll be Bach

Offline starstruck5

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Re: I Want to Start Composing
«Reply #3 on: August 09, 2012, 06:24:07 PM »
 ;D  Go for it.

I always think a good way to start is to take short pieces you like and use them as a template -copy some of the elements -such as form, texture etc.
When a search is in progress, something will be found.

Offline chadbrochill17

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Re: I Want to Start Composing
«Reply #4 on: August 09, 2012, 07:04:44 PM »
I've always wondered on what to do if I wanted to compose a symphony. Like, I don't know how to play strings at all so how would I go about that? Look at other scores and get a sense of how strings are composed for?

Offline j_menz

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Re: I Want to Start Composing
«Reply #5 on: August 09, 2012, 11:48:08 PM »
PS: Fugues are easier to compose for a starter

 :o :o :o :o :o :o :o

Whatever substance you're on, it's time to cut down!
"What the world needs is more geniuses with humility. There are so few of us left" -- Oscar Levant

Offline ajspiano

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Re: I Want to Start Composing
«Reply #6 on: August 09, 2012, 11:57:38 PM »
PS: Fugues are easier to compose for a starter, but difficult to master

That's one of the more outrageous comments I've seen lately..

Not impossible of course, but I'm a little curious as to whether you actually understand what constitutes a fugue, besides there being multiple voices. Either way really, that comment was not the best, because even if you do find it easy I guarantee most people won't - look up species counterpoint to see the sloowww step by step process people go through to learn how to write 2 part counterpoint.

That said, for the OP - I suggest you initially abandon theory and just start writing based on what you think sounds good.


Offline emrysmerlin

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Re: I Want to Start Composing
«Reply #7 on: August 10, 2012, 08:01:06 AM »
Well about the fugue matter...I can only say Copland's book did help a lot. While I cannot produce a fugue anywhere near the quality of the ones composed by the great Bach, I believe a couple of my works fits quite well into the criteria.

Offline thorn

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Re: I Want to Start Composing
«Reply #8 on: August 10, 2012, 11:08:57 AM »
If you're just doing it for fun, then I would have a look at some pieces that you enjoy and try and understand how they work in your own way. You don't need to be a theory expert and create an in depth analysis- just something so that in your own head you know how the piece works.

A common thing I have noticed about beginner composers is that they add far too much into their music. They have one melody, then another good but totally unrelated to the first and belongs in a different piece melody, then ANOTHER totally unrelated melody etc etc.

A good composition is very self-contained (to me anyway). I don't mean "short", look at the Liszt Sonata, which love or hate is very well composed- Liszt varies and builds off a very limited range of material.

My first composition teacher had us write sets of variations for a whole term, just to demonstrate how much you can get out of a small amount of musical material. I would suggest doing the same, you will be surprised.

Fugues are easy? Really?


Offline quantum

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Re: I Want to Start Composing
«Reply #9 on: August 10, 2012, 12:58:33 PM »
My first composition teacher had us write sets of variations for a whole term, just to demonstrate how much you can get out of a small amount of musical material.

That reminds me of a composition exercise of one of my profs.  The class worked out a short theme collectively.  Each person was then to write a set of 100 variations on that theme.  It sounds daunting but really isn't at all.  Miniscule changes count as a separate variation.  You could change a quarter note into a dotted-quarter and that is fair game as a variation. 
Made a Liszt. Need new Handel's for Soler panel & Alkan foil. Will Faure Stein on the way to pick up Mendels' sohn. Josquin get Wolfgangs Schu with Clara. Gone Chopin, I'll be Bach

Offline emrysmerlin

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Re: I Want to Start Composing
«Reply #10 on: August 10, 2012, 02:25:25 PM »
I don't understand how fugues are difficult to compose at all really. I'm of course talking the simplest type of fugues. When I talk about composing, as an amateur, of course I'm not referring to fugues of immense scales such as the one of Beethoven's Hammerklavier, or something like a double fugue. I have read Busoni's analysis of the fugue and if you have that kind of fugue in mind, then no, I absolutely do not think composing a piece like that can be described with a word like "easy".

Out of the topic, it might be personal, but I find sight-reading/playing a way fugue easier (yes, with distinct voices) than playing a waltz by Chopin.

Have you ever tried composing a fugue for one?

Offline nanabush

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Re: I Want to Start Composing
«Reply #11 on: August 11, 2012, 07:48:12 PM »
Rather than worrying about writing a fugue or a sonata... start with the basic forms.

Try doing a 16 bar piece in AB form.  Antecedent/consequent type thing in two sections.  Or try mimicking a Nocturne or a Waltz, or something else that can do ABA' form.

Improvise too!  It can help you kind of realize what sound is natural to you... for me, there are certain keys and rhythmic/harmonic motifs that I inevitably turn to, so I try applying those.

Sitting and [forcing] yourself to write following every single rule and detail without any inspiration will probably produce a crappy piece that you will scrap after 4 or 5 bars lol.

Theory helps open new doors creatively... a lot of musicians today who have no theoretical background are able to produce catchy tunes, but the extent of their harmonic vocabulary is I-IV-V-I with some vocal ad lib.

So check out theory/harmony, you'll discover some new chords and voicings that hopefully will become second nature... you just get more tools to work with once you decide you want to be creative.

If you are given an orchestra to write for, sure you could write anything; but if you know how to orchestrate, you can exploit the awesomness of each instrument!  The same thing can kind of go for small forms, or solo pieces.

While learning theory, it can be dry and boring, but just as in any other subject, once you are proficient, holy sh*t you have SO much to work with!!
Interested in discussing:

-Prokofiev Toccata
-Scriabin Sonata 2

Offline ted

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Re: I Want to Start Composing
«Reply #12 on: August 13, 2012, 01:12:08 AM »
If studying composition and theory is necessary then I don't create music at all. All theory seems a lot of nonsense to me, and I could never see the point of any of it. Not that I didn't try. I took lessons from a prominent composer at one stage but the whole thing was a complete waste of time because in the end I still preferred my "wrong" sounds to his "right" ones.

Despite this, I have written hundreds of things and improvised thousands more recordings which say exactly what I wanted to say in every case. This imperative to create has been with me since I was a small boy.

Why do you want to create your own music ? Many people seem to do it because they are in love with the idea of composing, or being "a composer", rather than with the act itself. Some do it for fame, for money, for posterity or for a host of external and social reasons. The best ones just seem to have something in them which has to come out regardless of what they are taught or what happens in their lives.

Fugues, sonatas, or for that matter ragtime and blues, and all that old-fashioned stuff are neither necessary nor sufficient. Knowledge is never a waste, but in a peculiar sense it doesn't matter very much when it comes to mapping sounds onto your own psyche.

Quantum's advice is the best, as it often is. He has had ten thousand times my musical education but his improvisation has life because of something else entirely, not because he knows which chords Bach was likely to use. So heed what he says and just start to create, improvise and write following your own impulses and seek approval from no one.

If you want to create piano music, it does seem to be a fact that the best composers of piano music, old and modern, classical, jazz and everything else, were all marvellous improvisers. There has to be something significant in that.

"We're all bums when the wagon comes." - Waller

Offline ajspiano

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Re: I Want to Start Composing
«Reply #13 on: August 13, 2012, 01:28:46 AM »
Have you ever tried composing a fugue for one?

Not sure if that's directed at me or not, ...yes and no..  I usually fail to finish works because I go off on improvisation tangents and leave the form, and never end up writing things down. (though I've lately been working toward improvising baroque style counterpoint with an ultimate aim to be able to improvise correctly formed fugues)

I don't find writing compositions like this difficult either, but I don't often run into people with the same outlook. And have seen plenty of students who struggle to come up with anything at all, let alone a fugue. They are a difficult form for the majority of people, and certainly not a starting point for someone trying to take their first steps into composition if it doesn't come naturally to them.

Offline j_menz

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Re: I Want to Start Composing
«Reply #14 on: August 13, 2012, 01:51:14 AM »
I don't understand how fugues are difficult to compose at all really. I'm

I, for one, would be fascinated to see one of your fugues. Can you post a score?  I'm always on the lookout for a good new fugue.
"What the world needs is more geniuses with humility. There are so few of us left" -- Oscar Levant

Offline emrysmerlin

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Re: I Want to Start Composing
«Reply #15 on: August 13, 2012, 01:12:12 PM »
Sure, I'll just write one especially for piano and post it here

[edit: not that I consider it a "good" piece of music to play]

Offline emrysmerlin

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Re: I Want to Start Composing
«Reply #16 on: August 15, 2012, 05:53:26 AM »
And how do you post an image again?

Offline j_menz

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Re: I Want to Start Composing
«Reply #17 on: August 15, 2012, 06:06:20 AM »
And how do you post an image again?

It's best if you attach it as a pdf file. Then when you are doing a post, click on the "Additional Options" button (bottom left) and one of the options is to upload a file.

If you can't convert to pdf, you need to store the image (jpg etc) somewhere accessible on the internet (such as photobucket) and then post the link to it between the image tags (Third button from the right in the line starting with the YouTube one).
"What the world needs is more geniuses with humility. There are so few of us left" -- Oscar Levant

Offline emrysmerlin

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Offline j_menz

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"What the world needs is more geniuses with humility. There are so few of us left" -- Oscar Levant

Offline ajspiano

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Re: I Want to Start Composing
«Reply #20 on: August 16, 2012, 01:29:55 AM »
I thought you were going to post a fugue...???

Oh come on, its semi fugue like..  I mean, I can see it at the start..  but it doesn't last very long :( ...and breaks most of the rules within the first few bars..

still..  not to discourage you emrysmerlin, its better than what most people would put up I suspect.

Offline emrysmerlin

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Re: I Want to Start Composing
«Reply #21 on: August 17, 2012, 03:10:47 PM »
Thank you ajspiano

After some more researching, I found out for myself that it is in fact nothing like a fugue. I initially did think it looks like some Bachian stuff on the page, so I just automatically assumed it can be categorized as a fugue. I would really want to know what I could've done to make it more of a fugue though.

Even if it's a semi-fugue I'd say it's still better than some of my other compositions, just saying. (Examine my op.1 if you will)
[url][http://s1167.photobucket.com/albums/q621/emrysmerlin1//url]

Anyways it seems that one can't completely rely on a small section of a book and a page on wikipedia to understand broad subjects. I guess I'd have to take what I said back.

Offline nanabush

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Re: I Want to Start Composing
«Reply #22 on: August 17, 2012, 07:06:37 PM »
Fugues are disturbing  ;)

The form is so tight, that sitting and trying to write one feels so damn unnatural.  I can't understand how composers were SO proficient with this! 

If I were to try to write one, I'd probably get up until the second voice comes in, then rather than letting it flow, I would be thinking "wait... should I be writing in an episode yet?"... like, the form gets in the way haha
Interested in discussing:

-Prokofiev Toccata
-Scriabin Sonata 2

Offline j_menz

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Re: I Want to Start Composing
«Reply #23 on: August 19, 2012, 12:53:19 AM »
Fugues are disturbing  ;)

The form is so tight, that sitting and trying to write one feels so damn unnatural.  I can't understand how composers were SO proficient with this! 

If I were to try to write one, I'd probably get up until the second voice comes in, then rather than letting it flow, I would be thinking "wait... should I be writing in an episode yet?"... like, the form gets in the way haha

Haha. Interestingly Mozart's first published fugue (Fantasia and Fugue, don't recall the key or K number) shows how unnatural he first found it. It's technically proficient, but just doesn't ring true as being Mozartian. He got over it in spades, though.

Have never written one, but I suspect that once you get the hang of it, there is ample freedom in the form.

(incidentally, my spellchecker offers "Martian" as the correct form of Mozartian)
"What the world needs is more geniuses with humility. There are so few of us left" -- Oscar Levant

Offline ajspiano

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Re: I Want to Start Composing
«Reply #24 on: August 19, 2012, 04:30:52 AM »
After some more researching, I found out for myself that it is in fact nothing like a fugue. I initially did think it looks like some Bachian stuff on the page, so I just automatically assumed it can be categorized as a fugue. I would really want to know what I could've done to make it more of a fugue though.

one can't completely rely on a small section of a book and a page on wikipedia to understand broad subjects. I guess I'd have to take what I said back.

This would perhaps explain to you the reactions of j_menz and myself when you said it was easy and a good starting point..

If you actually want to learn to do it properly, one of the acceptable paths would be species counterpoint, leading into florid two part contrapuntal writing - where you will write 2 part inventions.

Species counterpoint is a teaching method that breaks contrapuntal writing into 5 steps, this is required because to do it in a "theoretically" correct manor there are enough rules to fill a book of law.

The process is outlined here - http://www.schenkerguide.com/counterpoint.html

Once you can handle that, which will take not only the species study but also many hours staring at and studying bach inventions (which were written for the purpose of composition study)..  you can move on to 3 part inventions (sinfonias) and beyond that begin to think about dealing with the more complicated constructive elements of a fugue..

Oh yeh, and once you've done all that, you'll also have to just forget it all and let the music flow out naturally..    :-\    :P

..and have many moments of silent shock/awe while thinking about the fact that bach could just improvise them on the spot.