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Books for learning how to compose music in a Romantic or Classical style (Read 5016 times)

Offline ca88313

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I play the piano. I am interested in composing music for the piano but it is very difficult without understanding the fundamentals of music theory, especially melody, harmony and counterpoint. What books do you recommend for learning music theory and, most importantly, for learning how to compose music in a Romantic or Classical style?

Offline chopinlover01

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Honestly, if you want to emulate that style, analyze the style and how it works.

Figure out the textures being used, the harmonies used, how to get the specific sounds. It's how jazz players have learned the styles of the other jazz greats for ages; developing your ear.

For as much as we classical players like to learn and go by the book, that usually turns out compositions that sound very much "by the book".

Start with finding your influences; likely, Beethoven, maybe Mozart, Chopin, Schubert, Liszt, etc. and figure out your favorite moments from them. Learn those moments, transpose them into different keys, learn them in every possible scenario. Learn to improvise in a classical style; you do this by learning the language of classical music, just as you would learn the language of jazz, funk, or any other style.
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Offline marijn1999

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Arnold Schoenberg's book on composition is an excellent one to start with.
Composing and revising old pieces.
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Offline eldergeek

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There are also a bunch of books (some in English and some in German) by Hindemith that are worth looking into - they are very thorough indeed.

Offline ca88313

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«Reply #4 on: May 13, 2017, 09:10:07 AM »
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Offline chopinlover01

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Books (or other relevant sources of information) provide an essential starting point for learning how to compose music. They help aspiring composers to build a strong foundation which can then be developed/expanded. Initially, an aspiring composer's music may sound "by the book" but they could be innovative after they are confident that they have mastered the principles of composition and become competent at composing music.
The issue is that you aren't learning why something works, you're just learning how. Your musical understanding becomes and stays formulaic, and sounds the exact same as those who came before you.
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"You do this by learning the language of classical music".

How could someone learn the language of Classical music?
Firstly, by acquiring knowledge about how to compose music in a Classical style from a book/books or any other relevant sources of information. Secondly, by emulating the style of Classical music by using the methods that have been described in the quote above or by using any other method.
Firstly, you never actually mentioned how you're going to emulate it; you do, at some point, need to learn to improvise in a classical style. There is some element of improvisation at the heart of composition; after all, Beethoven (who was, by the way, a renowned improviser if memory serves) didn't just pick a bunch of notes and plug in accompaniments for his piano sonatas, much less his string and symphonic works.
The issue with acquiring knowledge through a book is that you only develop your brain synapses. This doesn't sound like an issue, except for the fact that it doesn't allow you to compose what you hear nearly as well as if you learn the language by internalizing it into your ears first.
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Offline bubbamc

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Find the best book you can find on ear training. When you're done with that, then transcribe, transcribe, transcribe.

Then you'll be in an excellent position to start composing.

Offline georgey

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Find the best book you can find on ear training. When you're done with that, then transcribe, transcribe, transcribe.

Then you'll be in an excellent position to start composing.

Good suggestion.  Another suggestion that Beethoven’s teacher Neefe made to Beethoven and was the basis for Beethoven's very early works – the 3 piano quartets WoO 36:

Use particular works of a master as models for pieces of your own; follow the models as you like, but keep close to them as formal, expressive, tonal and gestural scaffolding.  Beethoven used as one of the models for these piano quartets the Mozart violin sonata in G, K379.  He used other violin sonatas by Mozart as models for the other 2 piano quartets as well.  

You need to be familiar with sonata allegro form , sonata-rondo form, theme and variations, ABA form, minuet-scherzo form, etc, so read up on these and analyze pieces before you begin composing.  Then pick your model and follow it closely like Beethoven did.

Edit:  You may even want to analyze the Mozart K 379 then look at what Beethoven did in is piano quartet (not sure which of the 3) then you write yours based on this Mozart model.




Offline klavieronin

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The best way to learn to compose is to practice composing. Treat it like you treat your piano practice. If you want to learn to compose in a certain style analyse works that you like then steal the best bits. ;D

Of course it does help to understand a bit of theory. "Harmonic Practice in Tonal Music" by Robert Gauldin is the book I studied at university. It can be a little heavy going at times but it is fairly thorough and if you just read through it a few times and put some of the more important points into practice you should get a good bird's eye view of how romantic music works.