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COMPOSTIONS - ARTICLE
** NOTE ** Additional advice added at the bottom!
Article on composing by Sarah Pobjoy
Right, here's an article that I wrote with a few tips to get you started with composing. This was originally
an email that I sent to someone, but I have permission to post it on the site. I hope they help you, but you
might just get to end of it and have not learnt anything new. ^^; Anyway, I hope that it will remind you some
things that you will want to think about. Okay, here goes...
I suppose that different people's minds work in different ways, so there isn't a foolproof way of creating
any really good music. But here are a few ideas to help you get started...
Ok. When I'm composing stuff,
I think it's easier to do it on the piano, because you have all the notes in front of you and don't have to
think about all the fingering and stuff. You might think it's easier to compose on a different instrument if
you don't like using the piano so much. Maybe try using your strongest instrument. But it's not so good if
you have to think about composing *and* fingering.
I think that a good idea is try not to compose if you have a song in your head (unless you're writing a
variation). Otherwise you'll be too influenced by it and the music you'll compose will sound too much like
it. You want your own music to be unique. However, if you know of any good ideas from other pieces that you
want to include in your own composition, you can if you want, just don't take huge chunks out of other
Before you start, think about whether the piece is going to be sad or happy, major or minor, key,
time signature, slow or fast, for which and how many instruments etc.. Just get the technical stuff sorted
first. This just gives you some kind of base for you to work on, but you don't have to really stick to it.
If you suddenly have a wave of great ideas that don't match what you plans, just change the plans and
pretend they were like that in the first place. ^_~
I know some people like to start composing by thinking of a sequence of chords to use. I think that this is
quite a good method if you are completely stuck. It's easiest to think of chords on the piano. But when
thinking of chords, don't just use the normal note pattern (like chord of C major is C, E, G - I, III, V).
You can have any note pattern you want and any number of notes in it. You can add some weird notes in it to
make it more interesting (like add seventh note eg. C, E, G, B for C7 chord). Even if you don't know the
names of the chords, just write the note letters down.
After that, you can sort out the sequence of chords. A good idea is to have phrases of 4, 8 or 12 bars long.
And make sure that you still get a sense of time and rhythm in your piece as well, so you can like pretend
to be a metronome and tap the pulse easily to the music. Also, end your piece with the root chord (eg. if
you're in the key of C major, end with a C major chord) to make it sound finished.
Some people prefer to
go straight into the melody. This is good if you're feeling in a musical mood I suppose. When composing the
melody, you can try singing to think up tunes as your voice is a lot more flexible when it comes to notes.
Another thing, don't be afraid of using rests. If you have a piece that is always going and going, then
there's no, what you might call, 'musical space'. Of course, if no rests fits the type of piece you're
doing, that's fine. But just add a rest here and there, especially if you have multiple parts. Not all of
the instruments have to be playing all of the time.
Even if you're not sat an instrument, you can still
think up songs in your head. Sometimes, it can be difficult to compose when you're sat at your instrument
because you just don't feel like it and can't think of anything at all. Personally, I think up loads of
songs in my head when I'm in bed trying to get to sleep. But of course, I'm too lazy to get up and write
them down, and I forget them the next morning. ^^; So you can still hum/la/whatever to yourself when say
like you're waiting for a bus or something.
Ok, last thing... Write down all your ideas down. That's
right. *All* of them. Even if you think your idea was just complete rubbish, you should still write it down
so you can look back on it later and build on them. Write down any small phrases which you liked or chord
sequences or general ideas like key and time signature. Chances are, if you don't write your ideas down,
you'll forget them and you'll be sitting there, scratching your head, wondering what you did last time.
If you don't like writing down stuff all the time, you can record youself using a tape recorder. That way,
none of your ideas go to waste which you could have built on and developed.
Article written by Sarah Pobjoy
Please do not take this article and post it on another site without permission
Additional advice by Brendan Wynn
Pick up Copies of J.J. Fux's Gradus Ad Parnassum (or the sub-book commonly known as the study of
counterpoint), And Jean-Phillipe Rameau's treatise on Harmony. The readers can find other books on the
subject whence they got the other two.
What is the relationship between each of the voices or parts in
your music? How do they react towards each other? Agree or
disagree? Support or dominate? Equal partners? What's the
effect if voices move in the same direction all the time or in
How do changes in harmony affect the rhythm of the music? Do
consonances and dissonances sound better on some beats of
the measures than others?
What makes for contrast and interest in a piece of music?