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#1171325 - 03/30/09 09:41 AM Composing outside of school or structured setting?  
Joined: Feb 2009
Posts: 6
A. Lively Offline
Junior Member
A. Lively  Offline
Junior Member

Joined: Feb 2009
Posts: 6
Saint Louis, Missouri, USA
In college, I took 4 semesters of Music Theory, and 1 semester of Music Composition.

I am a piano player of intermediate skill, but I have a really good ear. I can play just about any song or music that I hear, and my hands know the music theory well enough to do quite a bit of improvisation.

My problem is this: I want to compose, but I've got no structure or direction. My job is demanding enough to prevent me from taking another University course at this time, and I'm not at the point where I can sell my musical skills commercially, either.

I've got a copy of Finale 2009, and I've learned how to use all the tools, but I've got nowhere to go with it. I don't know what I want to compose, and if I did, I'm not sure I'd know how to start it.

I know I have a lot of musical ideas in me, because they spill out in all kinds of ways when I'm improvising on the piano. Trouble is, when I get to the computer screen and try to put things into Finale 2009, my creative abilities seem to slow to a trickle.

Has anybody else experienced this? How did you get over it? Are there some good self-study composition books you can recommend? With assignments and exercises?

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#1171351 - 03/30/09 10:21 AM Re: Composing outside of school or structured setting? [Re: A. Lively]  
Joined: Feb 2005
Posts: 3,296
Steve Chandler Offline
3000 Post Club Member
Steve Chandler  Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Joined: Feb 2005
Posts: 3,296
Urbandale, Iowa
Originally Posted by A. Lively

I know I have a lot of musical ideas in me, because they spill out in all kinds of ways when I'm improvising on the piano. Trouble is, when I get to the computer screen and try to put things into Finale 2009, my creative abilities seem to slow to a trickle.

Been there, done that, got the t shirt to prove it!
Originally Posted by A. Lively

Has anybody else experienced this? How did you get over it? Are there some good self-study composition books you can recommend? With assignments and exercises?

Resolution to this issue will not be found in books. Composition may be 10% inspiration / 90% perspiration, but that 10% is crucial. So next time an idea comes spilling out of you write it down, explore it, expand on it, when the inspiration stops then you start using your skills to harmonize it and texturize it. Composing is a balance of creativity and hard work. In time you'll be able to turn on the creativity, but as a beginner you're not used to it. So for now wait until it spills out of you and then work with it.

In addition for me the most important thing about a new composition is the reason I go through the hard work of pulling it out of me. For me composing is hard work, like sucking a golf ball through a hose, so I need a good reason to invest the effort. I'm long past the ego gratification stage, I need a real solid reason to put pencil to paper. That may be part of your problem, you don't have a strong idea you wish to express. You have a desire to compose, but not a desire to express ideas, feelings or whatever it is we relieve ourselves of when we express ourselves musically. So dig within and figure out what it is you wish to express in music and you may find the ideas pouring out of you.

Good luck

#1171377 - 03/30/09 11:30 AM Re: Composing outside of school or structured setting? [Re: A. Lively]  
Joined: Feb 2007
Posts: 308
Harmosis Offline
Full Member
Harmosis  Offline
Full Member

Joined: Feb 2007
Posts: 308
California
I'd recommend that you compose in some known forms. Write something in binary, rounded binary, rondo, sonata, etc. The framework is pre-existing, so you have something to spring off of, but you still have plenty of latitude for originality.


#1171387 - 03/30/09 11:46 AM Re: Composing outside of school or structured setting? [Re: Harmosis]  
Joined: Nov 2002
Posts: 13,837
Kreisler Offline
Kreisler  Offline


Joined: Nov 2002
Posts: 13,837
Iowa City, IA
Routine is important for me.

I once spent an entire summer - every night before bed, I'd write out three melodies, each 8 measures long.

Nowadays, I just keep a manuscript paper notebook with me everywhere I go and pull it out anytime I have to wait for something.

I also find it helpful to get out of the house, so I do most of my writing at the local coffee shop.

And finally, I have to have a reason. I always write for performance or publication. Even if I don't have a recital or a publisher, I give myself a submission deadline.

I currently have several unperformed preludes that resulted from a composition project here on PW, a baroque suite that's going to be submitted for review in about a month, and a really nice set of pieces that has already been rejected by a publisher. (And will probably be rejected again after I revise it!)


"If we continually try to force a child to do what he is afraid to do, he will become more timid, and will use his brains and energy, not to explore the unknown, but to find ways to avoid the pressures we put on him." (John Holt)

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#1171547 - 03/30/09 04:39 PM Re: Composing outside of school or structured setting? [Re: A. Lively]  
Joined: May 2007
Posts: 6,180
currawong Offline
6000 Post Club Member
currawong  Offline
6000 Post Club Member

Joined: May 2007
Posts: 6,180
Down Under
Originally Posted by A. Lively
I've got a copy of Finale 2009, and I've learned how to use all the tools, but I've got nowhere to go with it. I don't know what I want to compose, and if I did, I'm not sure I'd know how to start it.

I know I have a lot of musical ideas in me, because they spill out in all kinds of ways when I'm improvising on the piano. Trouble is, when I get to the computer screen and try to put things into Finale 2009, my creative abilities seem to slow to a trickle.

Who says you have to compose on Finale? I compose at my desk, with paper and pencil, or at the piano. Then I notate it (and tweak) on Finale. At least get your main ideas going before you head to Finale - then you're not looking at your computer for inspiration.


Du holde Kunst...
#1171558 - 03/30/09 05:03 PM Re: Composing outside of school or structured setting? [Re: currawong]  
Joined: Feb 2009
Posts: 2,393
eweiss Offline
2000 Post Club Member
eweiss  Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Joined: Feb 2009
Posts: 2,393
Beautiful San Diego, CA
Hello A. Lively,

Kriesler has a good idea. Write out a 8-bar melody as your initial idea then "grow it" into whatever you want. I have a video that illustrates this. See it below.



Hope it helps.


Play New Age Piano
http://www.quiescencemusic.com

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