Help me develop a composing style!

It's only cool if no one's heard of it.

Moderators: SecondTalon, Moderators General, Prelates

popprocks
Posts: 70
Joined: Wed Dec 24, 2008 5:18 am UTC

Help me develop a composing style!

Postby popprocks » Wed Dec 24, 2008 5:47 am UTC

I'm 15 and a sophomore in High School. I play the trombone in concert and jazz bands, as well as solo music. Forgive my lack of modesty, but I am really, really good, and I want to get really, really better, specifically at composing and comprehending music.

Today I started making quick compositions in GarageBand, and after about 4 hours I completed two one-minute songs. The first being piss poor and negligible, the second had improved so much that I shocked myself. Writing the music was really entertaining for me, and I really want to get better. The only modern day composers I 'watch' are Gordin Goodwin and Grant Kirkhope (formerly of rareware) and do pick up many cool ideas from them, but I'd like to get more influence to improve myself with.

So I'd like to open the floor of a thread that isn't likely to (but i certainly hope it does) get many responses. Do you know any broad or specific things to say about transitions, instrumentation, imagery, key changes, or anything else? I know this is a really, really, dangerously open ended topic, but I'd really appreciate any advice about general composing.

Hopefully I'll get a quick original tune up on youtube so that all of you can give a little specific criticism.

popprocks
Posts: 70
Joined: Wed Dec 24, 2008 5:18 am UTC

Re: Help me develop a composing style!

Postby popprocks » Wed Dec 24, 2008 6:22 am UTC

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WI7Y2EpckVk

Edit #1: Third attempt at a thing called 'music' uploaded. Much longer. I took the advice given and made the melody more flowing.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=coaKyna46jM

Edit #2: Fourth. Much shorter, hopefully a bit more harmonic.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bV_3KBF4k6Q

Edit #3: Fifth. 1:45, four hours to do. Added more 'middle' layer, dynamic contrast, significantly more synthesizers, and a 'big' ending.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZhEeDmWT ... annel_page

Edit #4: Sixth. 1:56, about four hours also. I just played around with pitches and harmonies mostly. I learned a lot doing this one, and I think it is enjoyable to listen to also.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E2q8865im2Y

Edit #5: Seventh, four hours. Did one in jazz, which I now regret because I still haven't gone to a library and read any books, shit!
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7mKhVZ_HMtA

Thanks for all the ideas and direction, time to hit the books.
Last edited by popprocks on Tue Jan 13, 2009 3:42 am UTC, edited 6 times in total.

User avatar
Clumpy
Posts: 1883
Joined: Thu Jul 19, 2007 4:48 am UTC
Contact:

Re: Help me develop a composing style!

Postby Clumpy » Wed Dec 24, 2008 4:39 pm UTC

I'd suggest that you not worry too much about tonal quality at first. Some of the best tracks I've created were written while I was learning the software. Once an idea has run its course, feel free to move on - shorter tracks are better than ones with too much repetition. Other than that I'd suggest that you try some different things and see what works - software like GarageBand, Acid Pro and the like give you a nice chance to start over if and when something doesn't work the way you'd planned.

Finally, when a track just doesn't work, put it on the backburner for awhile. Don't be afraid to throw away a layer or a track if it doesn't serve what you're trying to do.

EDIT: By the way, I fully support this sort of thing being a separate thread from the "Post YOUR music here" thread where everything gets lost in the infinite archives.
Last edited by Clumpy on Wed Dec 24, 2008 7:05 pm UTC, edited 1 time in total.

Epistrophy
Posts: 5
Joined: Wed Dec 24, 2008 6:49 pm UTC

Re: Help me develop a composing style!

Postby Epistrophy » Wed Dec 24, 2008 6:56 pm UTC

One of the most important things to do when composing is to broaden what you listen to. If your only influenced by 1 or 2 things your generally going to come out sounding like a clone. You start to be more original once you have a wide range of influences (which = a wide range of ideas).

That said the track you posted could use work. The melody is doesn't really seem to go anywhere and it as well as the bassline seem to meander at certain points throughout.

Keep composing.

0range
Posts: 248
Joined: Sun Dec 02, 2007 5:46 am UTC

Re: Help me develop a composing style!

Postby 0range » Wed Dec 24, 2008 9:38 pm UTC

Are you currently taking any music theory lessons/classes?

Edit: Also your dog looks evil, like Kujo evil.
"A person who persists in believing what is not true or disbelieving what is true can waste a lifetime of effort on something that is without hope of success."

E. Jayne

popprocks
Posts: 70
Joined: Wed Dec 24, 2008 5:18 am UTC

Re: Help me develop a composing style!

Postby popprocks » Thu Dec 25, 2008 5:49 am UTC

0range wrote:Are you currently taking any music theory lessons/classes?

Edit: Also your dog looks evil, like Kujo evil.


No. I have an opportunity to take jazz improvisational lessons, which would be very relevant to composing, but I am not doing such a thing now.

Not my dog. It's a professional photographer's 'pose' dog from a trip I took to Europe with the Illinois Ambassadors of Music performance group. I WISH it was my dog :wink:

I'll try and get some more rough compositions up soonish, but considering I have no more further advice, I don't know what to fix! Curse you viewer-but-not-repliers! Also, since it will probably take 5 hours to make the next one, Christmas day might not be a good time to shut myself off in a corner and scream at people to shut up while I ponder.

User avatar
Clumpy
Posts: 1883
Joined: Thu Jul 19, 2007 4:48 am UTC
Contact:

Re: Help me develop a composing style!

Postby Clumpy » Fri Dec 26, 2008 9:50 pm UTC

I'll try and get some more rough compositions up soonish, but considering I have no more further advice, I don't know what to fix! Curse you viewer-but-not-repliers! Also, since it will probably take 5 hours to make the next one, Christmas day might not be a good time to shut myself off in a corner and scream at people to shut up while I ponder.


Incorporation of dissonance and rhythm will help these to sound more focused. There's not a lot of progression in these pieces (though you try some different things), which makes them wander more than a little. I'm not suggesting drums necessarily (though some sort of percussion would be a significant part of a solution), but music needs some sort of driving force to reach a catharsis or point of emotional impact with the listener.

User avatar
Nathaivel
Posts: 11
Joined: Sun May 11, 2008 2:48 am UTC

Re: Help me develop a composing style!

Postby Nathaivel » Fri Dec 26, 2008 10:21 pm UTC

Definitely broaden the range of what you listen to, and also when listening to music, take mental notes of what the composer is doing. Something sounds good - why? Also, what irked me was the lack of rhythmic and harmonic complexity. I play a lot of instruments, and right now in our band I'm first chair bassoonist but I hold title as captain of the drum line. Studying percussion music gave me a whole new view and understanding of the melodic pieces I do now, because the rhythms that might have seem boring or simple actually have a lot of genius behind them. Why choose quarter notes or half notes here for this seemingly unimportant part? why is the one bit slurred, why choose sixteenth-note pattern over the other? Furthermore, an excellent understanding of chord progressions (which underlie almost all of western music) is essential. Playing piano (and guitar) will help you really feel comfortable with these complex concepts enough to write your own. Youhave a melody, but you sort of leave it naked. There's a main line, and a bass line, but we're left to sort of grope for any coherency past that. Think about the music you play. Most often a part will have sections that allude to or accompany or counter the melody, without being the melody, and not being the bass line either. Something that makes this easier is deciding on a set orchestration to work with. A wind quartet has lots of possibilities, without having the overwhelming demands of writing for an orchestra. Also, garage band does has a way of standardizing notes to the beat, you don't have to stick with slightly off takes. =]
Image

popprocks
Posts: 70
Joined: Wed Dec 24, 2008 5:18 am UTC

Re: Help me develop a composing style!

Postby popprocks » Sat Dec 27, 2008 7:00 pm UTC

Clumpy wrote:
I'll try and get some more rough compositions up soonish, but considering I have no more further advice, I don't know what to fix! Curse you viewer-but-not-repliers! Also, since it will probably take 5 hours to make the next one, Christmas day might not be a good time to shut myself off in a corner and scream at people to shut up while I ponder.


Incorporation of dissonance and rhythm will help these to sound more focused. There's not a lot of progression in these pieces (though you try some different things), which makes them wander more than a little. I'm not suggesting drums necessarily (though some sort of percussion would be a significant part of a solution), but music needs some sort of driving force to reach a catharsis or point of emotional impact with the listener.


I'm thinking I nailed progression in my fifth song with the adding/subtracting of certain layers while the melody adjusted. If you're still around, more flaws are still waiting to be found!

User avatar
Antimatter Spork
Posts: 679
Joined: Tue Nov 27, 2007 3:13 am UTC
Location: The third planet from the sun.

Re: Help me develop a composing style!

Postby Antimatter Spork » Sun Dec 28, 2008 4:53 am UTC

I think the best advice for a beginning composer is to get away from the computer for a bit and really learn how your composition works in terms of theory and (if you're into that) notation. I know that as soon as I start typing a composition up (I don't use Garageband though) I lose a lot of the creative element and it tends to devolve into a bunch of repetitions of material I've already written.

Really, being a composer is like being a writer, except with the added disadvantage that most beginning writers start out with the ability to read, speak, and write (as in a knowledge of vocabulary and grammar) a language, but most composers need to learn to read, speak, and write music (many beginning composers, myself included, have difficulty translating what they hear in their head into the paper or software they're working with) at the same time they learn to compose. Most advice on both writing and composing that I've read/heard advises beginners to start by imitating someone else until you are comfortable with the craft of composition, and only then moving on and finding your own voice.

That's not to say that you shouldn't be thinking of your own ideas and style now, but you have to understand that anything you do is going to be understood within the context of a tradition that is hundreds (if not thousands) of years old, and if you don't have at least an understanding of it, lots of people aren't going to take you seriously.

So my advice:

Get a book (or several) about music theory (and also music history, but that's less necessary). I taught myself a lot of music theory from Walter Piston's Harmony though that might be a little intense, it's really meant to be used with a teacher in a class setting. Listen to a lot of music by a lot of different composers. Analyze it. Figure out how it works. Practice taking dictation (writing down music that you hear) and singing/reading music at sight (and then comparing it to recordings, so you can hear how you do.

tl;dr: put down garageband for a bit and try composing something on paper/by playing the instruments that you play.
Albert Schweitzer wrote:There are two means of refuge from the misery of life — music and cats.

User avatar
ChocloManx
Posts: 656
Joined: Tue Sep 18, 2007 8:05 pm UTC
Location: Santiago, Chile (nofewdjokezplz)
Contact:

Re: Help me develop a composing style!

Postby ChocloManx » Sun Dec 28, 2008 2:31 pm UTC

What the spork said. Paul Hindemith's harmony book is relatively light and it comes with a lot of excersices, but you need to know some basic theory to follow it. I recommend it.

For a bunch of free scores, go to http://www.imslp.org.
Egotist, n. A person of low taste, more interested in himself than in me.
-Ambrose Bierce

"My God, all the matter in the universe has just rapidly expanded outward, in some sort of bang."

popprocks
Posts: 70
Joined: Wed Dec 24, 2008 5:18 am UTC

Re: Help me develop a composing style!

Postby popprocks » Mon Dec 29, 2008 5:26 pm UTC

Antimatter Spork wrote:Get a book (or several) about music theory (and also music history, but that's less necessary). I taught myself a lot of music theory from Walter Piston's Harmony though that might be a little intense, it's really meant to be used with a teacher in a class setting. Listen to a lot of music by a lot of different composers. Analyze it. Figure out how it works. Practice taking dictation (writing down music that you hear) and singing/reading music at sight (and then comparing it to recordings, so you can hear how you do.


ChocloManx wrote:What the spork said. Paul Hindemith's harmony book is relatively light and it comes with a lot of excersices, but you need to know some basic theory to follow it. I recommend it.

For a bunch of free scores, go to http://www.imslp.org.


I shall acquire books and follow your advice.

popprocks
Posts: 70
Joined: Wed Dec 24, 2008 5:18 am UTC

Re: Help me develop a composing style!

Postby popprocks » Mon Jan 05, 2009 3:20 am UTC

More music up, whee!

I am yet to seek any professional teachings, instead I tapped into repressed prior knowledge and played with pitches for a while to see what does this, and what does that. Obviously that's no substitute, I'll musically unstupid myself later. As I'm still a novice, I need tender loving criticism. I'm still very interested in anything fundamentally inappropriate in the music, or anything that needs improvement!

Woof, woof. Bark.

User avatar
hestia
Posts: 106
Joined: Fri Jul 13, 2007 2:17 pm UTC

Re: Help me develop a composing style!

Postby hestia » Wed Jan 07, 2009 4:21 am UTC

Ok, my first tip is this, get away from the computer!

I am not a composer myself but what I am is a fairly good orchestrator. I will come out and say it, I HATE these notation/composition programs because they do not give realistic playback. In your "Sunrise" piece, the issue that first comes to mind is that you are never going to hear the other instruments over the saxophone. Saxophones have a tendency to bury everything. Although some composers can stretch the limitations of the instrument with beautiful results (e.g. the bassoon solo in "Rite of Spring"), they can also just sound bad (e.g. most of the soprano solos in Beethoven's 9th). At any rate, a beginning composer or orchestrator should not push the limits of the instruments anyway. Another book you should get along with all those music theory books would be a good orchestration book. Unless they are writing for a solo instrument, composers have to be orchestrators. The one I use the most is The Technique of Orchestration by Kent Kennan and Donald Grantham. The recordings suck but give a very good idea of how the instruments work together. There are many many many good books out there though, I just find that one helpful. Sadly, the best help I had is a site that is only accessible by students at Indiana University. I got access to it through my professor. What it had were videos and recordings showing the intricacies of each instrument.

My number one thing is not to use any notation programs until you plan on distributing the actual music. It comes in handy when you need to make parts for say, a whole orchestra.

As for the melodic content, what most stands out to me is that, first of all, the melody sits far too much on the same note. Repeated notes can be very nice but should be used to go someplace. If you want all those repeated notes, you need either dynamic contrast, orchestrated contrast or harmonic contrast. Melodies, and compositions in general, need to go someplace, not just hang around one melody. A good place to look is Mozart. That man could come up with melodies all day and it shows in his music. Study what he does, he takes one melody and takes it into another one then repeats the first one with only a slight change then modulates etc. I was just listening to the first movement of "Eine Kleine Nachtmusik" and that thing is filled with examples of this. Furthermore, don't just listen, get a score and mark it up! Once you have enough theory under your belt, do a roman numeral analysis and figure out exactly what he is doing everywhere! Mozart is a fantastic example, you could spend your life studying his music but do this with all the greats. Of course you have the big Bs (Bach, Beethoven, Brahms) but also take a look at the other Romantics (Chopin, Rachmaninoff and please listen to Wagner) and don't forget the twentieth century Schoenberg, Berg, Webern (Serialism), Riley, Glass, Adams (Minimalism), Cage, (Aleatory/chance music and prepared piano), Stockhausen, Varese (Electronic) Tavener, Hindemith, Copeland, Vaughn Williams, Stravinsky, Shostakovich (neoclassical/ the normal guys). Obviously I am somewhat biased towards the twentieth century but I am sure you have heard of plenty of the older stuff, and if not, just PM me and I can provide a huge list of what you should listen to, even specific pieces.

So yea, to sum up, get rid of the computer programs, learn orchestration, listen listen listen. And always remember as the not so well known but still awesome composer Jack Gallagher (you should listen to his stuff too if you can get your hands on it) likes to say "Good composers borrow, but great composers steal."
NightStar wrote:
Chocceh wrote:Whatever way this thread turns out, Jesus is off-limits.


Tell that to Pontius Pilate.

User avatar
Antimatter Spork
Posts: 679
Joined: Tue Nov 27, 2007 3:13 am UTC
Location: The third planet from the sun.

Re: Help me develop a composing style!

Postby Antimatter Spork » Wed Jan 07, 2009 5:17 am UTC

msfayzer wrote:only accessible by students at Indiana University.

Are you sure about that? I remember finding a lot of IU stuff in google searches (score library stuff) so it might not be quite as hard to get at as you think.

Also,
"Good composers borrow, but great composers steal."

Wasn't that originally Stravinsky? (well, Wikiquote says it is, but apparently stolen from TS Eliot or maybe Picasso? I'm not really surprised that artists in different fields have expressed similar sentiment)


Overall some pretty good advice. I'd add that worrying about balance at this stage is probably not the most productive use of your time. You'll want to consider it eventually, but the dynamic range of modern instruments (with good players, at least) is such that almost any ensemble can be balanced without too much trouble. And now that amplification has been added to the composer's toolbox, balance really isn't an issue. Besides, many orchestration textbooks are very much outdated or just plain wrong (Rimsky-Korsakov, I'm looking at you) about some things (though I really only have that knowledge as it pertains to my instrument). Really you'd be much better off talking to working musicians. They'll give a much better idea of the capabilities of their instrument than any textbook writer could.

I'd say really focus on developing the harmonic and melodic skill to write music first and worry about orchestration and such later.

I have to agree with you about notation programs, though.
Albert Schweitzer wrote:There are two means of refuge from the misery of life — music and cats.


Return to “Music”

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: Majestic-12 [Bot] and 7 guests