CUA New Voices

Become a music composer in 3 steps

If you want to learn how to compose music, the first thing you need to do is making clear to yourself that you are just a beginner. Check also this post about a job of a composer. Please do not bother yourself with a burden that’s too heavy.
It is not the job of a composer to create a masterpiece, but to piece a master together.
A fantastic help in the process of learning to compose music is following a 3-phase system of learning:

1. Music Grammar: First you must get a solid grasp of the basics.
2. Music Logic: You need to master how to create logical arguments.
3. Music Rhetoric: Develop your skills to persuade.

First we need to learn the fundamentals, the “grammar” of music. It is crucial to first learn and understand the language of music before we can start thinking about how to make composition.
You must have the capacity to read and write music notation. It’s as simple as that.

Now some of you may make objections, referring to countless famous artists who are able to compose by ear. While these people are existing, I can at the same time point your attention to several hundreds of composers who were indeed able to write and read write music notation. Beethoven, Bach, Schubert, Chopin, Mendelssohn, Debussy, Ravel, Mahler, Stravinsky… all these magnificent composers were able to write, read, and think in the notation of music.

You can find quite a few resources out there that will be helpful if you want to learn to read and write music. A simple search on google should already put you on the right track, and you’ll discover soon enough that it isn’t that hard at all to read music. There’s more challenge in getting all fluent than in becoming familiar with it.

But you also will need to learn the fundamentals of music theory. Things like triads, scales, or seventh chords are the building blocks of music. If you think of music notation as the alphabet, then these things are the words. And most probably, just like a little child, you already have some sort of sense and knowledge of these music theory “words”. Probably you will know what major chords sound like, and what minor chords are sounding like. But if you want to be a music composer, you need to master knowledge that goes far past this simple and superficial level. You are required to understand perfectly well what the basics are and how you can apply them.

When you can read music, the following step for you would be to sign up for some free beginner’s course to learn the art of composing. The course should explain in a fast way all of the fundamental elements of music theory, and how you can apply them to compose music.

Now by the time you master reading and writing music notation, and understand all about the basics of music theory, things like triads and scales, you are ready for the next step. This is the phase where you will learn how to combine these elements and create some simple, small scale music. That is actually what all beginner’s courses should teach.

Music mostly sounds apparent logic, and this is because most music that we hear is following more or less the same patterns and guidelines. These patterns and guidelines have become fixed in our ears and brain, so we are expecting already to hear the things we hear. Most music pieces are containing these expectations. The music logic lies in getting to understand how we can use these basics of expectation.

The greatest composer know everything about these patterns of expectations, and they understand very well how to apply them to their pieces’ advantage. In most cases, they are following the expectation patterns, but there are times that they do not, and this is exactly what great music is all about. Composing at this level is thinking and communicating like a great Greek rhetorician as you are persuading the audience towards your musical ideas and points of view.