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Thread: Learning music composition

  1. #1

    Default Learning music composition

    I'm new to music theory and music composition, but I'm interested in learning and dabbling a bit in composing some of my own stuff.

    What is your process of composing music?
    How did you get started?
    What were your most difficult hurtles in composing your own music?
    Do you use any software programs to help you out? Which programs would you recommend?

    Basically, I'm just interested in what your experience has been in composing music and what you can share with me to help me out in this journey.


  2. #2


    i cant help you but we have a member here, "jerome" who composes and records his own music, he's been busy doing it for a while and hasnt been here for a couple of weeks now, im sure he will give you some valuable/authoritive information when he returns.

  3. #3
    a restless spirit Jerome's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jun 2010
    From Cape Town, South Africa


    I have returned!

    I don't know if this helps or not but here we go (Check 'The Wind in the Fields' in the musicians section). I wrote the words about 15 or 20 years ago - without music. Then I started fiddling around on the guitar and trying out chord progressions and melodies to match the music. Finally found the right combination of chords (very, very simple as it turned out). That was about 10 years ago. Then about a week ago I got tired of working on my instrumental stuff and decided to have a stab at recording one of my own songs after I discovered a book with all my lyrics in it after a general cleanout of my studio (home studio - not a pro - just a hobbyist). Decided I wanted to keep it simple. So I recorded two guitars (steel string & classical/nylon). Then recorded the voice over that and was totally disgusted with what I heard. So I experimented with different vocal ranges and by chance stumbled on a combination of the same voice recorded twice - one moving up and one moving down and then coming together and in critical places isolating just one voice. Ok happy with that - next drums - used a sampler to lay down just a kick drum and hi-hat. It's a very simple philosophical piece so it does not require much in terms of percussion. If it ever gets to the stage where I am 100% happy with it, it will go to Marc Norgaard, a drummer in Baltimore I employ for drumming services. Next I thought it needed strings to 'lift' the piece - it's very linear with minimal chord changes so it needs some variation. Used two different synths to create the strings and if you listen carefully you will hear the two synths wandering around the stereo spectrum. That will have to be fixed up at some stage. The woodblock was added to suggest a sense of time moving on (the first line in the song) and also as a timekeeper. That was done with a Roland Sound Canvas - a kind of paintbox of sounds. Finally I decided that I wanted it to have an earthy feel so I used a soft synth from Soniccouture (great company) called a Tingklik, which is a kind of bamboo instrument from Bali. Right now I am working on a sublime guitar background - Mark Knopflerish kind of sound to interject at various point in the piece and to provide some emphasis on certain words or to convey an emotion that the words can't say. Oh yes added bass as well - just me plunking along early one morning when I could not sleep. Insomnia is a great addition to creativity.

    The point of all this???? There are no hard and fast rules to creating music - just do what you think is right. But I would suggest you get a decent, powerful computer as the basis of your studio and a good DAW (digital audio workstation) - suggest Sonar to start off with. Learn it inside out. It's also a great way of 'seeing' the layout of your music. Any questions give me a shout - no expert - but I might be able to give you some tips on the way.
    Last edited by Jerome; 14-03-2011 at 21:27.

  4. #4
    a restless spirit Jerome's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jun 2010
    From Cape Town, South Africa


    Forgot - you will need an audio interface - I suggest anything by Focusrite or EMU. I have an EMU 1820 and it does everything I need it to. You can also use an internal PC soundcard but make sure it has MIDI capabilities.

  5. #5


    You can record with anything from a 20buck voice-recorder on up.
    You need melody, chords, and rhythm. That's all there is and there ain't no more.
    An easy way to start is just...swipe something simple, Pink Floyd chords will do- /C/Em/G/Am/D, the usual stuff. Maybe switch a chord or two around.
    Then write a melody- verse and chorus. You'll find that making the verse link to the chorus the trickiest bit. The rhythm will usually suggest itself.
    That's a 'songwriter' approach and it can lead to composing if you are willing to follow through on learning theory, at least major scale theory, which can take up to a year or so.

  6. #6


    Composing music is a completely natural process. Inspiration, feeling and technically working on it, are the most important elements for producing music.

  7. #7


    it is indeed a songwriter's approach ... find a harmonic sequence ( = harmony plan ) that suits the mood you want to convey, then build a melody on top ... it is also one of the possible composing processes ...
    my personal experience is that more often than not it is best to start with the melody ... possibly humming while you walk to a bus ...
    if the musical idea is good the harmony must come as a consequence ...
    more than anything else ( being a pianist ) sit at the piano and improvvise ...
    throw away most of it, keep ( if it is the case ) some good musical ideas and start building on that ...
    the musical ideas of course can be a melodic cell, a chord sequence, a bass riff ...
    sometimes ( ! ) a small playing mistake ( I mean you play something slightly different from what you intended ) may very well suggest a different voicing ...
    in any case, it is almost always a matter a trial and error ...
    of course if you are not an instintive ( and outstanding ) musician like Mozart or Verdi ...
    Beethoven's scores have more amendments than notes sometimes !!!

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Jul 2011


    @Jerome: Your knowledge and wisdom never ceases to intrigue me.
    @mcleanmel: There is, as previously stated, no rules to writing music. All you need is a bit of creativity and as far as software goes, I can't stress how much I adore Melody Assistant. Whether or not you want it for instrumental pieces or for background music to play while singing, it can deliver on a number of levels.

    Well when I first started composing it was always using Melody Assistant. I think the first song I ever (let's say) 'wrote', was an absolute abomination. Nothing even came close to harmonizing and to be honest, I thought I would never be any good at writing music. Even a year later that song is somewhere behind the clutter of my music folder, waiting to be revisited. My point is that if at first you aren't very good, just stick it out and enjoy the ride. I did and I couldn't have made a better decision.

    As for hurtles, I think my biggest obstacle was the fact that I had trouble creating bass lines that both sounded good and actually mixed in with the melody. I'm fine with it now thanks to countless hours of trial and error along with my stubborn nature which simply wouldn't let a simple bass line ruin a perfectly good melody.

    So I wish you luck in your future of music composition and at the risk of sounding like a Myriad salesperson, don't hesitate to visit the Myriad website and check out Melody Assistant, you can get the free trial to help you decide whether or not the program is worth $25 or not. Please ask me if you have any more questions about the program or anything you think I may be able to help you with, I think I have gone on for long enough. Regards.

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