Would you like to write a song but the it looks terrible for you? Here is a story and three tips to overcome the fear of composing, and live happily.
I wrote this article to encourage those who are approaching musical composition for the first time.
If you are looking for technical articles and rules of thumb you will probably find these other articles more useful:
If you are interested in songs, the great guide on how to write a song is a technical article, which explains the melody, harmony, chord progressions, metrics and structure of the songs.
It is probably the article you will find most useful, because it contains practical examples, step by step. From the writing of the melody and the text, to the recording of the voice up to the addition of instruments. The realization from the beginning to the end of a song verse.
If you are interested in orchestral and film music, you will find these great guides more interesting which are simplified versions of the lessons of my music for cinema course. Efficient use of Digital Piano help you to be a better Composer.
First, the Horror Music Composition Guide contains specific rules and patterns for each genre of dark music. It is a genre that has never found much space in film music manuals, and this free guide is undoubtedly the most in-depth discussion of the subject.
Again, the long and in-depth tutorial on how to compose a soundtrack guides you step-by-step through the classic stages of composing music for images.
Another great guide is the one dedicated to how to compose music from trailers and films in the hybrid “epic / action” genre, so popular in cinema in recent years.
Finally, of course, there is the Virtual Orchestration Guide in the top menu of all pages. It is a detailed guide to the classical orchestra for film music, with tips and tricks for virtual orchestration.
If you think composing is difficult, don’t be discouraged. This introductory article gives you the insights you need to shape your musical ideas.
And it shows you that if you want to learn, you can get the results you want – there are successful composers who had no formal music education. Just a great desire to make music.
Apart from the fact that the term composing is already intimidating: it tastes of years in the conservatory spent inhaling sheet dust, of infinite studies of harmony, of orchestra in tails.
And it is natural to immediately think about all the theory to be learned. Even a simple score like the one in the figure requires a non-superficial knowledge of music theory.I spent hours managing the change of clefs and looking for that damned sixteenth note that didn’t come back.
This infinite premise to say quiet, it is normal to feel intimidated in front of a blank sheet or the empty window of a sequencer.
Just do it: start playing
The good news is that writing music is easy if you know how to do it (this sentence was in the air from the first paragraph, let’s face it).
There are great composers who have no traditional musical training behind them and who have learned not by studying, but by doing.
It is an excellent example of what passion and talent can do even without formal preparation, if combined with commitment and a certain perfectionist obsession.
So, when for the first time they ask him to set music for the film shot by his older brother, John finds himself having to write a soundtrack without ever having filled a staff in his life.
And instead of getting discouraged, just start doing it.
John himself describes the result of that first work as something very far from a classic orchestral score, and that’s exactly what I like about him.
We are not faced with the genius who, when placed in front of a blank sheet of paper, begins to write fugues like nothing. Everyone is good to be geniuses.
John is someone who likes to make music, and he does it, without the anxiety of having too many things to learn before starting to write, and without the idea that the first attempt will have to be the final one.
Learn on the ground, guided by his stubbornness and passion.
Passion plays a big part in this story: John had always been a fan of film music. Speaking of his adolescence, he describes himself as “a film-music nerd” who spent every weekend in the cinemas hiding from the sunlight.
And the point is precisely this: even just listening to music of a certain genre makes us experts in that genre. Even if we have never played an instrument, the fact of listening to metal or classical music in the long run trains our ear and leads us, even if only unconsciously, to understand what sounds good and what doesn’t.
This is even more true for film soundtracks, which we have been used to hearing since we were born.
We probably wouldn’t be able to technically describe the parts of a song, much less reproduce it, but our ears are trained enough to understand if a certain type of chord or melody works.
How to overcome the fear of composing and living happily
Instead of visualizing Beethoven writing the Ninth, instead of being held back by all the things you don’t know, start doing. Play freely, improvise, and follow these three rules.
Set an achievable goal. Don’t think about composing the Imperial March on the first try. Any result, even a five-note tune, will still be a result. It is a starting point to learn and to improve. As the sage says, a journey of thousands of miles begins with a single step.
Decide the purpose of the song Before you start playing, ask yourself “What kind of song do I want to write?”. Visualize a word that can sum it up: travel, fear, escape. You will have a track to direct your creativity and avoid it getting lost in a thousand streams.
Practice, practice a lot. Malcolm Gladwell and the research on which he based his most famous essay, Outliers, taught us: to become experts in any field, we must practice in that field for 10,000 hours. Ten thousand. This is the difference between those who live in the average and the out of class. Not the abstract idea of talent, not a divine gift granted to a select few but, trivially, the amount of hours that one is willing to fend for oneself by working and practicing.