By: Edward Droscher
Starting a composition is a difficult task. Getting your inspirations, thinking creatively, applying your creative thoughts to your music and supplementing your ideas with additional composition are all difficult tasks to accomplish.
For starters, your current state of mind will greatly affect the music you write – whether you feel angry, joyful or sad chances are your musical composition will in some way reflect this mood.
Different times of day and different seasons affect your composing as well as current affairs and any stress’s you might have.
The variety of factors that can influence your composition periods are immense and hopefully these few pointers will demonstrate some methods of breaking out of the psychological restraints placed on you.
• Colours – If you are looking to compose a piece of music based around a certain mood find a relevant colour that matches for instance orange gives the impression of energy and drive. Eventually you will learn to bias your mood to suit the composition you are aiming for.
• Character – it is well known for actors to really get inside the character they are portraying through their acting. Understanding key emotions and various behaviours help the actors ‘ live ‘ as their proposed character. If you are creating a theme for a character (think darth vaders theme tune) you need to be demonstrating and describing that character through sound. If you follow the same process as an actor would you will eventually unravel hidden details that will help refine your composition, make it more realist and detailed and allow for it to be much more creative and expressive.
• Nature – a lot of creativity and inspiration can be got by observing nature. From birds communicating through a song like speech to the rustle of leaves in a summer breeze. Trying to emulate nature is an excellent way to begin a sound-scope – or incorporating nature into a character theme for example to express an angelic quality, singing like the birds (fast trills on piccolo or glissandos on the violin)
• Memories – another great source to tap into is your memories. A lot of emotion will go into compositions that are personal in some way to yourself. Spend a few minutes reflecting on your past – try to imagine the memory in great detail – sounds, smells, colours the weather – anything that will give you a good image and story to compose about.
These are just a few sources for inspiration – use your imagination – it has never ending possibilities!
With so many possibilities to compose about and now that your creativity is running, the next area to discuss is music theory.
The last thing that you want to happen is to have all these wonderfully creative ideas for your composition but being held back by the lack of musical knowledge.
A rugby player could develop his passing techniques and his scrum techniques but if he doesn’t know the rules of the game he won’t be able to perform during a game.
Although music composition and as a whole is not bound by any rules you still need the knowledge of writing music – in the same way as a poet needs a knowledge of his language to write a poem.
Some of the key areas you should know about and be constantly revising are:
• The Staff, Bar Lines, Clefs, Time Signatures.
• Note Values, Rests, Phrasing, Rhythm
• Articulation, Instrument Specific Techniques (pizz, con sord)
• Key Signatures, Circle of Fifths, Accidentals, Cadences
• Major, Minor, Diminished, Pentatonic, Diatonic Scales
• Chords, Extensions, Inversions, Sequences, Arpeggios
• Instrument Ranges, Timbres of Each Instrument, Difficult Areas of an Instrument (The break on clarinet for instance or seventh position for trombones)
Of course it is not absolutely essential you know about all of this but it will mean that your creativity is weakened due to lack of a means to fully communicate.
Use music theory books – go through them and notate comments on the pages, take notes on to blank flash cards to memorize scales and extended chords, use past music theory exam papers to test and analyze your knowledge and then act on your weak areas, purchase a aural perception CD to recognize different cadences and the general sounds achieved from different combinations of notes and chords – there are many ways to learn all of this but find the way that you are comfortable with and stick to it.
Finally the last piece of advice in this article is to keep your composing active.
Aim to compose a short piece of music each day, maybe before you go to bed you can reflect on your day through a composition. Mix it up – compose for different orchestrations and different abilities.
Composing is challenging but by keeping active like this will greatly benefit you and your compositions – and you never know – you may accidentally stumble upon your masterpiece!