Composing - When have your best compsitions happened

All topics musical, not specifically piano-related

Postby Chilly » Thu Jul 20, 2006 9:13 am

Was just wondering if most music teachers can compose, enjoy composing, and when their best compositions happened. Was it a big event that inspired your composition, or were you just messing around on the piano? Do you put it down on sheet music before you forget it?

I've composed afew songs / pieces but until recently i was relying on my memory and forgot quite afew tunes. Now i'm recording them on my clavinova and relying on my ears to pick it up again.. i really need to work at puting it on sheet music.

cheers - Chilly :;):
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Postby Stretto » Thu Jul 20, 2006 12:19 pm

I like composing and I would actually rather be composing than playing the piano most of the time. But the playing end of things has always taken precedence over sitting and composing so I haven't done as much as I would like to. But it eats at me almost on a daily basis, I say to myself, "I should be composing" but I don't take the time. :( I haven't written anything for several years and it seems to me if one doesn't practice it and compose a little on a regular basis the ideas kind of dry up. That's been my experience. The more I do try to work on writing music on a daily basis, the more ideas come to me. A lot more ideas come to me if I'm doing a lot of music listening. It seems to me if I'm listening to myriads of music and especially a lot of different styles, it all sort of jumbles together in my head and out comes something new.

Most of the time what I have written are based on ideas that just pop into my head on a whim, not typically entire songs but just a fragment like a phrase or two that gives me a start. I have never done really well coming up with ideas messing around on the piano. Usually something will come to my mind first. It drives me absolutely bazurk though because then when I try to find on the piano what I'm hearing in my head, it's not always easy to find but sometimes as I goof around trying to find it, I come up with something slightly different but usually at least with the rhythm that originally came to mind. I really think that good ear-training is probably one of the most important things for composing both in order to find the notes one's looking and also to be able to hear what the rhythm is so one can notate it. I wrote something about 10 years ago and have tried several times to figure out what the rhythm is so I can write it out and had never been able to figure it out. I finally just last week asked another musician if they knew what the rhythm was to what I was playing and they got me started on the first phrase and I was able to figure it out from there on and finally have about a third of the melody written out. It was a syncopated rhythm and so what else helped me is looking through some pop music books and finding the same rhythms and seeing how they were written out. Those syncopated rhythms are the most frustrating to hear what the rhythm is ! - Ugh! I really wish I had better ear training skills.

I've heard others say one thing that helps with practicing notating is to practice writing out scores especially those of the master composers. I don't mean as in copying someone else's music and calling it one's own though (just in case it sounds to some like that's what I was saying). I mean get practice writing out music by copying scores over onto a sheet of score paper (again just for practice on learning how to notate).

Composing takes practice and I think it's best to work at it a little every day as in schedule time to work on it and practice it just like one would for practicing the piano rather than waiting around for ideas to write anything. I think the more one does it on a regular basis, the more ideas come and the easier it becomes even to write ideas out.

You can download free introductory software for composing from Finale and Sibelius as well as some of the others. You can do quite a bit with it.

I do try to fit composing into piano lessons but not as much as I would like. It's the same old problem of there never being enough time. If I was more skilled at composing myself, I'd probably even prefer to teach composition and theory instruction over piano instruction.

Chilly,
What kind of music do you like to write?




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Postby Chilly » Fri Jul 21, 2006 2:10 am

Thanks Stretto, i'll have a look at that software, as I don't want to loose what i've done.

As for what kind of music i like to write? :( I'm not really sure what to class my music as?!? It's definately not clasical, so i would say more chilled out sort of sit back and listen music. I have put words to some of them - christian songs, but I would have to find someone to sing for me as I couldn't see myself singing. Also have some without words but need someone to work on the lyrics for me as my talent does not lie in writing lyrics. But i'd love to put together some other instruments with it. Maybe like a cello, guitar, violin... who knows the sky's the limit really when it comes to music. I'd love to just play with other instruments, and for everyone to improvise untill we hit on something good, but unfortunately, i don't have all the resources so need to meet some people who play all the other instruments. - not really sure how to go about it. Also not that confident about my competance.

I couldn't see myself 'gigging' or that so feel a bit like I have the ability to do something and while i don't want it to go to waste, I'm really not sure where to go with it. My husband loves my songs and encourages me to do more, but once i have them - then what?? ???
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Postby Mins Music » Wed Aug 02, 2006 10:31 pm

I've had two huge bursts of creativity in my life regards to composing. Funnily enough the first happened when I was still in high school and had just said goodbye to my piano teacher (not saying there's a correlation just an interesting observation on my end). It first began with a friends poem. The words really inspired me and everything just flowed out of me so steadily and easily that I look back and wondered what on earth was going on. I still play that piece now ( almost 20 years later) and think, 'wow' I wrote that?
During that period I 'wrote' about ten pieces - all inspired by imagery. At that time, I only notated what I submitted for assessment. ( A few of those pieces had other instruments included as well.)
My other burst of creativity happened about five years ago. This time I started putting friends' poems into music i/e. I used their words for the melodies. Then I wrote my own words. THEN I wanted to challenge myself so began writing instrumental pieces that were VERY different to each other. This one concentrated on the left hand accompaniment, this one concentrated on different touches, this one had to be more jazzy, this one like a classical nocturne. THEN I got together with a friend and we made challenges based on a theme like "Frogs' or a "Bush Fire'. We wrote our pieces seperately and then played them for each other.
Recently the only composing I've done is for student pieces I use in my teaching. I've allowed myself to daydream about getting them published (ie all of them) but have never taken the time to look into it seriously. (Life can get pretty busy and unless you're really focused on something - it just don't get done!)

So my composing has happened both ways - 'genius' wacking me over the head bypassing the brain and going straight to the fingers, and deliberating over structure, style and technique. Some have been notated, some are still just in the noggin (head). ALL have been created at the piano, tinkering, not a scrap of manuscript in sight. (Except for some of the simple educational pieces I whip up directly on Finale.)
"I forget what I was taught, I only remember what I've learnt." - Patrick White, Australian novelist.
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Postby presto » Thu Jan 04, 2007 3:56 pm

Stretto wrote: A lot more ideas come to me if I'm doing a lot of music listening. It seems to me if I'm listening to myriads of music and especially a lot of different styles, it all sort of jumbles together in my head and out comes something new.

Most of the time what I have written are based on ideas that just pop into my head on a whim, not typically entire songs but just a fragment like a phrase or two that gives me a start. I have never done really well coming up with ideas messing around on the piano. Usually something will come to my mind first. It drives me absolutely bazurk though because then when I try to find on the piano what I'm hearing in my head, it's not always easy to find but sometimes as I goof around trying to find it, I come up with something slightly different but usually at least with the rhythm that originally came to mind.

Those syncopated rhythms are the most frustrating to hear what the rhythm is !

Hey, my experience exactly! I find it so easy to compose fab ulous somethings in my head, just from an idea or a whim, and since I can be a good imitator and find it easiest to learn from examples, I can also write spoofs based on music I listen to. But playing on the piano what I have in my head is "a whole 'nother ball game." As you said, it can be downright frustrating!

As for writing down syncopated rhythms, I think that's hard too--but I noticed in a Hal Leonard book of Christmas songs I bought recently that pop songs are often written in pretty much a classical style with a note at the top of the page about how the rhythm should go. That might be a good clue. Maybe there's a number of different ways to do it.




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Postby Stretto » Fri Jan 05, 2007 9:13 am

Thanks for the perspective, Presto. I have some Hal Leanord pop music. I like his arrangements. I'll have to take a look. It reminds me that one of the best ways to learn to compose is to study other scores as to how things are written out. Even when I was doing more composing, I used to wonder how something should be notated. I knew some of the general rules but it's easy to sometimes forget the rules if you don't use them all the time. I often looked through scores to find an example of how to notate something. It works well.

Another idea I just thought of along with doing a lot of music listening to get ideas for composing: Rather than just listening, follow the score while listening. Once one gets practice seeing how what one is hearing is notated, it may help being able to notate what one hears in their head.

I have the basic free software from Finale I mess around with from time to time. I find it helpful as you can play back what you've written to see if it sounds like what you had in mind. I don't use it too much though because I find it tedious to click an icon, click on a note, click an icon, click on a note, etc., etc. There's probably a more efficient way of using it. I just haven't taken time to study it yet. I had planned on really getting into the notation software last year, but I ended up chaneling my energies into my teaching and improving my playing skill mainly in the area of technique.
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Postby Stretto » Fri Jan 05, 2007 9:15 am

By the way, Presto, are you planning on taking any composition courses?
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Postby presto » Fri Jan 05, 2007 9:52 pm

Good ideas, there, Stretto. And yes, to answer your question, I sure am! Each music student has a profile, such as music education, performance, etc., based on what he would like to do in the future, and mine is composition. I'll be getting some courses tailored for that profile next year.
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Postby Stretto » Sat Jan 06, 2007 9:13 am

presto wrote:Good ideas, there, Stretto. And yes, to answer your question, I sure am! Each music student has a profile, such as music education, performance, etc., based on what he would like to do in the future, and mine is composition. I'll be getting some courses tailored for that profile next year.

That's great! :cool: If you have time down the road to fill us in on what the classes are like, what you are working on, and such, it would be interesting to hear about.

Good luck in school!




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Postby Stretto » Sat Jan 06, 2007 9:16 am

Since we are talking about composing, is anyone working on any compositions currently? If so, what are you working on?
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Postby Glissando88keys » Sat Jan 06, 2007 10:26 pm

Stretto wrote:Since we are talking about composing, is anyone working on any compositions currently? If so, what are you working on?


Last week, a couple of actor friends of mine asked me to read through an original script of a vampire story that they would like me to compose the background music for. I asked what kind of music they had in mind. They asked for something on the order of Bach's Toccatta and Fugue in d minor, only slower and not so busy.


Today, again, someone else handed me another original script and asked me to compose the score. This play is a political satire. He would like the style to be in the tradition of the Broadway theater musical. That really includes a whole range of music, so I'll have to narrow it down as I read the script.

These are very ambitious projects for me. As music director/accompanist, I usually compose or arrange fillers to make a smooth transition between scenes and acts, in the style of the score I am playing. I also have composed a few songs of my own, here and there, both for the theater, and just for fun. I'm beginning to feel that I may be in over my head. By agreeing to do this, I've just jumped in at the deep end and now I'm just wildly thrashing at the water, sink or swim!

I know that I can come up with some good original music. Its the getting - it - written - down that is going to be the hard part. I have the same problem as you, Stretto.

Maybe if I record the music first, then it will be easier.

Another possibility is that my keyboard is MIDI compatible. I wonder if I can use cakewalk to notate? I'll have to research this further.

Does anyone know if this can be done? ???




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Postby Dr. Bill Leland » Sun Jan 07, 2007 9:53 pm

Gliss., my Cakewalk has a help menu that includes headings for "MIDI In" and "MIDI Out".

You can enter from keyboard with Sibelius, but it's expensive!

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Postby 108-1121887355 » Mon Jan 08, 2007 6:43 pm

I took a class from my daughter's piano teacher, years ago, and she had me composing while refreshing theory. She gave me ideas for styles and some bass pattterns to add melody. I have not done much since then but it was fun. I encourage my students to compose - any five notes in 4 measures is the usual start. I recently gave out some short poems they could put music to, and write their own poems and/or music. I suggested to write one about winter or snow as maybe it would bring the snow they are eagerly waiting for in New England. I talked about what sounds might resemble snow - high, low, legato, staccato, loud or soft, and so on. Some got in to skiing and skating sounds too. One young man sugested triplets for a ski piece. It is exciting to do and the writing of the notes and rhythm is a great learning experience. One year a student made up a second theme to a Halloween song she had learned.

There are some books on composing for the young student also.



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Postby Stretto » Tue Jan 09, 2007 9:51 am

loveapiano,
Having students write music to poems either their own or other is a great idea! I forgot that you have mentioned that in the past on other threads. Thanks for the reminder. I would like students to do more composing so I might give it a try. The music students have made up amazes me. They have a lot of great, creative ideas.

Does anyone help students write out their compositions? How do you go about it? Some of my students have made up some music that sounds pretty complex. One student's piece sounded like it changed time signatures so much, I wouldn't begin to know how to have them write it out! :O (except maybe to encourage them not to have the rhythm fluctuate so much?)

I do remember reading from a teacher (was that you, loveapiano?) that suggested recording students' compositions so as a teacher, it would buy one more time to figure out the rhythms. I guess that's where better ear-training comes in for we teachers too! :D Perhaps having the students doing more simple exercises in composing would help them to write their complex ideas out on their own instead of relying on the teacher to try to figure it out. :p

Glissando,
I am not personally familiar with Cakewalk but I have heard others mention using Cakewalk for composing. Is their different versions of Cakewalk? Their are some reviews on PEP of various notation software and I believe I read something about Cakewalk on one of the reviews once. It seems once when I was looking for notation software last year, I saw a version of Cakewalk for composing and/or arranging at the store. I believe it was a favorable review.

I had planned on getting heavily involved in the notation software realm last year, but that plan I put on the back burner for now because I couldn't decide what to go with. I bought some recording software - Voyetra, although it's a start in learning how to run the stuff, I was dissapointed to discover that that particular software does not allow one to transfer recording onto a cd (cry). It did pay for itself, however as it at least came with the USB cables to hook my keyboard up to the computer for not much more than buying the cables separately. One has to upgrade to the next software package they offer to record onto cd (cry, cry again). So I put that on the back burner until I decide what to do differently or come up with the spare money for something else. I don't have time to figure it all out right now.

Anyway, I did download Finale's free software that I mess around with from time to time just to learn initial ropes of notation software. I works pretty well. You might give that a try. If you start out with their free software that you can download from their site, they offer from time to time discounts to upgrade and I think the next upgrade from the free software isn't too terrible costly. You could give that a try and see if it works for what you need. You can type lyrics under the notes and it will play your piece back with no extra equipment hooked up. It does quite a bit. I haven't had time to learn it very thoroughly but I still find it sort of tedious unless there are some shortcuts I haven't learned.

Good luck on those pieces. That's inspiring that your willing to take those big jobs on. Sometimes I'm more timid to take on new musical endeavors if I'm worried I'll get in over my head. Your willingness to do so is an inspiration to take a few more risks taking on new musical endeavors.




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Postby Stretto » Tue Jan 09, 2007 1:14 pm

p.s. Here's an article on PEP that mentions Cakewalk and provides the link to thier site as well as other links on the subject that might be useful. It's mentioned about halfway down the page. Here's the link:

Music and the Home Computer . . .
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