Class Notes: How do composers compose?

have you ever wondered how composers actually compose music well history is full of composers and there's still a lot of them around today each one of them has a unique way of composing a reflection of his or her own background inspirations and techniques but they all share a love for music and have the skills to write new music using a common language that performers and listeners will understand so today we're going to talk to one composer to get a better understanding of how composing music works for him that composer is Jake Rena stead one of the youngest full-time composers in the United States hi and we have a whole bunch of excellent questions for him so take it away Jake okay first question what do composers do well that's a really good question let's put it this way let's say you want to build something like a birdhouse what do you need an instruction manual it's the same for music a composer creates an instruction manual to tell the musicians how to play a piece of music composers create scores sheets of paper or an electronic screen that includes everything the performers need to know what instruments to play when the rhythms notes tempo meter dynamics and much more once the performers follow all of these instructions voila the composer's music comes alive next question what do you have to learn and know about music to be a composer well as a composer you have to know a lot of different things we must know how to read music how to notate music how each voice type and instrument works how certain instruments sound together we need to study the music of other composers to see how they put their instruments together to create powerful music and we need to learn how vocal and instrumental lines interact using a technique called counterpoint there's a lot more we need to know but that's a good list so far how long does it take you to write a piece of music well it really depends sometimes with shorter pieces it can take up to a week and other longer pieces can take over a year can you hear the music in your head as you write it down before it's even sung are played actually yes I do I hear the music in my head through a process called ah da ssin have you ever been doing something like eating a bowl of cereal and then you have a song pop into your head and you can hear it as if it were playing on the radio that's Oddie a ssin in my case that music is original music that's never been heard next question what do you use to compose I compose everything on paper using pencil then I can fine tune harmony at the piano sometimes I will record an idea into my phone to save it for later so I don't forget it where do you like to compose music well that can vary really I like to compose outside like at Minnehaha Falls or indoors like at my friend's condo in other words in places where I feel comfortable and inspired next question where do you find your inspiration I find my inspiration in a number of things in literature visual art and nature and those are just a few next question how do you come up with musical ideas well improvisation is an important part of my process first I'll think about the mood or feeling of the music I want to create then I'll sing or play some ideas of what that might sound like or I'll just close my eyes and imagine a scene and what sounds might accompany that scene well that's it for questions now remember that I'm just one composer out of many so how I write music is going to be a little different than how other composers work so I hope that was helpful in you learning a little bit more about composers and how to compose music so now it's your turn get on out there and compose some music

9 thoughts on “Class Notes: How do composers compose?

  1. When I try to write for orchestra, it generally takes at least a couple of months (though, there are exceptions). Recently, I've been really trying to pay attention to the melodies I write. They seem to have been improving.

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