If you’ve ever played an instrument in the past, then you might have thought of composing music as well. Writing song lyrics, humming the tune, arranging how they all come together in your head – this is usually what we picture in mind when we think of composers. But there’s even more to that.
Firstly, it’s highly recommended for composers to invest in their own instrument. Some people buy guitar online or from a local music instrument store, for example, and it works just fine. So don’t be afraid to look into your local music shops because you’ll be able to speak to the music experts to find which instrument is right for you.
Secondly, knowing the theories behind musical composition is just as important. Without this knowledge beforehand, it would be difficult for composers to put their own music into life and to create an audio track that is equally coherent and dynamic.
What Is Music Composition?
“Musical composition is the act of conceiving a piece of music, the art of creating music, or the finished product.” – Encyclopedia Britannica
Music composition, or simply composition, is the creation or recreation of a musical event to make it stand out on its own. Learning to compose takes time. Even the most talented musicians like Mozart and Beethoven trained their ears and sharpened their musical abilities consistently in pursuit of their artistry.
Musical composition refers to the way of arranging pitched sounds within a musical time frame. Pitches make up intervals, and a recognisable pattern can be applied to pitch intervals over time, which is what we call rhythm.
Music plays a large role in the life of individuals and their communities. It reflects the distinctiveness of their culture and history. We hear it every day and all around us – whether we realise it or not. Music exists in songs, in dances, in theaters, and more.
Stages Of Musical Composition
According to sound master engineer Di Lorenzo of Panorama Mastering, and music teacher Cassandra Zko of ZKO Music, the musical composition can be broken down into five different levels.
The Production Pyramid of Musical Composition by Di Lorenzo and Zko
The diagram above shows the Production Pyramid which starts off with the musical composition as the most fundamental layer. After adding the key elements to your composition, it then needs to be arranged. After arrangement, sound production is added, then the track is mixed. Lastly, the track undergoes a mastering procedure to ensure that everything is polished.
Stage 1 – Composition
This is the first step in the music writing process. All the key elements are taken into consideration while composing. The song lyrics, if any, are also formulated during the composition stage.
The following components are the key elements of composition:
● Melody – A melody is made up of notes played in succession. They stand out as a whole when played together.
● Harmony – Harmony matches the melody by providing structure and adding mood and texture. Harmony is founded by chord progressions.
● Rhythm – Rhythm is a pattern of stressed and unstressed beats over a period of time, organized into bars.
● Others – Other elements include key, tempo, motifs, and structure.
Stage 2 – Arrangement
Arrangement and instrumentation is the part where you get to decide which instruments are at play and whether they are in or out of focus.
○ Variation – Variation in melody or rhythm is needed to ensure that your music diversifies so your listener won’t lose interest.
○ Energy and Tension – Knowing the balance of the energy and tension between your build-up and drop is key to imposing just the right amount of impact on the listeners.
○ Focus – Identify the focus of each section of your song or music, whether it’s vocals at the beginning, or your lead instrument, etc.
○ Timbre – This refers to the tone or sound quality of your music.
○ Instrument – Identify the role, quality, and balance of your instrument/s.
○ Feasibility – Are your instruments accessible? Are they available for recording?
○ Frequency range – Play your instruments within their octaves or within their range to make them sound more realistic.
Stage 3 – Production
Sound design and production can fill in the gaps that you could have missed in your musical arrangement. Audio production studios can help you with this, and there are many music studios in Melbourne.
● Audio effects – Adding them gives authenticity to your music.
Stage 4 – Mixing
Mixing bridges the elements of musical presentation with the artistic aim of composition and arrangement.
● Elements – Creative and technical elements are two classifications that affect musical presentation.
○ Width – A stereo playback system is often utilized to adjust width (left to right positioning) of your track in contrast to the listener’s location.
○ Depth – Depth refers to the front and back location of your track. Aim for striking dynamics that leave an intimate feeling to the listener.
○ Height – The lowest and highest frequencies of your composition defines the balance and harmony of your music track.
Stage 5 – Mastering
After establishing everything, from composition to track mixing, you can now proceed to the process of mastering. Usually, someone else does the job in a similar way that an editor proofreads a writer’s work.
Best Instruments for Composing Music
The best instrument for you to start composing your music is no other than the instrument that you know best, but according to several veteran musicians, it would be great to start with these three:
1. Piano / Keyboard
One of the easiest instruments to begin playing with, even by a novice, is the piano. It offers a wide range of pitches, rhythm, melodies, dynamics, and articulation. You can use it not only for melody but also harmony. If you’re opting for a quick formulation of ideas, then the piano would be your instrument of choice.
Nowadays, piano with digital sounds or ableton midi keyboard are widely available and they make it easier for a composer to transfer their music directly to a composition software if the unit provides the MIDI input.
The guitar is one of the most common instruments out there which makes it readily accessible to almost anyone. It may be large sometimes, but it’s also mobile and meant for hand carry. It’s best to use the guitar if you want to focus on the chord progression and strumming pattern. The guitar makes it simpler to write songs.
3. Human Voice & Ears
You can develop your musical ear with whichever instrument you pick up. Not everybody is inclined to this, but it can be developed over time and once your ears are trained, you will find it much easier to control the flow of the composition. It also helps you to compose when you learn how to sing the correct notes.
In composing music, start with an instrument that you enjoy playing. You don’t have to master your instrument as long as you know the basics of it, but it would be better to work with one that you know well. See to it that you’re comfortable playing your instrument and make sure that it’s accessible to you. Otherwise, there’s no point in using it for composition. If you have no idea about which instrument to pick, you can try out the piano (keyboard) or guitar in a musical instrument shop near you.