Composing and creating your own work can either be the simplest or most difficult thing in the world to do, depending on the day and your vibe. For most of us it starts of with a basic desire to discover what makes music affect us in the way it does. Its a very personal thing and a lot of the time my musician friends are quite content to just play other peoples music and they work extremely hard to be the most proficient at their instrument as they are physically able. So there are definitely different breeds of people and you have a fun challenge when you want to do both, that is you want to be a fantastic player and also create music yourself.
Once you have a calling to create then there is no turning back, you'll naturally want to jump in and experiment. It is helpful but not essential to be young in spirit when you start this journey only in that I have found a lot of adults edit themselves too much and have the need to ask too many questions in order to understand first rather than just 'do'. Kids have a tendency to 'do' first and ask later. We can learn a lot from them.
Once you finally create something you think is great, its been my experience that is what motivates you to keep going and then you generally crave to do more and more. It becomes so much fun and what keeps you going is to know you can do better and keep learning. I have always continued to learn, the only difference now is a lot of what I create is done more 'on purpose' than by accident. Having said that, I do always keep things enough undefined so that the door is always open for a 'happy accident' to occur if I'm lucky. This adds a certain magic to what could become a plain old good piece of music.
Once you have decided to get in to composition a little more seriously there is a creative decision I have found it helpful to determine before starting. Actually there are a few potential decisions but to keep things simple for now here's what I think is of fundamental importance.
Are you writing a song just for yourself and are you happy if only you personally end up liking it. Or, is the goal for your music to connect with as many people as possible ????
Yes I know, I can hear you say well can't you do both, and of course I have to say yes but really unless you define a few parameters before you start the odds of anyone outside of your mum/dad/best friend or dog, connecting with your music are stacked heavily against you especially as a new composer. There is always an exception and if you are the one in a million lucky enough who accidentally on purpose uses someone else's already successful idea and puts their own unique twist on it, Good Luck to you. If you consistently and successfully continue to do this, you can have us all round for drinks at your mansion in Bel Air. This is a very controversial quote and for me I look at it as learning from what has come before me.
“Talent Borrows, Genius Steals” - Oscar Wilde (plus a few others)
Translated through my creative filter it means, immerse yourself in the language you want to be able to speak and at some point it becomes part of your vocabulary. If you are aiming at a career composing / songwriting / producing or as an artist in a world where art and business are entwined, this will be a key concept for you to understand and get a handle on. It is the difference between making money from music by accident or ‘on purpose’. The extent to which you employ this principle is individual. For me personally I am not keen on using samples of whole recordings when making records but it is a common strategy for a lot of producers. I do however pay attention to the structure and chord sequence of the biggest hits over the last 60 years and needless to say there are tons of similarities. No accident there.
I have learnt the hard way that if I want to have music as my main career, creating within a structure is key. I now spend half my time creating music with an audience in mind and the other half just making music for me and maybe I get lucky (which hasn't happened yet, even with all my experience). My pop song in 5/4 is still sat on my computer. I did make a name for myself with it though and there's another whole topic for a later date.
I am including here a video of my basic composition strategies and i will discuss each section in future blog posts.
The video is directed towards piano composition but I will make one on production and songwriting in the near future. Everything I talk about is based on what I have learned from some of the most successful people in the music industry and adapted to what works for me. I hope you get something useful from it and I would love any feedback you have for me.
email me at firstname.lastname@example.org