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Hello all. I've never posted on pianoworld I usually post on the other forum but I noticed you have a few composers here who are doing very good compositions. I was after a little guidance as I have a couple of issues whilst composing pieces.

Question 1. When you compose a piece do you first hear the song in your mind and then try to match what you hear on the keyboard or software? Or do you just improvise at the piano until you find something you like? I tend to do the first

Question 2. I have wrote 7 short pieces not and have never used a # or b outside the key signature. I have tested them but they never match the pitch I want to hear in my head. Is there any specific strategies in utilizing them?

This is a short piece I wrote and have been told it has some harmonic issues. I know I wrote it in natural minor without the raised 6th and 7th. Apart from the harmonic and melodic minor and manually looking up notes inside all different chords I dont really know how to utilize the non-key signature black keys. Any guides would be so helpful!

Tom


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Hi Tom, welcome to the forum.

I think you might be asking the wrong things. Your questions reveal that you are maybe thinking too much about keys and such. Maybe loosening up would help.

As for your first question, in my experience, it's a little of both. There is no magic way that it's supposed to be done. Everyone works differently, and new composers often struggle with a worry of what the 'right' way of composing is. The truth is, the right way is whatever works for you. I know that sounds like a cop-out answer, and what you really want to know is what everyone else does, but honestly, everyone does it their own way. What matters is the work, not how you got there.

That said, sometimes I will set myself up with a specific 'challenge', just to shake things up. For example, I have written multiple pieces in which I told myself 'Whatever the first thing I play right now is, that has to be the basis for a piece', and I'll plink something down and force myself to work from there. All the different methods of composing work, and the difference is what kinds of pieces tend to result from them.

A few times I have actually spoken a random sentence into the microphone, then gone in and figured out what notes correspond to the tones my voice was producing in that sentence, and will base a piece entirely on that "theme". This piece was the result of that experiment:
https://open.spotify.com/track/3XkMVTJqXipx8NPhLpphOO?si=3ca6ee8cc8804183

I would recommend trying to write something intentionally not in any key, at least not consciously so, so free up your creative spirit a bit and get out of music theory mode. Don't worry about whether the notes you play are or are not in a key signature - that can turn into a stifling head trip.

Try this: Sounds like you are using a midi setup of some kind. Flip the recorder on, and play 10 seconds of total garbage, as if you were a 4-year-old. Save the garbage, and then go about moving notes around, taking notes out, adding different notes, until you arrive at something that is at least semi-satisfying. You will probably find that as you work with your garbage, it starts to take shape as actual music in your head, and starts to sound pretty cool. I've actually released music that was written this way. Let us know how that goes!

This 3 mvmt thing was entirely written with that technique. I know I never would have come up with some of the ideas in there had I not started with total garbage.
https://open.spotify.com/track/3YMN2T5w16GuBR7UEqMAkX?si=42a2e81e212f4ae3
https://open.spotify.com/track/4rXpYIWt8iY51tchuqSEap?si=bf1f9f4cf45b423f
https://open.spotify.com/track/3xjP1JlZpgMGszNzZQX2W6?si=9041f683505a4815

Last edited by Jim of Seattle; 08/17/21 01:17 PM.

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Hi Jim. Thanks for your post. You've provided me very good tips and thanks for pointing me in the right direction. I really like the music you've created with the rain and piano guitar violin together. Respect. It's hard to create that sort of atmosphere with a piano alone. I actually don't have a keyboard midi setup unfortunately I gave mine away many years ago. I just input note by note in a software program called 'Finale'. Thanks Jim I'll let you know how your tips work out 👍

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We don’t know what your objectives are, what you aim for (not asking). With that in mind I would say: write the music you like.
You seem somehow dissatisfied, though. You may consider then studying some music and harmony theory (tonality changes, strange notes, so on). But I’ve seen some scores by a famous composer (Ludovico Einaudi), and there wasn’t any accidental to be found. It is called ‘minimalistic music’. Maybe that’s you. So, write the music you like and the rest will (probably) come in due time.
Hope this helps!


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Finale is more of a notation program than a digital composing tool, I can imagine writing with it is gonna be tough. Don't worry about all those other instruments, my original sketches are usually all piano anyway. I would get a Digital Audio Workstation, called a DAW, instead of Finale. A lot of them have big learning curves, but it's not too bad. Cakewalk is what I use, and it's now free. You would probably want to set aside a few hours to figure it out first. Other people on this forum certainly have other suggestions for a free DAW that is easy to pick up.


My work is available at https://greenmonkeyrecords.com/jim-of-seattle/
Also on Spotify, Apple, all those subscription places under Jim of Seattle.

I have a website I never remember to update: www.jimofseattle.com

Also jkoseattle@comcast.net
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Originally Posted by mydp
We don’t know what your objectives are, what you aim for (not asking). With that in mind I would say: write the music you like.
You seem somehow dissatisfied, though. You may consider then studying some music and harmony theory (tonality changes, strange notes, so on). But I’ve seen some scores by a famous composer (Ludovico Einaudi), and there wasn’t any accidental to be found. It is called ‘minimalistic music’. Maybe that’s you. So, write the music you like and the rest will (probably) come in due time.
Hope this helps!
Hi mydp. Thanks for your response! It has been very insightful. It was very interesting to see Ludovico writing beautiful pieces with no accidental outside of the key. I think at the moment Im writing minimalistic music. However, I also love music that is not minimalistic so i want to eventually figure out how to get out of minimalism. I'll definitely do what you said and brush up on music theory and anylize how composers have utilized tonality, strange notes etc that sound pleasing for my ears. With regards to my piece above it turned out a little video gamish sounding to my ears and I wanted it to sound more realistic. I can't really explain it. I really appreciate the advice! 🙂

Originally Posted by Jim of Seattle
Finale is more of a notation program than a digital composing tool, I can imagine writing with it is gonna be tough. Don't worry about all those other instruments, my original sketches are usually all piano anyway. I would get a Digital Audio Workstation, called a DAW, instead of Finale. A lot of them have big learning curves, but it's not too bad. Cakewalk is what I use, and it's now free. You would probably want to set aside a few hours to figure it out first. Other people on this forum certainly have other suggestions for a free DAW that is easy to pick up.
Cool Jim. Thanks for this! I'll try out a daw and see if it makes the writing process easier for me 👍🙂

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Originally Posted by TomP86
Question 1. When you compose a piece do you first hear the song in your mind and then try to match what you hear on the keyboard or software? Or do you just improvise at the piano until you find something you like?

I never have any idea of what I'm going to write. I just sit down at the piano, hit some keys and start writing. Melodic lines arise naturally, melody and harmony influence each other, sometimes imitations (counterpoint) occur, and after a while the work is done. It's the classical way of doing things.

Quote
Question 2. I have wrote 7 short pieces not and have never used a # or b outside the key signature. I have tested them but they never match the pitch I want to hear in my head. Is there any specific strategies in utilizing them?

That is not a matter of strategy but of knowledge. Alterations are not something weird. They are part of the harmony. Compositions in one key without alterations are quite rare nowadays. I've even written a couple of Ionian and Aeolian pieces, just for the fun of it.

Quote
This is a short piece I wrote and have been told it has some harmonic issues. I know I wrote it in natural minor without the raised 6th and 7th. Apart from the harmonic and melodic minor and manually looking up notes inside all different chords I dont really know how to utilize the non-key signature black keys. Any guides would be so helpful!

All you need to do, Tom, is study harmony. Although it can be difficult in the beginning and you will need lessons from a real teacher.


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Originally Posted by Rowy van Hest
[quote=TomP86]
I never have any idea of what I'm going to write. I just sit down at the piano, hit some keys and start writing. Melodic lines arise naturally, melody and harmony influence each other, sometimes imitations (counterpoint) occur, and after a while the work is done. It's the classical way of doing things.
Hi Rowy. Thanks for your post smile Yes I would like to start doing this too especially with things like arpeggios



Originally Posted by Rowy van Hest
[quote=TomP86]
That is not a matter of strategy but of knowledge. Alterations are not something weird. They are part of the harmony. Compositions in one key without alterations are quite rare nowadays. I've even written a couple of Ionian and Aeolian pieces, just for the fun of it.
I agree 👍


Originally Posted by Rowy van Hest
[quote=TomP86]
All you need to do, Tom, is study harmony. Although it can be difficult in the beginning and you will need lessons from a real teacher.
Agreed. I will see if I can find a piano teacher who specializes in harmony. I'll also try to brush up on the basics. Thanks Rowy you've convinced me for sure now I need to put a lot of effort into learning harmony

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Tom,

While this is all good, I worry in your case that it will all turn into a head trip, where you feel you are somehow ineligible to write good music until you've "mastered" theory things. Don't go there. There's a ton more to learning composition than deciding which notes go where. In fact, I would say that the other stuff is ultimately MORE important than which notes go where.


My work is available at https://greenmonkeyrecords.com/jim-of-seattle/
Also on Spotify, Apple, all those subscription places under Jim of Seattle.

I have a website I never remember to update: www.jimofseattle.com

Also jkoseattle@comcast.net
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Originally Posted by Jim of Seattle
Tom,

While this is all good, I worry in your case that it will all turn into a head trip, where you feel you are somehow ineligible to write good music until you've "mastered" theory things. Don't go there. There's a ton more to learning composition than deciding which notes go where. In fact, I would say that the other stuff is ultimately MORE important than which notes go where.

Thank you for the warning Jim! I wont go too deep into it I just want to sit at the piano for some days and press down chords in different formations and see what sounds good next too each other. I spent 2 hours doing it last night and found it very difficult finding chords to go next to each other that I liked in an 'improvised' manner. For me when I first hear the progression in my head then find it on the keyboard its much quicker, yet I dont have as much vocabulary in my mind such as aug, sus chords

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mydp, interestingly 'River flows in you' one of the most famous songs has no accidentals too smile

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You are right. I've watched it played on YouTube (a pair of hands over the keyboard) and, as far as I can tell, there is no note outside the seven of A major. You see, what counts is the idea.
Notwithstanding, this song, having as it has a lot of repetition, could have had some chromaticism added easily. Probably the author preferred to keep it simple.


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