Quick guide: learning to compose

This is an addendum to my previous advice to compose your own upbeat music and learn to play it.

If you’ve been fiddling around with your instrument for a little while you may have had the pleasure of accidentally producing a ditty or two, and you may even start hearing some music in your head that you’ve never heard anywhere else. Congratulations! You have enough crazy in your head to compose music. The rest is work and drudgery.

Nah, just kidding, composing is about as much work as stream-of-consciousness prose. The trick is to learn a thing or two about common musical structures so you don’t have to reinvent the wheel from scratch every time. It’s like shitposting on forums and blogs that way. Your first seop should be the lessons on MusicTheory.net, which will take about four hours to absorb. It could also be your last stop—there’s enough information in those fundamentals to support your entire songwriting career. Honestly, you don’t need to know a lot to do music really well, you just have to practice a lot.

Your next step is optional. Pick up a software program that lets you see and hear your music as you write it—this instant feedback is invaluable. You can write by ear very easily this way and ease can make the difference between frustration and a creative flow state. I recommend putting in a couple of hours to read the manual and customizing the hotkeys for that reason. People tend to be impressed with how quickly I can put out music and it’s because I’m accustomed to the hotkeys I’ve set up in TuxGuitar. If you aren’t a guitarist you’ll have to find something analogous to TuxGuitar for your preferred instrument (although it’s also good for keyboard and percussion—and free), just make sure it’s not “mixing” software because that’s something else and adds unnecessary complexity.

Last step, also optional, is to pick up a book about improvisation and composition. There are a ton of these out there, and you can just grab one at random from the library because it’s an art, not a science, and not a particularly difficult art once you’ve your instrument and absorbed the fundamentals of music theory.

About Aeoli Pera

Maybe do this later?
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14 Responses to Quick guide: learning to compose

  1. A_KUMA says:

    I wonder if those notes correspond to colors in a visualization program. Synthetic Synesthesia. Thatd be a great algorithim to program into smart bulbs.

  2. https://onlinesequencer.net is great. I’ve written real music with it:


    Doesn’t work with mobiles yet, sadly.

  3. Edenist Whackjob says:

    Try doodling with strong, masculine pencil strokes, can translate into a sort of directness / get-it-done mentality that can be useful for productivity. If we’re on the topic of embodied cog and how it intersects personal effectiveness.

    • Aeoli Pera says:

      That’s weird. Where does that one come from?

      • Edenist Whackjob says:

        There’s a link between handwriting and personality, I just figured I could hack that area of the brain. I dunno, haven’t explored it much.

        Steve Jobs took calligraphy classes and credited it as important FWTW.

        • Aeoli Pera says:

          That makes a lot of sense. Fun fact, when I was putting myself together I invented my own form of cursive to solve my illegibility problem. I should blog about it sometime, it’s elegant in its simplicity and function.

  4. Aeoli Pera says:

    That was really nice.

  5. Aeoli Pera says:

    Yeah, more conformity with chord structure and harmony on strong beats is almost always better. I love hitting the supertonic on those beats though, comes out really dramatic.

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