Author Topic: June, 2018: Advice for young composers  (Read 670 times)

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Ron

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June, 2018: Advice for young composers
« on: June 01, 2018, 06:21:57 AM »
What do you say to young people who ask questions that suggest they think there is a secret code that one must follow when writing music? For example, I recently saw a question like this, "Is it okay to have a chord from a different scale in a harmonic progression?" I've often seen things like, "Can I add a 7th to a chord that is not the dominant?" or "Is it okay to have a minor chord in a major scale?"

In other words, how do you help open their eyes to a world of possibilities that they seem unaware of?
Ron
Rules? What rules?

Michel.R.E

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Re: June, 2018: Advice for young composers
« Reply #1 on: June 01, 2018, 06:26:17 AM »
"Go to school and learn your harmony and counterpoint, then you won't ask these questions."
"Writing music to be revolutionary is like cooking to be famous: Music’s main function is not revolution. – Alan Belkin "

"Saying something new about something old is still saying something new. – Jamie Kowalski"

Patrick O'Keefe

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Re: June, 2018: Advice for young composers
« Reply #2 on: June 01, 2018, 06:54:43 AM »
For example, I recently saw a question like this, "Is it okay to have a chord from a different scale in a harmonic progression?" I've often seen things like, "Can I add a 7th to a chord that is not the dominant?" or "Is it okay to have a minor chord in a major scale?"

In other words, how do you help open their eyes to a world of possibilities that they seem unaware of?
Perhaps opening their ears would be another step.  Borrowed chords and substituted chords are not exactly new.

flint

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Re: June, 2018: Advice for young composers
« Reply #3 on: June 01, 2018, 07:07:14 AM »
"Go to school and learn your harmony and counterpoint, then you won't ask these questions."
Perhaps opening their ears would be another step.  Borrowed chords and substituted chords are not exactly new.

Both of these, plus: Stop listening to classical music on the radio. Only the most inoffensive and dull music is played there for an ignorant public's consumption. Find something that requires effort to listen to.
"Music is like wine; the less you know about it, the sweeter you like it." - Robertson Davies

Ron

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Re: June, 2018: Advice for young composers
« Reply #4 on: June 01, 2018, 08:29:54 AM »
...do you not think that this could be the result of a flawed pedagogical system that introduces young musicians to theory as a set of rules? I know that by the end of grade 8 I thought that anything other than major and minor scales was radical.
Ron
Rules? What rules?

Michel.R.E

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Re: June, 2018: Advice for young composers
« Reply #5 on: June 01, 2018, 08:56:02 AM »
"Young musicians" must learn "rules". That's part of the apprenticeship.
You learn how to hold your bow before learning to do col legno.

You learn how to do proper tonguing and breathing, before you learn fluttertongue.

You learn scales and finger placements before learning how to do glissandi and forearm clusters.

The pedagogical system that teaches only about major and minor scales is aimed at a classroom full of students who will, inall likelihood, never become musicians in any capacity whatsoever.

Once you start to "train" more seriously as a young musician, you learn about the more expanded world of harmony and counterpoint.

I would never expect a high school art class to oblige its students to learn in detail how to recreate cubist painting, or surrealism.

Basic training is meant as an introduction.
And therein lies part of the problem: FAR too many people think "I've done a year of music in high school" and now they are ready to "become composers".

This type of illusion must be nipped in the bud.

Reading an anatomy book doesn't a doctor make.
"Writing music to be revolutionary is like cooking to be famous: Music’s main function is not revolution. – Alan Belkin "

"Saying something new about something old is still saying something new. – Jamie Kowalski"

Jerry Engelbach

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Re: June, 2018: Advice for young composers
« Reply #6 on: June 01, 2018, 04:05:54 PM »
I wonder if part of the problem is the availability of computer programs that practically write the music for you.

There's a whole culture of composition on a couple other websites where people just string together familiar sounds from movies and television using sound libraries in DAWs without ever writing a down a note. The music mostly sounds like it's meant to be background behind dialogue. There are no themes, no variations, no development.
 
Since nothing is written down, that process does require people to use their ears to a certain extent, but the result never goes deeper than what is obvious. The lack of theory is painful.
 
What that process also lacks is the imagination to envision one's music being played by live musicians. The music just sits there. I dunno, maybe people think they'll by some miracle get a call from Hollywood and become the next Hans Zimmer.
 
What I enjoy on this site is practicing writing music that — even though currently I have no outlet for it to be played live — I like knowing could be played live.
 
When the All About Jazz forum was active, sometimes a young musician would proclaim that theory wasn't important: "Just use your ears, man." My response was to inform him (it was always a dude) that if he was playing in a key, with more or less conventional harmony, he was using theory. And that he could only get better if he absorbed more of it.
 
Cheers,
Jer
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tbmartin

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Re: June, 2018: Advice for young composers
« Reply #7 on: June 04, 2018, 12:30:24 PM »
I'm a "young composer" despite my 57 laps around the sun. I took one full-year course in music theory in high school and one "composing for non-music majors" course in college (TOTAL waste of time!) The advent of notation software opened the "amateur composer" possibility for me. There are perhaps two things that my 57 years give me that is missing from truly younger composers:

1) I would never want to create music that's NOT played by real musicians on real instruments. Therefore "band in a box" or other shortcuts hold no appeal to me. In addition, I'll suffer through mediocre playback libraries because I know that's not how it will ultimately sound.

2) I've had lots more time to absorb a broad range of music than a 20-yr-old has.

Right now, I'm still learning the rules, but I know that as soon as I master the rule, my next job is to break it. If I DON'T break it, I'll just be a Mozart wannabe.
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luke

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Re: June, 2018: Advice for young composers
« Reply #8 on: June 12, 2018, 01:55:38 PM »
As a 15-y/o learner I have definitely seen the above issues and agree that this generation lacks patience and understanding of music theory and harmony. What worsens these issues is how many students tend not to break out of a single style. The point of being young is to learn as many things as possible from as wide a variety as possible.
"The only love affair I have ever had was with music." -Maurice Ravel

Gillespie

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Re: June, 2018: Advice for young composers
« Reply #9 on: June 24, 2018, 06:37:51 AM »
I did not verify this quote, but its an option:
“A good composer does not imitate; he steals.”
― Igor Stravinsky

I agree with Michel.R.E about learning "rules."  I took courses in 16th cent counterpoint, 18th cent counterpoint, and multiple years of 18th and 20th century theory.  I break these rules all the time, but I use them when they suit me.  Of course, my compositions are "meh."