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Is Formal Training In Composition Necessary ?

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#1
luderart

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Is Formal Training In Composition Necessary At One Point Or Can One Find One's Way Just Through Practice Composing And Studying Pieces?

What do you think?

I have scarcely gotten any training and compose as an amateur. I am wondering how far I can go like this. Will I find my way to composing even symphonies, or would that necessitate some formal training? I know that Elgar became a composer through self-study.

Would training generate symphonic ideas where none occurred before, or improve one's original ideas?

#2
luderart

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If you aren't studying composition in school, you'd want to be studying dozens upon dozens of books on your own. It's not like studying at school provides "top secret" info that can't be learned informally. Taking music classes provides guidance and insight in your education. Also: networking opportunities are abundant (and that would be the ideal time to meet people).

Receiving a formal education doesn't automatically mean you'll have the ability to write good symphonic pieces. An important part of becoming a good composer is hands on experience. You need to be getting works performed, working with players and getting your hands on instrments. It doesn't really benefit the composer all too much if they are writing piece after piece that aren't being performed (or at least looked at by a performer/someone who is knowledgeable).


So to recap: the lack of formal training doesn't make impossible to become a successful composer -it just means one has to be extremely motivated and disciplined to be learning on their own and seeking performances. Generally speaking to no one in particular: the worst thing one can do is avoid formal training because it's "hard" or "boring". Things only get a lot harder and if you find it boring: find something else to pursue other than music.


The problem with reading books is applying what you learn, and therein lies the difficulty. I have gotten hold of many books on harmony and counterpoint as well as form. But when I come to composing I don't think in terms of the rules I have learned but in terms of what sounds good and what my inner inspirational voice dictates. The problem is in applying what you read from books. How do you do that? When you are inspired to compose a piece, you cannot stop the process to go and look at books for the rules. And when you are reading the books and learning the rules, you can't force yourself to compose according to them. Maybe you have to do exercises. And maybe you have to somehow learn WHILE composing (maybe by getting feedback) and improving upon your previous work in your next.

Regarding avoiding formal training, I don't avoid it because it's hard or boring. Rather, I like to keep composition at the level of an enjoyable hobby and not transform it into work or a job which would make me possibly dread it. Other than that, I also am afraid that formal training would dry up inspiration, originality, and my unique voice and cause me to compose pieces in a boring and academic style.

#3
Austenite

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I wouldn't say formal training is strictly "necessary". There are several composers who have become influential musical forces despite being self-taught or otherwise lacking in formal training (Mussorgsky, Elgar and Schoenberg are three examples). There are even cases of people who didn't even know how to notate music, but who yet were able to create and compose quality works (Noel Coward comes to my mind). As a self-taught composer myself, I take some pride in these precedents.

But I'd say training is "very helpful" at the very least. I have managed to become a part-time composer despite my total lack of formal training - but I know there are flaws in my works which could have been avoided if I had ever attended lessons or received some kind of feedback. I also can't take advantage of other people's reviews and feedback when I don't understand the technicisms they use to explain a hidden flaw in a passage that just "sounds good" to me. So I might be making the same mistakes over and over again, without even knowing it.

I also am afraid that formal training would dry up inspiration, originality, and my unique voice and cause me to compose pieces in a boring and academic style.


I've felt that fear myself. Much like Balakirev and Rymsky-Korsakov did (although Tchaikovsky managed to persuade the latter into training, only to see his fears come true for a long time before regaining his "voice"). But I've come to believe that I have missed doing many things musically by not knowing they could be actually done (and how to). Alas, training also provides a fertile ground for networking (which I'm utterly unable to do, given my terrible social skills :blush:).

The bottom line for me is: you don't need formal training to be a composer - but you may need it to be a better composer.

"Let the composers say what they really want to say, not what anyone thinks they should be saying". Leonard Bernstein.

Works available on this site:

 

Habanera (for a Playful Kid) NEW! - for string orchestra. February 2014.

Romance and Variations, Op. 4 NEW!  - for piano solo. November 2013 (also available in a live recording by fellow YC member Sonataform).

Piano Sonata No. 4 in E minor, Op. 25 (Northanger Sonata) - Most Outstanding Composition, YC Awards 2012 (first movement, also in orchestral version).

Emma Overture, Op. 31 - Top Orchestral Composition, YC Awards 2012.
Adriana Suite, Op. 27: first two movements, Adriana's Waltz, fourth and fifth movements - Top Incidental Composition, YC Awards 2012.

String Serenade, Op. 11 - Top Chamber Composition, YC Awards 2012

Jabberwocky, Op. 28 No. 1 - Top Vocal/Choral Composition, YC Awards 2012.

Other orchestral works: Waltz (second movement from my Third Symphony in G minor, Op. 29)El Cadejos, Op. 38, Christmas at Newtown.

Other works for piano solo: Piano Sonata No. 3 in C, Op. 23, Nocturne in G minor, Op. 18, Epigram in C (from Six Piano Pieces, Op. 3)

Other chamber works: Playful Dreams, Op. 26 N° 2 for oboe and piano, Souvenir from Pemberley, Op. 32, Quiet Thoughts, Op. 30, Four Apologies for Cello Solo, Op. 33.


#4
Rosenskjold

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Danny Elfman received no formal training but still has a lot of success and writes really well.
Ephesians 2:8-9

For by grace are ye saved through faith, and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God, not by works, lest any man should boast.


#5
Austenite

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One doesn't need to be educated to write for orchestra: people here do it all the time!


But at least you should know a few things about the instruments...

Anyway, don't be afraid of taking composition as a side career at least - there's still Borodin and Ives.

"Let the composers say what they really want to say, not what anyone thinks they should be saying". Leonard Bernstein.

Works available on this site:

 

Habanera (for a Playful Kid) NEW! - for string orchestra. February 2014.

Romance and Variations, Op. 4 NEW!  - for piano solo. November 2013 (also available in a live recording by fellow YC member Sonataform).

Piano Sonata No. 4 in E minor, Op. 25 (Northanger Sonata) - Most Outstanding Composition, YC Awards 2012 (first movement, also in orchestral version).

Emma Overture, Op. 31 - Top Orchestral Composition, YC Awards 2012.
Adriana Suite, Op. 27: first two movements, Adriana's Waltz, fourth and fifth movements - Top Incidental Composition, YC Awards 2012.

String Serenade, Op. 11 - Top Chamber Composition, YC Awards 2012

Jabberwocky, Op. 28 No. 1 - Top Vocal/Choral Composition, YC Awards 2012.

Other orchestral works: Waltz (second movement from my Third Symphony in G minor, Op. 29)El Cadejos, Op. 38, Christmas at Newtown.

Other works for piano solo: Piano Sonata No. 3 in C, Op. 23, Nocturne in G minor, Op. 18, Epigram in C (from Six Piano Pieces, Op. 3)

Other chamber works: Playful Dreams, Op. 26 N° 2 for oboe and piano, Souvenir from Pemberley, Op. 32, Quiet Thoughts, Op. 30, Four Apologies for Cello Solo, Op. 33.


#6
Tokkemon

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Yes.

#7
Rosenskjold

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Yes.


Why?
Ephesians 2:8-9

For by grace are ye saved through faith, and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God, not by works, lest any man should boast.


#8
jrcramer

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Yes.


elitist :P

In case the files are not found: http://mydisk.se/jrc...page/music.html


#9
Pieter Smal

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Formal trainnig (B. Mus.) is improving my musicianship and compositional skills exceedingly!
Eccentric

#10
TJS

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In the past, at least, several composers were what we call self-taught. I'd like to think the same could be done today. But don't mistake that for meaning you can be lazy about it and achieve great results. It's always in your interest to read and learn as much as you can.

Probably one of the big benefits to studying with someone or at a school is the contacts you'd make, i.e., people who will actually perform your music. Plus, you'd be in a music-loving environment and ideas would be passed around to which you might not otherwise be exposed.





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