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Is Formal Training In Composition Necessary ?

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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?

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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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The only composer that made it big that I can think of that was essentially self-taught was Berlioz. And that's not entirely accurate since he did go to the Paris Conservatorie at one point.

And most of his stuff sucks anyway.

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The only composer that made it big that I can think of that was essentially self-taught was Berlioz. And that's not entirely accurate since he did go to the Paris Conservatorie at one point.

And most of his stuff sucks anyway.

Says the guy who lists Holst as one of his favourite composers. Anyway....

You're missing a few others:

Wagner

Schoenberg

J.S. Bach

Balakirev, Cui, Rimsky-Korsakov, Borodin, and Mussorgsky (the last three certainly can lay claim to being geniuses of some sort)

Elgar

Telemann

Martinu

Raff

Sorabji

probably a few more

Now it's probably more accurate to say that any of the people mentioned were largely self-taught, because at some point most had some kind of instruction.

I seem to remember you being fond of Yanni. He's also self-taught. (Mind you, he is not what I think of when I think of the word "composer.")

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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?

No, but it would make it easier.

A lot of the stuff taught in formal training is now available to anyone online and in books (which can be purchased online and sometimes read there to). Formal education makes it easier and you have more guidance, but one can still be completely self-taught and be a very good composer.

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You can be as good as you want, but if no one knows about it then what good is it at all?

I'm pretty sure it is actually what you know that is more important.

Its not though is it. I could be the worlds best film composer but unless a director/ producer knows this then they aren't going to hire me. If I know a bunch of talented musicians who are capable of performing my pieces to a high standard then its going to look better on me. Knowledge in composition is obviously very important if you want to be successful but, as I said before, its no good if no one knows about it.

'who' is part of 'what'

The 'who' denotes a person, potentially someone who will hire you. They could have nothing to do with music composition (which is the 'what' in this instance, so they aren't really that conjoined), they could be an advertisement manager, a film producer, a pub landlord. Someone who doesn't have a clue at all about composition and whether your music is 'correct' or not.

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Is training necessary? I don't think so. If you have an idea in your head and you know how to notate it, I think you could be a fairly effective composer. After all, we all know what good music sounds to us. Still, I believe having at least basic knowledge in theory would speed up the process of writing down music, coming up with ideas and getting past writer's blocks, harmonization, etc.

Honestly, though, I barely have any knowledge or training myself, but we all start somewhere and I'm self-studying to be a better composer.

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If you are 'good', the relevant people will find out about you if you make some sort of effort. Obviously: this would entail a little bit more than making a YT channel and a FB page. Being a skilled composer in itself makes it easier for one to secure opportunities and meet people.

I fail to see how this makes my answer 'incorrect'?

Not all composers write for film nor are interested in doing so.

Merely an example...

And besides: isn't the question at hand "is formal training in composition necessary?". I'm not sure how the people you know directly affects the music you write ;).

I answered the question. You disagreed with my answer therefore I am now answering your disagreement to further reinforce my perfectly correct, though rather quite brief, answer.

So possibly I should further confuse this melee of vexed answers with a fresh answer that will hopefully please you, though it probably won't as it's my answer and not your own.

'Is formal training in composition necessary?'

The question implies that the asker is troubled as to whether they can be successful in composition without formal training, why ask otherwise. Meaning they may be possibly seeking composition as a career, or maybe just as a hobby in which they want to excel, though the first seems most likely. I originally answered this difficult question with the old saying 'Its not what you know; Its who you know.' Much to the displeasure of others. Having said this, and continued the argument further I have developed a new theory drawn upon my previous answer.

Formal training in composition is not necessary at all. I think, however, that it is advantageous particularly if you study music at a university or conservatoire. Academic establishments are generally cosmopolitan places, lots of people attend them from a variety of backgrounds. Universities that don't focus on music are possibly more advantageous in this sense as you don't just have music students, you have people studying a variety of subjects who will end up going into a variety of professions. Academic establishments provide us with both the 'who' and the 'what'. When you are young and extremely inexperienced as a composer (regardless of any amount of study) the 'who' becomes most important. This is because composition is inexhaustible and you will never reach its limit The 'what' can't even be measured because of this, but thats a whole different argument. One of which I really can't be bothered to digress with. Anyway, as you become more experienced with age and employment in the profession you may in fact become the 'who', which in turn makes the 'what' obsolete as you have a reputation that your fellow 'who's' can't argue with.

The 'who' is more important, the world is ran by people of reputation and favour not by academics. There is no denying it. I would much rather go through life studying music and becoming more knowledgeable but sadly money will not allow me such a desirable entity. Formal training isn't necessary, just discipline and drive. Music resources are good as well. Natural talent (something that many, including myself lack) is always a bonus to.

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So your entire argument is based on the assumption that anyone who yearns to become a competent composer, wishes to have a career in composition. :facepalm: Again: who you know doesn't affect how your music turns out. Your argument isn't so much as "perfect" as it is irrelevant to the topic at hand.

Wait, I thought you said "it's who you know that's important"? The above quoted is reiterating a point I already made earlier in this thread. Instead of acting like your new take on the topic at hand is the same as your old, irrelevant one in a rehashed form: why not just accept that in your eagerness to pipe in with some 'knowledge' coming from a place of 'experience', you didn't even read what the discussion was about?

Kthx

Excuse this quote thing i'm not very good at using it...

To your first point. No, thats my interpretation of the question... My basis for the argument is that the 'who' is more important, as you so kindly quoted in your second point. Who you know could very well effect your music, why would it not?! < Please enlighten me as I feel we could confirm this paradox.

To your second point. So suddenly my argument can't share an opinion of yours (and others on this thread) to back up my own? Surely this reinforces my claim that the who is more important. In my argument I don't claim that the 'what' is not necessary, I admit I do bash it down more than I probably should have because being skilled is important. However, I remain set on my views that its not the what but the who that is more important.

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I hope I don't become a successful composer, because that pretty much guarantees that your music sucks.

Because all the great ones get discovered after they die, right?

Beethoven doesn't count.

Actually no, we just forget a great number of great ones that were famous in their day.

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Nah. The only great ones who were discovered after their death were those who died too young.

And there are also the likes of Meyerbeer who overachieved through their lifetimes.

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I guess the conclusion to all this is that both are extremely important if you're pursuing a career as a composer.

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Well, talent and success are two different things. Our society and the world at large, generally speaking, is very "yang"-oriented......by that I mean, it is dominated by and most easily navigated by a certain kind of personality. Other people who are lacking in the traits our society tends to value, and usually in whom the personality has turned inward to a considerable degree, will of course have a much harder time dealing with the world and possibly be too afraid to act in it, and by virtue of this tendency be less successful.

I don't think this equates to the dominant type being more talented. Ease in moving about our world, a certain degree of which is a requisite for career success, and talent in various crafts, are two different things. Particularly in something where imagination and self-development are tantamount, like music, the profoundly inward-turned person possibly could have more "talent".

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