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What is everyone working on to improve their composing?

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The thread about going to school for composing got me thinking... what is everyone working on in regards to improving their composing? What do you think the most important things to learn are?

I personally believe a solid background in the fundamentals: Understanding melody, harmony, form and voice leading are very important. As well as listening to a lot of music. Something that helped me greatly when I was a kid just learning to compose, was transcribing music. That is something that tends to be relegated to the Jazz world, but it has great benefits for classical composers as well.

Its funny thinking back because the first thing I transcribed was a piece of music from the playstation 1 game, Jurassic Park: The Lost World. I was a weird kid I guess.

Let me know what you think.

Jon

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The thread about going to school for composing got me thinking... what is everyone working on in regards to improving their composing?<span>

I think I at least should be working on conciseness. Taking a concept and having it roll out to it final end has to be a as long as it needs to be and no longer. Often I find my stuff meandering -- not a bad thing but not always what's needed.

</span> What do you think the most important things to learn are?

In music? Clearly it's having a knowledge of what's been done. This lets you have a stock of ideas to build from, but also know that your great idea isn't that special.

On the other hand, I feel the most actionable thing to learn is how to permanently record your music. Whether through scores, audio recording, or building the song from scratch in a program, you have to be able to show it, no?

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I agree with working on conciseness. I always feel that the great composers can "say what they want to say" in fewer notes. I heard a quote once (I am paraphrasing here, so let me know who said it because I would like to know).

"It's easy to be simple and boring. It's easy to be complicated and beautiful. But to be simple and beautiful, that is art."

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The best way to learn composition? The absolute best way?? Take a full score of anything (piano sonata, violin solo, to a full symphony) and transcribe it by hand using all kinds of crazy, time consuming exactness. As you're copying great masterworks (you probably only need to do one or two, a large work and a small work), you will become a part of the harmonies. Listen to the melodies as you're writing them.

You get (kind of) into the head of the composer this way. You are actually "writing" the music. Trust me, I did this over the summer, and I am world's of a better composer because of it. Of course, if you just copy it, then you're not gonna learn anything. You have to consciously get involved in the "writing" process. haha. It gives you a different process and a different mindset. Copying a John Adams or Ligeti score is gonna be completely different from a Scriabin or Durufle score or even Chopin or as far back as Mozart... or even farther back, Bach. Choose a score in a style you're not used to. it will FORCE you to think differently and it will greatly influence your pieces.

Do some melodic and harmonic analysis. Maybe do ideas in different colored pencils. I dunno. Go crazy! :) It can be really fun. Make sure you choose a piece you "like", though. Spending months on doing it with a broadway score when you can't stand the strained singing? Not a good idea. You'll hate it and you won't learn anything. There's a difference between repulsion and a difference of opinion.

-Connor.

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I've got several things that I am working on:

1. Improving my skills of chromatic counterpoint

2. Writing opera scores that don't get monotonous

3. Trying to create the most dissonant cord possible

4. SPEED. I have currently so many things that I have to complete within the next month or so.

My new opera that I have hardly started needs to have the first act completed by the end of the month, I need to finish a quintet for guitar and strings by the fourteenth of september, a wind quintet needs to be in for a competition by November plus I need to write a piece for full orchestra to go to another competition in November!

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For me it would have to be listening to my favorite songs and understanding why I like them. I try to analyze all the orchestration / harmony / melody and add those elements into my "toolbox" so to speak. Whenever I want to recreate a similar atmosphere, I would borrow these things. Of course, people will wonder what originality will I have. For me, that is not important yet because I first want to imitate those I look up to. As I get better at orchestrating and coming up with my own ideas, that's when I'll start developing my own musical identity.

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Currently searching for contemporary scores to study the use of extended techniques - anything I needed to learn from orchestral 'common practice' I can find it on Mahler's scores.

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My inner ear. I promised myself never to write anything that I didn't write 'in my head'. I have a bad ear, but the progress is very nice. I'm writing a little trio at the moment and it's very fullfilling to write it without aid from a keyboard or a notationprogram.

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You promised yourself? Why?

Because I would like to be able to write 'in my head'. But the tempation to go to my piano or to playback with a notationprogram is so great, that I have to 'go all-in'. If I keep relying on other soundsources it will take longer to learn it. It's all just for fun, but it's a goal I have. That's why.

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Interesting!

Lol, It's kind of a romantic idea I have. To be able to compose a piece while making love under the moonlight. Now that I do I more often (spending time writing in my head, without the love making at the same time) I wounder what the hell I want to do while I'm at it. It's kind of boring laying on the couche all saturday thinking of music. I think I will start jogging... Does anybody have the same 'problem'..?

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If you did, you'd wish you didn't. I spend all day doing pretty much nothing but lying in bed, drinking tea, and wishing I had something to do and the will to do it.

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