Jump to content

Can't think of a theme for my C minor sonata, what to do?

Recommended Posts

I have had this block in my C minor sonata for months. I have the introduction down as I want it but I can't think of a first theme to come after the introduction. Thankfully I have about 6 months before Beethoven's birthday comes around. That's right, I am dedicating this piano sonata to Beethoven, the 1 major composer that reinspired me after a long composer hiatus and who keeps pushing me forward in my compositions. I was able to compose a Mozart style sonata in less than a month.

But with this C minor sonata, it has been about a month and I still can't figure out what to do for the first theme.

@Tortualex on Musescore.com has given me quite a few suggestions after I told him that I wanted to be innovative with this sonata like how Beethoven was innovative more than 2 centuries before. One of them was to have it have 3 themes instead of your typical 2 themed sonata. In particular he suggested that I have this harmonic structure to my themes:

First theme in C minor
Second theme in G phrygian(which would have the same notes as C minor but have the tonic chord be G minor)
Third theme in G major

He said that with those 3 themes, I will have a lot of thematic material to have my sonata be more than 7 minutes long and still be interesting. He then suggested that I break more rules when I get to the recapitulation. Specifically that I make the second theme be in G major and use that G major as a secondary dominant to C minor(this though confuses me. Is he suggesting that I use the Locrian mode as the primary dominant instead of G major? Or is he suggesting that I have the third theme in G phrygian and use the minor dominant as the primary dominant?). Then afterwards he suggested having a second development followed by a true recapitulation. 

That would definitely be an expansion on your typical sonata form from the exposition having 3 themes instead of 2 to having a first recapitulation leading to a second development and then having a true recapitulation to the second theme being more modal than tonal.

I have gotten advice more related to symphonies but basically, one of the pieces of advice that I got for getting out of a composer's block was this:


Don't think of the theme as being 1 long unbroken melody and accompaniment if you are getting stuck. Instead, think of a short little motive and then go all Beethoven's fifth on it, basing everything off of that 1 little motive and voila you have your theme without even thinking about it.

Now, I haven't been thinking much about my sonata since last month which I figured would relieve the composer's block with it because just not thinking about the piece for a while(sometimes just a few hours, sometimes a month or more) often relieves my composer's block. But it did no such thing for this C minor sonata. I'm still in as much of a composer's block as I was a month ago.

So should I go this motive route and base my first theme off of a short little motive instead of thinking of it as 1 long melody and accompaniment like I have been doing? If so, how will I know how workable a motive that I come up with is? Is there even such a thing as a motive being less workable than another?

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

Ah, composer's block—what would a composer be without it? I love how methodical you are in creating your music... wish I was that disciplined!

For me, finding melodies/motifs/themes is still like riding a wild bronco. I can't reallly tame it, I can only nudge it in the right direction. Find what inspires you—be it walking in the woods, spending time with friends, reading an epic story, watching a great film—and let it work its magic on you. Or think of an emotion you'd like to convey and see what music pops into your head. Even then, it's largely a trial-and-error process. I've often written hundreds of bars of material only to trash it all after a few days because the melodies just weren't doing anything for me.

The key to good melody writing isn't necessarily in finding an amazing melody; it's reallly in building variations around that melody to keep the listener's interest. There's so much one can vary when it comes to music! You can modulate, you can lower/raise the third (to make it major/minor), you can alter the tempo, alter the rhythm, alter the time signature—heck, you can even play the thing backwards! The possibilities are endless.

The bottom line is don't think; feel! Center your soul around an emotion and just start humming, see what comes to you. Even if it's not an instant melody, I bet it'll be something you can work with.

Happy composing!

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

  • Create New...