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Is composition easy or hard? What's your weakness?


What are your musical weaknesses?  

15 members have voted

  1. 1. What are your musical weaknesses?

    • Struggle with writing good melodies
    • Too many ideas that don't cohere together
    • Innovative Harmonization/Reharmonization
    • Starting too many works without ability to finish
    • Writing good development
    • Form
    • Writing good contrasting themes
    • Using too much repetition
    • Picking the right instruments/ensemble for my works
    • Getting too bogged down by the details
    • Making the composition sound idiomatic for the instrument(s)
    • Inability to perform/satisfactorily render my own works
    • Coming up with different versions/variations of a melody
    • Counterpoint
    • My works are too short
    • My works are too long
    • My works are too derivative of other composers
    • Nobody understands my music - it's too far ahead of its time!
      0
    • I wish I composed for other venue(s), genre(s) (share which ones!)
    • Orchestration
    • Blending instruments
    • Arranging works for bigger ensembles
    • Arranging (reducing) works for smaller ensembles
    • Lack of familiarity with styles I want to compose in
    • Nobody wants to pay me for writing music!
    • Writing music to a programmatic context
      0
    • Other (please reply to this thread!)
    • Modulations
    • Transitions
    • Writing good chord progressions
      0
    • Fitting a good melody to my chord progression
      0
    • Writing good counter-melodies
    • Always writing for the same instrument(s)
    • Using much too common rhythms/meters
    • Struggling with technology to realize my music
    • Writing music for a solo instrument


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What do you think about your weaknesses in music?  What are they?  (Take the poll and if you can't find your weakness in the poll respond to this thread!)  And what is your relationship to your weakness?  Do you use your weaknesses or avoid them in your music?  (Or if you can't avoid them do you settle for simplified versions of them?)

I've often found that some of my best works were made by embracing my weaknesses.  Composing these pieces was relatively easy because I didn't question whether I should include "weak" passages and I just went with the flow.  Do you challenge yourself with every new composition, pushing the limits of your skills with every new piece?  Or do you flawlessly produce music that almost "composes itself" so to speak?

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Hey Peter,

That's an interesting topic!

I always find it ultra-difficult to compose any piece. I always have to grind my brain out to write only a few passage or bars during a composing session, that's why I am such a slow composer. 

I have many weaknesses in composing. I have yet to find my own voice in composing, usually more influeced by the masters and in the palette of older music, like I can never (and shouldn't though) escape the influence of Beethoven since he remains my idol. Just like in my third Piano Sonata where you have left an incisive remark that it's more conservative which I perfectly agree. I think I start to find my own voice through my more pentatonic writing like the first movement of the String Sextet and my little Wind Quintet piece yet to be posted here, but still my voice is not distinctive enough.

My use of rhythm is also more conservative and homogeneous and thus not interesting enough, especially in for the music fashion now.

My third weakness is my orchestration since I have yet to write any orchestral pieces. I start to investigate into it now though and hopefully I will pick up on that after finishing my Sextet.

3 hours ago, PeterthePapercomPoser said:

And what is your relationship to your weakness?  Do you use your weaknesses or avoid them in your music?  (Or if you can't avoid them do you settle for simplified versions of them?)

My relationship would be to try to overcome them consciously, but I will give the preference to the music itself first. 

3 hours ago, PeterthePapercomPoser said:

Do you challenge yourself with every new composition, pushing the limits of your skills with every new piece?  Or do you flawlessly produce music that almost "composes itself" so to speak?

I never challenge myself with every new composition and even if I do so I don't have the sense of challenging myself. I don't flawlessly produce music since no music is flawless, but I do allow the music to compose itself. I always feel like my compositions are not composed by me but by someone else since I don't believe I can write them. When I write I usually wait for my muse to give me some inspiration and I will intuit them and write them down with no hesitation, and usually these passages are great passages even though I won't realize that at the time of composing, since I have no time to do so. I always feel nothing during composing. 

Maybe I do push myself to limits with my skills, just like my six part fugue which I have never done before. But I don't put myself that importantly. More important is the music that wanna be born through my role as a mother and that's all.

Henry

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20 hours ago, PeterthePapercomPoser said:

 

I've often found that some of my best works were made by embracing my weaknesses.  Composing these pieces was relatively easy because I didn't question whether I should include "weak" passages and I just went with the flow.  Do you challenge yourself with every new composition, pushing the limits of your skills with every new piece?  Or do you flawlessly produce music that almost "composes itself" so to speak?

 

i agree, when i don’t care about the outcome so much it happens very fast and usually doesn’t suffer anything for it.

When i care a lot about the outcome it can take a very, very long time.  

I think the whole of my process could be boiled down to properly channeling the spirit that’s supposed to be communicated through the music.  Even issues of technique are really not that at all; it’s the ability to channel something that accounts for everything, in my view.

Nevertheless I think composing, no matter how intuitive you are, inevitably involves some grunt-work and the solitary, problem-solving or chore-like aspects of composing are not things that i enjoy and make me procrastinate a lot.  I would even say that it stops me from being more into composing than i might otherwise be, because for those reasons it is hard.

 

I don’t know if i deliberately challenge myself but i will say that, despite a lot of my music being very early in style, I think of myself as fundamentally attracted to novelty and very disinterested in mere replication of a style even if that can be a secondary target in some ways. 

EDIT:  after mulling it over, i think one of my weaknesses is elongating my ideas to fill a satisfying amount of space for the listener.  I think that I do ultimately do this but it’s difficult.  I definitely find “intellectual “ or technical stuff gets tedious for me and i do have to consciously go about filling enough space when writing a fugue for instance, because i’ll often feel like i would rather move on after making the initial idea clear in the first few passages.    i think i’m naturally more drawn to the visceral and decorative elements in music so whipping up the enthusiasm to enlarge fugues gets to be a chore

which reminds me that, just in general, feeling like id rather move on to a new section when writing music is a big compulsion that i have to fight.

Edited by gaspard
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Composition is easy if you just write for yourself. However I think most of us want to write music for others to enjoy, and this is where the challenge lies. It's quite challenging to write a good and engaging piece of music. And the longer your work is, the harder it is to maintain engagement (I'm learning this as a YouTuber as well!). My biggest weakness would be key changing, modulation and harmony. This was much more of a problem when I composed music equivalently by hand (aka, by mouse). But the way I adapted and worked on my weakness was by this:

  1. I started listening to a lot of music
  2. Not only did I listen, but I observed and studied sheet music
  3. I started composing on the piano, which literally transformed my works

I'm sure I have a lot of other weaknesses, but one thing I never seemed to have a problem with was coming up with a melody. I do believe writing good melody comes with practice, but to this day, I still think melody is a bit of a mystery. Like, what is it? Why are some melodies so engaging, and others, not so much?

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You come up with some awkward questions, PeterthePapercomPoser! : )

It’s both, a damned tribulation when the latter, relaxing when the former. Unfortunately the balance seems to fall toward the latter these days. My latest bit was a challenge (to grow). It failed and through 10 versions has become an ordinary modern programme piece.  

Of the many issues you list, most of the weaknesses fall my way most of the time. For example, Struggling with writing good melodies. Even motifs give me a headache, evaluating if they’ll work / can be developed. Aside from light music I avoid formal melodies because they come with the expectation of meter of some kind, not always easy when one regards a “phrase” as a whole – the tune, harmony, scoring, overall change of dynamics, interplay of lines and on. Fine if you’re writing tonally with cadences available that meet expectations.

The first item that turns out a strength is not using too much repetition. I’m no fan of it. In fact when I look at a score and see those double dots at a double barline I think ‘Oh no. I’ve got to listen to that bit again!’  

Orchestration – while I still see the orchestra as a machine I tend to treat each instrument in its own right, having its unique contribution which makes some of the bureaucracy of orchestration difficult. I hear music inwardly as orchestral so I have trouble writing for solo instruments, particularly piano.

I’d guess we all suffer some of the list as weaknesses at times and at other times strengths. It isn’t always easy to translate what’s in ones mind to an art medium. I have a reasonably good ear to transcribe a melodic/motivic fragment to paper but the subtle orchestral sounds - they take effort (and I hope not to lose them in the process). Then the problem if you like through-composing is often “what happens next”. 

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I picked too short, bogged down by details, works too derivative and writing idiomatically.

Two of those I'd not consider actual weaknesses, but other people I guess do so I checked them.

However, there is one which I'd say is not on your list, but is a big problem for me: Technology

I really hate working with samples and MIDI, but I hate awful-sounding mockups worse.

Unfortunately though, virtual instruments have largely stagnated, and in order to get a good sounding mockup, you often have to sacrifice ideas in favor of what the samples can do, and there is a lot they cannot do.

I hope they continue to push the limits with things like Musesounds and Staffpad so that we can all be free of the wicked chains of Kontakt and stitching together note-by-note recordings like a bunch of savages. Creating virtual renditions of romantic-style, or golden-age hollywood stuff is such a soul-crushing endeavor that it makes one yearn for the sweet release of death — or just giving up on music entirely.

Hey, maybe AI will be able to make the mockups for us

Beethoven as a terminator robot, oil painting

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  • 2 weeks later...
  • 2 weeks later...

Intended to answer this way earlier, but whtv...

From the poll, these are the weaknesses which I have observed from my composing and their elaboration:

  • Starting too many works without ability to finish - since most of my works were written years ago
  • Using too much repetition - as many have commented in many music forums and threads including y'all here in YC : )
  • Getting too bogged down by the details - I pay a lot of attention to articulations  ( whether they " make sense " ), contrasts between climax and non-climax areas ( since most of my pieces have clear climaxes ), and also use of chords ( which I dwell over a lot becos I rly wanna the chord to suit and bring out the best in the melody, but also an aspect which I'm generally satisficed with at the end )
  • Inability to perform/satisfactorily render my own works - some of my pieces I have written the way they should be even though I can't really play them ( exactly ) , and l assume ( after some not-too-rigorous levels of assessment ) are playable by many others. I can play them only in a slower tempo, or having just a few things removed.
  • I wish I composed for other venue(s), genre(s) (share which ones!) - I am still not very confident to bring my pieces up yet. But I hope I will be able to make music more involved in the world.
  • Orchestration - I only publish for solo piano thus far. Hv few others for Satb, piano duet, piano for more than two persons, piano and one or two other instruments/voices and even orchestra but not that much skill, exp and confidence and thus need way more time. My experience in band was also limited, a few years, and specialized in percussion. Also open for future pieces to go beyond solo piano.
  • Blending instruments - as abv
  • Arranging works for bigger ensembles - as abv
  • Arranging (reducing) works for smaller ensembles - as abv
  • Nobody wants to pay me for writing music! - Hv not went this route yet, but am open to it.
  • Always writing for the same instrument(s) - as abv
  • Using much too common rhythms/meters - I only have 2/4, 3/4 and 4/4 for my posted pieces so far, and in very obviously regular and conservative meters. Hv a few that are in less common time but will need more time to prepare. And I am open to composing new pieces in more irregular time and meters.
 
I would and could not give a clear-cut answer as to whether composing is easy or hard - the short answer will be both. The long answer...I'll wait for next time I guess... lol
Edited by Aw Ke Shen
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