Jump to content
Sign in to follow this  
SHEKHAR

Brahms gives tips on COMPOSITION

Recommended Posts

most important thing to learn is Strict Counterpoint.

2. Writing variations is something good for the beginner.

3. Usually the best ideas flow from the hand or mind without any particular effort, these are the ideas that will endure in your compositions.

4. Never begin working the out of a composition before the whole thing has taken definite form as an outline either on paper or in your head. When ideas come to you, go for a walk, then you will discover that the thing you thought was a complete thought, was actually only the beginning of one.

5. In the sonata form, the piece must have a logical structure. It is not enough to have a good idea here and there. The sonata is not when one has merely combined several ideas through the outward form of the sonata, but that, on the contrary, the sonata form must emerge of necessity from the idea.

6. When you are composing a piece, your bass should be vibrant, not sleepy or lazy. Your harmonies should sing and not be weak.

7. Harmony should not only be the accompaniment of the piece, but help and allow the idea to develop, so to speak, to help it emerge clearly and powerfully.

8. In regular composition, and song writing, the determining role of the melody and of clearly perceived basses created in good counterpoint should be a must.

9. When you examine a piece, read only the vocal line separately and or the bass separately, so this way you can see if your melody is dreary or your bass boring. The determining role of the melody and of clearly perceived basses created in good counterpoint should be a requirement. The accompaniment should be a equal, even independent, element and sometimes to move it canonically in relation to the voice. The canonic form never develops into the controlling element, but only as a means of increasing the charm of the vocal melody. And the melody will always break the form when its powerful and sublime flow so dictates.

10. Combining variety (diversity) with unity can be difficult. It is accomplished by transforming the basic motive more or less recognizably through rhythmic alterations; through displacement into other chordal inversions, and through exact or retrograde inversions, thereby you create themes and melodies of the most extreme contrast.

11. Extension of the subsidiary motives can be done by means of augmentation.

12. To compose a long adagio is the most difficult of all.

13. Unified modulation does not in any way preclude the use of even the most distant keys. Quite the contrary these keys become distant only by virtue of the fact that another key governs; this is what gives them their expressive power. They say something different; they are like the colors of a painting that contrast with the background color and are simultaneously contained and intensified by it.

14. To learn modulation imitate the masters. If Beethoven, Mozart or Haydn go from C Major to E Major, you do the same. In regard to the overall course of the modulation, with the exception of the individual divergences, the guiding principle is "The straight path is the best path".

15. You must learn how to work. You must write a lot, day after day, and not think that what you are writing always has to be something significant. As far as songs go, you will write many songs before a usable one emerges.

16. It is rare that a piece, once it has been completed, becomes better through revision; usually it gets worse.

17. You should not always trust your ideas. The pen is not only for writing, but also for deleting. But be very cautious. Once something has been written down it is hard to get rid of. But if you have come to the conclusion that it will not do; even if it's good in itself- then don't think about it for long; simply strike it out! How often one attempts to save such a passage and thus ruins the entire thing, not to mention becoming a slave to the idea instead of being the master. Sometimes passages like this also serve to conceal the troublemaking elements whose presence you might have intuited but would have not looked for it there at all. Corrections usually should have to do with particular details of the composition.

18. Clearly imitation is the best way to understand how music is written and structured. A beginning composer should follow the methods of composition which are set by the masters like Brahms, Beethoven, Mozart, Haydn, etc,. This way you can understand the structure and apply this to your own work. Every composer takes ideas from other composers, its not that your going to use that idea note for note in your piece. On the contrary, it's the way you manipulate or change the idea and develop it, which reveals the genius in a composer and his composition. When you compose, it is good for a beginner to copy or follow a particular structure of a piece or a style of a composer; this way you can discover how a composition is created or constructed and apply this to your own ideas. By doing this you will eventually break out of that mold and with a clear understanding develop your own style of composition or a ingenious variation of an older one with unprecedented new insight.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Guest JohnGalt

Simple, well articulated, and concise. Bravo, Brahms.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Not really. Many people still use sonata form, to this day.

I'm talking modern music - not just neoclassical/romantic.

It's a pretty damn useful form.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Guest Anders

*cringes at the thought of repeated exposition + repeated development and recapitulation*

....:sadtears:

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Not really. Many people still use sonata form, to this day.

I'm talking modern music - not just neoclassical/romantic.

It's a pretty damn useful form.

Yes, but today, more often than not, composers simply give a composition the title Sonata for one main reason. The piece is modelled after the sonata, not in form (because these tend to be simply one movement works), but in relative importance. The Sonata was essentially one of the bigger if not biggest works for piano in the Classical era, so today when someone writes a sonata it often just reflects that monumentality.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The Sonata form is only applicable to the 1st movement of a sonata - none of the other. That is the classical definition if you remember.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Yes, but today, more often than not, composers simply give a composition the title Sonata for one main reason. The piece is modelled after the sonata, not in form (because these tend to be simply one movement works), but in relative importance. The Sonata was essentially one of the bigger if not biggest works for piano in the Classical era, so today when someone writes a sonata it often just reflects that monumentality.

Thats a little exaggerated.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

18. Clearly imitation is the best way to understand how music is written and structured. A beginning composer should follow the methods of composition which are set by the masters like Brahms, Beethoven, Mozart, Haydn, etc.

Hahahah! He included *himself* in the list of masters. So modest (!)

Seriously though, that advice is very reassuring and motivating. They all seem like excellent pieces of advice. I need to do 1. though.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Thanks very much for posting this, loads of great advice here.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Of course, you do realise that this is advice fit for the 19th century right?

I'm, by no means, greater, or great, or whatever compaired to Brahms, but:

Be adventurous and be so for a reason. If you don't then you are a copycat. If you are, without a reason, you are empty...

All education is solid and needs to be there, but never let it confine you! (talking about counterpoint etc...)

Generally all the advice by Brahms is indeed good but is rather limited for todays time I find...

Either way a very solid "guide" for younger or inexperiences composers. Just to keep in mind that there are tons of other things for one to try rather than going from C major to E major... I hope you catch my drift!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Brahms probably wouldn't have gone from C major to E major. That's a horrible modulation.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Brahms probably wouldn't have gone from C major to E major. That's a horrible modulation.

No it's not. Take the Waldstein sonata of Beethoven for example. He uses E major as the "dominant" group of typical sonata form structure.(the sonata is in C)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Guest QcCowboy

Actually, other than the actual mention of tonality, there's very little in those guidelines that is not applicable in some way to any type of composition. We'll have to agree to disagree on the value of Brahms' words of wisdom.

And just to give you an idea of why I feel this way, I can assure you that my thesis director during my master's degree quoted from those same Brahms guidelines on a regular basis.

Of course, you do realise that this is advice fit for the 19th century right?

I'm, by no means, greater, or great, or whatever compaired to Brahms, but:

Be adventurous and be so for a reason. If you don't then you are a copycat. If you are, without a reason, you are empty...

All education is solid and needs to be there, but never let it confine you! (talking about counterpoint etc...)

Generally all the advice by Brahms is indeed good but is rather limited for todays time I find...

Either way a very solid "guide" for younger or inexperiences composers. Just to keep in mind that there are tons of other things for one to try rather than going from C major to E major... I hope you catch my drift!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

QCC, of course we can dissagree, or agree, or whatever, no problem here.

just let me make my point a little more clear...

I find most (not all, for gods shae) points a bit outdated.

Of course in certain styles of music one can speak of melody, harmony, variations, bass being vibrant, etc. But at least in the music that I write, for example, or the music that Hymnspace writes, most of these simply don't apply. That's what I mean. (btw, I find variations the most difficult thing to write really. I'm currently working on 25 (!) variations for a piano concerto and I'm at 12 and dry as _________ . It definately is not easy attempting to write more than two and have different style in each one, and be coherent and so on...)

But like I said, there are plenty of things today that don't apply in what Brahms said.

by all means, not that it's not great advice, or one should not ponder on all points, but maybe translate them to todays world. ;)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Brahms probably wouldn't have gone from C major to E major. That's a horrible modulation.

It's a modulation that appears in my favorite piece of music of all time! :w00t:

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I was just thinking that same thought....well, I suppose, if he did indeed write those tips, that he recognized his own genius :mellow: (and simply wasn't incredibly humble, which isn't a bad thing).

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I don't think Brahms would have listed himself originally. Is there a bibliography on this? The fact that he included himself in tip 18 is completely contrary to the advice he gave to a student who approached him with a piece the student had felt was particularly Brahmsian (being that his advice was to go back and study Bach and develop stylistically from there instead of directly making attempts at imitating a contemporary composers).

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

14. To learn modulation imitate the masters. If Beethoven, Mozart or Haydn go from C Major to E Major, you do the same. In regard to the overall course of the modulation, with the exception of the individual divergences, the guiding principle is "The straight path is the best path".

The straight path is the best path? I don't see why this should necessarily be the case. Why not be in C major and then suddenly in F# major? What's "wrong" about that?

15. You must learn how to work. You must write a lot, day after day, and not think that what you are writing always has to be something significant. As far as songs go, you will write many songs before a usable one emerges.

I think this is the absolute best piece of advice in that whole list. If you sit around waiting to be inspired, you won't acquire the ability to "capture the muse" on a more frequent basis. Being good at musical composition is much more about hard work and experience, and really loving it, than it is about innate talent, I think.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Guest Anders

While I agree with #15, it puzzles me that Brahms wrote ''songs'' instead of ''pieces''.. Lost in translation?

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.

Guest
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.

Sign in to follow this  

×
×
  • Create New...