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Thread: How they did it... composing.

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    Default How they did it... composing.

    I am wondering about how classical composers compose complex pieces with several unique parts... I am starting to compose and if I get one part down, and I need a another part or lead part to go with it... I need the rest to be playing for me to experiment or decide what to put over it. So I either use another musician (no good because other musicians don't want to sit around for hours as my tool listenign to me order them around playing stuff), or I use a computer which isn't ideal because it takes forever. How do most composers do it? a piano? well with a piano you can only play two parts.. which is better than nothing but what about 3 parts? what about composers whom don't play piano? thanks

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    Well, some composers just hear the music in their head. But, if you want to learn to become a composer, it is helpful and essential to use an instrument to do it. The piano can help a lot, because it is capable of many more voices than just 2.
    When beginning to compose, you have to understand how to manage 2 voices, or even a single voice before you can really start composing several voices. There are lots of rules. (But keep in mind, all the rules can be broken as long as it "sounds good".)
    I would suggest that you get a book on composing counter-point. You start just working with 2 voices at a time and you can keep adding. At the same time, start learning harmony theory. This will enable you to understand this topic a little easier. And the most important thing. Listen to as much music as possible, for this can also help you gather ideas. It is like painting, yet music is an untangible form of art. Once you play a note, it is gone, only to be left in the memories of others.
    As far as the piano thing is concerned. It sometimes helps and is a lot fun to get one of those keyboards that are capable of playing tracks with different instruments. That way, you can play a single melody, play it back and add a voice. Hope that helps.
    Last edited by Michael Ferris; May-13-2008 at 12:17. Reason: grammar
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    Senior Member Edward Elgar's Avatar
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    Yo Devon8822, you are asking a good question there, and it seems as though you're thinking that composers write different melodies and somehow fit them together. When composing contrapuntal music this is important, but a lot of music is made up of a primary melody with an accompaniment of chords. The chords are distributed among many different instruments in the orchestra and the melody may be doubled. This is a good method of using up as many instruments as possible while keeping the method of composition simple. Composers have lots of ways of keeping things simple for themselves, one example is "call and response" between the sections of the orchestra, used frequently by Tchaikovsky. Make composition easy and your ideas will have a springboard from which to manifest themselves!
    When all the paint has been dried, when all the stone has been carved, music shall remain, and we shall work with what remains.

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    (But keep in mind, all the rules can be broken as long as it "sounds good".)
    They can only be broken if you know what you are breaking aka, you need to follow the rules while learning.

    [q] But, if you want to learn to become a composer, it is helpful and essential to use an instrument to do it.[/q]It isn't essential. And it can be a hindrance.

    [q]Composers have lots of ways of keeping things simple for themselves, one example is "call and response" between the sections of the orchestra, used frequently by Tchaikovsky.[/q]Not really that helpful to someone who doesn't know anything about harmony. I doubt he will be writing for full orchestra.

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    Studying scores is a great method too. I seem to remember reading somewhere that Bach wrote some chorale works intended for students to study- someone back me up on this please!

    Some composers simply heard the melody, or melodies, in their heads. However Stravinsky never composed away from the piano, simply because he couldn't. Or so I've heard...

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    Studying scores is a great method too. I seem to remember reading somewhere that Bach wrote some chorale works intended for students to study- someone back me up on this please!
    Studying scores when you don't know harmony doesn't really help, but as soon as you know harmony NEVER TOUCH A TEXT BOOK.

    Bach's inventions were to study.

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    Default Write it down.

    Hi Devon, I know your problem well. I think you are already answering the question yourself a bit. There is no one golden rule or quick fix about composing large scale works but a glimpse into history might help a little here. Before the 10th century monk Guido d'Arezzo devised the stave system for actually writing music down there were no major musical forms. everything was learned by rote or improvised. When composers adopted this marvelous new system one of the first things they found was that they could create longer forms which did not involve learning long complicated parts by heart. In other words they themselves were not required to memorize the first part so that they could write the second and so on (I know it doesn't work exactly like this but you get the idea). This applies right up to the present day. Write down what you compose and then you will have a visual representation which you can add to and build upon (and change if you like). I use a computer to help with complex scores but I still love to see things on paper so I print out a lot of stuff and then work with a pencil until I need to get more definite information on paper again, at which point I reprint with the new material added.
    I hope this helps.

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    Thanks guys, that helps a lot, however the one thing I still can understand is, how some composers composed pieces with even 5 complex parts going at once. Without computers or loop statios (for electric instruments), I don't see how it could've been done. Any ideas?

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    Another thing, for another Bach experts out there? How particularly did Bach go about composing several complex parts? His stuff is full of counterpoint, I find it so complex, I cannot imagine writing that without modern technology... and he did it in the baroque period!

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    It becomes more obvious and easier the more you know and understand. He followed the guidelines and new of every possibility.

    [q]Without computers or loop statios (for electric instruments), I don't see how it could've been done. Any ideas?[/q]You don't have to play an instrument to be able to compose for it. Most of composition is theoretical. If you have a chord IV, there are only a few notes you could have each instrument playing. Very few composers these days uses computers like you are saying.

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    The mind of a good composer has abilities that most other people do not posess. They must have some genius in their thought process and an understanding of music that many of them are born with. Look at all of the great music which has been written by very young people all of whom must have been child prodigies. Many people can write music but how many can write good or great music?

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    This a defeatist view that is beyond certanly not true.^^ It is used as an excuse for not being as good yourself, which is pathetic and obviously not true.

    They are not genius', far from it. They had some luck in early childhood (in the critical period of a person's life) which sent them into the music life, then they worked their areses off for the rest of their life.

    Don't believe people like this, because otherwise we will never have another great composer.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Yagan Kiely View Post
    This a defeatist view that is beyond certanly not true.^^ It is used as an excuse for not being as good yourself, which is pathetic and obviously not true.

    They are not genius', far from it. They had some luck in early childhood (in the critical period of a person's life) which sent them into the music life, then they worked their areses off for the rest of their life.

    Don't believe people like this, because otherwise we will never have another great composer.
    I think some people may disagree with this view, but I certainly don't. That is exactly my thinking %100... I wasn't going to say anything out of fear of everybody here disagreeing with me. I am with you their on that man. When people say I am an amazing gifted musician... I say I worked to get where I am, I have no more skill than anyone else, I am just passionate about it. Man, I am glad you posted this anyways.

    Anyways, about the Bach composing thing, I can't believe that he could hear 4 complex lines going in his head at once, I mean you would have to hear it before being happy with it enough to write it down. I can hear a melody in my head but, I think its all about hearing things for your self and experimenting with it. So as I know of the only tool for this at the time would be the keyboard/piano.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Devon8822 View Post
    Anyways, about the Bach composing thing, I can't believe that he could hear 4 complex lines going in his head at once,
    Bet he could

    I cant but maybe i could train myself to hear like that. It good to be optimistic at least


    I agree with Yagan - we can learn to do surprising and previously 'impossible' things .

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    2 years ago I was hardly musical at all, and as soon as I took music as a serious subject at my school my musical life rocketed into what can only be described as an obsession.

    More to the point of composing though, when I started learning music I was convinced that I would never be able to do so much as think up a tune in my head. Now I can quite easily think up complex tunes with harmony- the only problem is that I don't know how to write it all down! I don't think I'm gifted- like someone else that posted I think I'm just hardworking- but I think if I got the right training I could compose something decent.

    Nevertheless, many people just don't realise the complexity behind composing. I know a music teacher who has composed some good tunes, and he has a very honest saying.
    "You have to be really good to be a 3rd rate composer."

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