How Do I Become a Composer?

Composers might learn the craft over time or, like Mozart, seem to be born with it.
A composer writes music.
Article Details
  • Written By: Tricia Ellis-Christensen
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 15 August 2014
  • Copyright Protected:
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    Conjecture Corporation
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There are many ways to become a composer, and this is especially evident when people look at the history of music and those who have contributed to it. Mozart was writing pieces while still a preschooler, for instance, while Danny Elfman began a successful career in film scoring after many years participating in an alternative rock band. While many differences separate these two men, there is a common thread: talent and skill in writing music in a plethora of forums. How people get there is highly dependent on a variety of things.

A traditional article on this topic would suggest all people who want to become a composer should have formal training. This could be participation in bands, orchestras or the like and be professional instruction in how to play music. These suggestions are not bad, and certainly many people who come to this type of work have plenty of training that could include private lessons, and high school and university studies in music composition. Many people with this background are highly gifted people who become famous through their compositions.

The flipside is the number of composers who have little to no formal training. Some may not even read music. Instead, they may approach the desire to become a composer through sheer talent and love of creating music. While the traditional approach may be more successful, the talent alone approach can work too, some of the time.

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Since composition is complicated, understanding other musical instruments is vital. Even if someone only wants to become a composer for a three-piece band, the guitar player must understand how the bass sounds, and how to write bass accompaniment. Most people do better if they read music and can write it, though there are a variety of software programs that are useful, including programs like GarageBand®. In fact, many programs will fill in the actual notes of various instruments, whether a piece is for one instrument or 50 of them. This allows people to hear and understand how melodies and harmonies work together.

It’s fair to state that composing is not easy, and how to become a composer that is successful might require additional writing. Not all people make it in this profession, whether they have extensive training or not. One thing that can help is already being participant in the music world in some way. This might mean playing in an orchestra or band, conducting, teaching music or being involved in some other aspect. Generally the more public the involvement, the better, when it comes time to attempt to have pieces performed. Someone conducting a state symphony might have more opportunities to showcase music, for example.

If a few pieces begin to gain notice, composers can secure agents. This can help give compositions wider circulation, and particularly recording a series of pieces can be useful in gaining notice. When lucky, more attention to the work results in recognition, which may lead to offers to compose for specific occasions or productions.

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