The ability to compose music is not so much a talent as it is an acquired and developed skill. To be a composer requires a knowledge of music theory, as well as desire, but also time spent practicing the songwriting craft. Follow these instructions to compose music on a piano, or they can be adapted to composing with other instruments, a computer or MIDI keyboard.

Preparation:
1. Have a tape recorder or other recording device alongside you as you work so that if you’re interrupted, you can go back later and pick up your train of thought. If you’re writing with a computer, you won’t need a separate recording device, but you will need to save your file periodically.

2. Decide what your song is about, the emotion or image you want to conjure in your listeners’ minds. Keep this message in mind as you compose, as it will influence the direction of your song.

3. Determine the tempo of your piece–that is, how fast it should be played. This will help you determine the time signature.

Composing Process:
1. Craft a melodic phrase that will serve as the basis for your composition. Improvising on this phrase should lead to the “hook” or chorus on which you can hang the rest of the song.

2. Adopt a simple melodic structure. Bigger and longer is not necessarily better, as experienced composers know and beginning composers need to learn. Your song’s structure should not have more than 8 to 10 definable components.

3. Get to your melodic point quickly by keeping your introduction short. If your song is designed strictly to conjure up a mood, keep it short as well, as listeners will tire of mood pieces fairly quickly.

4. Follow your creative spark where it leads you. You may find the melody you started with leads you into an entirely new melody, which may deserve to become a song in its own right. You also can change the key signature or time signature during the course of the piece.

5. Devise ways to embellish your melody and chorus as you repeat them. Don’t always play them the same way, but experiment with the rhythm, pitch and harmony to add variety. This sort of improvisation is especially important for jazz pieces. You also may want to include a weaker, secondary melody along with your primary melody.

6. Arrange the flow of your song so that it builds in an orderly fashion from beginning to conclusion. You need not build to a smashing climax, but to a satisfying ending. (Even Barry Manilow has moved away from smashing climaxes.)

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