On Composing

I love to compose music. It’s a personal, creative outlet for me, and it allows me to connect with other musicians and listeners from around the world through performances of my music and commission projects.

I encourage all musicians, regardless of age or ability level, to compose music. Composing shouldn’t be reserved for people who major in music composition either. Thom Yorke can’t even read music for goodness sake, and he’s one of my absolute favorite composers!

I didn’t major in music composition, but it doesn’t stop me from getting ideas out of my head and onto something tangible.

Composing is also important because it helps musicians connect with our listeners (especially non-classical listeners). When non-classical listeners find out I’m a musician, their first question is “What kind of music do you play?” Their second question is “Do you just play covers, or do you write your own stuff?”…

This response is always really interesting to me. It tells me that having my own songs, my own voice, my own style, is really important to people. It also makes me realize that many classical musicians “just play covers”, and in a weird way, some orchestras are just really really big cover bands…

So, go compose something! It doesn’t have to be a Beethoven Symphony, just a simple idea; a motive, a riff, or rhythm.

For example, my piece Bloom for marimba quartet started out as a simple four note idea I came up with while tinkering around on my RadioShack keyboard (a source of inspiration for many of my compositions.) Then I created simple variations on my idea:

I then adapted these ideas for marimbas and added additional pitches and time signatures. Take a listen:

If you still don’t know where to start, go transcribe songs you like and figure out what makes them tick. That’s how I learned to compose. I transcribed tons of music (indie rock to indie classical stuff) until I developed my own compositional voice. In other words, I used my cover songs to inform my original stuff.

Musicians shouldn’t be segregated as performers, composers, educators, etc. We’re all musicians who share the same language, and we’re all capable of doing more than just reading our language. We can write it too.


Leave a comment; I would love to hear from you! If you’re a twitter person, you can find me @ivantrevino

Excited to announce some new pieces soon, including two world premieres at PASIC 2013 this year! More info soon.

8 thoughts on “On Composing

  1. Andrew Bullard says:

    Awesome article! I am a big fan or your compositions! Keep writing so I can keep learning and playing!

  2. Gary Bogue says:

    I like what you say about pulling ideas from cover songs. I suspect that many people who might enjoy composition are afraid of copying others’ work, believing that they need to create something altogether new or they’re not being “authentic”.

  3. Pingback: Intent Behind the Music; Selecting Works to Publish | kurthartle

  4. Thanks for the post! I really enjoy your music. I too never studied composition and I agree that everyone should compose. I have had a lot of fun writing music for percussion and I hope to include some other instruments in the near future. Thanks again!

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