Recently, I’ve noticed how so many young composers, myself included, rarely write music for just for the sake of writing. And while it is difficult to find time to write amidst our busy lives, I think it’s a vital part of developing yourself as an artist.
There are two main reasons I would encourage any composer (especially the younger ones) to keep writing. First and most importantly, it helps you find your voice. Everyone knows what Jason Graves, Jessica Curry, or Jesper Kyd sounds like, and they are each hired for that sound. Those voices are shaped by personal experiences and influences, along with continuous composing. Having your own voice / style makes you the expert of that sound, and the first person of contact when that sound is needed. It is incredibly difficult to find yourself as a composer if you aren’t writing regularly.
Second, as you write, you continue to improve as a composer. Creating music is its own muscle, and like anything, requires continuous use to stay at top form. The best composers can consistently create strong pieces of music everyday, not because they are always “inspired”, but because they kept writing for both themselves and their clients, continually practicing and improving upon their creative abilities.
Additionally, this lets you try out new styles and genres! Now you’re prepared when you get that gig that wants an “urban, electric score”, and on the flipside, you know which genres to turn down because it won’t be your best work. Plus, it gives you the opportunity to write something that’s entirely you as an artist, and you can show it off when you get the question, “show me your best work.”
Strategies for Success
So now you’re thinking, “okay, but where do I start?” Just saying, “go write some music” is incredibly broad and the limitless possibilities can often shackle your creativity. How do you fix this? Here are three ways that help me overcome that.
Create constraints for yourself. That can be something as simple as your instrumentation, form, live instruments, length, time limit, etc. These constraints don’t hurt your creativity, but enhance it by forcing you to think outside of the box and by giving you context for the music you’re writing.
In a similar vein, have a vision for what you’re going to write. This will limit you naturally whether you realize it or not, and mimics a real gig where a client has a set vision for you. I think it’s difficult for us as media composers to compose on our own because we are so used to being inspired by the project we’re working on. So just create your own project vision, and stick to it. It could be a sweeping orchestral track, or an electronic battle track, or just a chill ambient piece. Whatever your vision is, lock it down before you start writing, and the piece tends to write itself pretty easily.
Finally, don’t try and write your best piece of music. I often find myself trapped because I don’t feel like what I wrote is my “best work”, and as a result I don’t finish the piece. Once you let go of the “this needs to be my best work ever” mentality, and just let the piece be what it’s going to be, the music becomes easier to write. And who knows, it may turn into some of your best work without you realizing it.
This is a track I wrote using the above methods. I wanted to try my hand at creating something in the electronic music genre – a style I don’t normally write but have been recently listening to and inspired by.
First, I created a basic vision for the piece. I decided I would use only one motif, and base every element off of that. No contrasting themes or motifs to the piece. It would hold interest through ear candy and changing orchestration. It was going to be a chill, low-key piece, with some light propulsion and drive. Finally, the piece would be about three minutes, and I wanted to finish it in the same day.
With these restrictions, I was able to hone in on the piece of music and achieve what I set out to do. I never tried to write my best music with this. Just explore a new genre and do the best you can. That was my mentality. I ended up liking the piece (rare for us artists), and had a couple of friends critique it before I finished. It ended up taking two days, and it was longer than three minutes. But hey! Now I have a pretty good electronic piece, I kept my writing muscles working, and I’m closer to finding my musical voice.
So it’s time to go write and begin the long journey of finding your voice as a composer! Thank you for reading, and if you’d like to check out more of my articles, you can find them here: www.alexandre-cote.com/blog