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To compose music is to create music.

Learning music and learning to play a musical instrument is to study the language of music, to know music, to develop the musical mind and bring forth one's musical creativity. However, learning music is not only about being able to read and play music well.

Composing is one of the most creative processes in music. Some of us can achieve this quite easily while it can be a struggle for others. There are many musically inclined people who never studied music formally but can easily compose music. They do this simply by using their musical mind. They can 'hear' music in their head. Majority of us have musical minds. It is only through personal interest in music or through learning music that we begin to develop our musical mind.

For music students though, to begin composing is not to sit thinking or staring at a piece of manuscript paper hoping that some idea will kick in. I am rather amused when I see students trying to 'think' when attempting to compose music. The idea of 'thinking' in such a situation will be quite unproductive.

In fact, the process should be as simple as 'singing' a short musical idea (motif). Most music students seem to find this method impossible because they are always trying to 'think'. Instead, try to 'hear' a musical line (idea) in your head and hum it out vocally. Everything begins from an idea. Likewise with music. There has to be an opening phrase to get things going. Just go ahead and try out as many musical ideas as you can.

To create the opening phrase may require some effort. Hum out a musical phrase and you may have to do it a few times. Listen intently to it and decide if you like it. If not, try another musical idea until you chance upon one that you like better. Once you have found the opening phrase you prefer, try it a few more times so that you can remember it and to let it inspire you to create a continuing second phrase from this. From here, it goes on in the same manner until you have a complete song.

Listening to lots of music from diverse musical styles is a stimulation to start getting musical ideas. From listening, we get a better appreciation and understanding of musical tones. We also begin to get a 'feel' for phrasings and rhythm in the melody. The rhythm part means using a mixture of music notes (minims, crotchets, quavers, etc) to make our melody interesting.

The opening phrase is not to be a continuous long melody. Everyone who listens to popular music whether it is an instrumental or vocal piece (with lyrics) will note that every song opens with a short to medium phrase. Only classical pieces tend to have much longer and quicker lines, though not all.

A complete song does not have to be a long piece. It can be as little as 12 bars of music up to 48 bars, or even more.

Here are some points to consider:
  • Create a 'catchy' melody that is memorable.
  • Avoid too many repeated notes as it can sound monotonous.
  • Requires a mix of different note types of different note values.
  • Ingenious use of chords can greatly improve the composition.
  • Be adventurous with the range of notes.
  • Be sure that the melody is singable.

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