Can someone help me with this predicament?

I want to be a composer for symphonic bands, but don't know how to approach this. I am currently taking a college course in tonal harmony and using the harmony textbook by Kotska. My question is should i just wait until I've learned everything there is about harmony before attempting to compose? This is the backbone of what composers need to know, right? I don't want to start writing down melodies with no knowledge on how to harmonize them or extend it into larger forms until I know what I'm doing. Is this how composers do it? Do they just wait until graduate studies so they can approach composition properly? Or are they ways of being able to learn this by myself (textbooks, websites, etc.) If so, how can I possibly compose at this point if all I know is how to harmonize 1,4, and 5 chords?

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  • 6 years ago
    Best Answer

    Dany, you need a basic understanding of tonal progression and melodic development. However, there is no reason why you can't try your hand at composing a simple piece for band. In other words, learn to walk before you run!

    Keep studying your harmony, but you should also study musical form, orchestration and band arranging. There are a number of texts devoted to these subjects that you should be able to find at a college bookstore or on-line. Check out 'Form in Tonal Music' by Douglass Green or 'Form in Music' by Wallace Berry, 'The Technique of Orchestration' by Kent Kennan, and 'Band Scoring' by Joseph Wagner. You can probably find newer texts devoted to the same subjects, but these are pretty standard.

    You would also be wise to learn as much as you can about the instruments you are going to be writing for. And I don't mean out of a book! Get your hands on as many as possible, take lessons, play them and/or get players to show you about their instrument.

    You will also need to study counterpoint at some time to help free up your writing style.

    So, how to get started? Get the Green book and study the simple 2 or 3 part forms. Sketch out your melody, bass line and accompaniment parts. Set up your blank band score and orchestrate your composition using your sketch. Start simple. If possible find a band somewhere to play your work.

    That's all there is to it ! Hope this helps.

    The Bearcat

    published band composer

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