Tips For Composing On Piano

So you’re looking to start composing your own music? Fantastic! We’re firm believers at Millers that the best songs are ones that haven’t been written yet!

At first, the world of composing, particularly on piano, can seem a little overwhelming, but we’ve spoken with various artists and composers and accumulated their knowledge into  a handful of easy, simple tips and easily actionable tricks to help you begin to create your own masterpieces. 

One thing that is worth noting here however is that the creative process is different for everyone and whilst this list is designed to help get your creative juices flowing, it is not a definitive list and whilst these tips may help some, they may not work for everyone!

Ultimately the joy of composing is an incredibly personal thing and part of that journey is finding your own method of composing, got an idea that you’d like to share? We’d love to hear about it on social media using the #MillersMusic!

Tip 1: Don’t over-complicate things!

The best and first piece of advice when it comes to composition is to try to not overcomplicate your work before you’ve even gotten started! We often see many musicians fall into the trap of trying to add too much flare into their sound when they’ve only just sat down at their piano. 

Instead of going too crazy to begin with, a fantastic place to begin is to find the signature melody or melodies that you think are going to drive your piece forwards. 

This melody doesn’t have to be particularly complicated or technical (you’ll likely be repeating it a few times in your composition!), just try to make it memorable and recognisable. As you do begin to write, follow the melody where it takes you. It can sometimes be fun to think “Could I imagine people humming along to this?”

Tip 2: Decide what is the piece trying to convey

All great music sparks emotion and feeling, whether it be happiness, sadness, anger, excitement or even sleepiness!

With so much possibility out there and room for interpretation and expression, a great place to start is to use your melody and naturally feel which feelings it takes you to. This will help give the piece more structure and character as you begin to compose around it.

Likewise, when it comes to emotion, if you’re not quite sure which emotions your piece feels like…make one up!

Blending emotions and feelings can be a fantastic way to create something completely unique! How about a happy sleepy piece? Or an angry happy piece? How about an excited sad piece? The possibilities truly are endless – If you’re a little stuck for ideas here, try using words and feelings that you only really get in other languages! There are plenty of German words for feelings that we simply don’t have in English, they may help your creative process too! For example: Weltschmerz, this is the German word for describing the feeling of having the weight of the world on your shoulders.

Tip 3: Express, but don’t lose focus!

Whilst expressiveness is fantastic and should absolutely be part of your composition, it’s often easy enough to get lost in the music and whilst the first part of your composition may sound fantastic, as the piece progresses, it may shift into another realm or feeling entirely that doesn’t quite blend with the first half. Sometimes this style of composition may work, but for the most part, especially if you’re just getting started, it’s easy for the song to feel rather jarring or perhaps a little ‘odd’ where the piece feels like two separate pieces that have been mashed together. 

Also, it’s worth noting that a great number of songs actually originated as spin-offs from other compositions. If you’ve managed to accidentally create an amazing second melody whilst composing, write it down and save it for another day instead of feeling like you have to force it into your current composition.

Tip 4: Embellish and Annunciate

Now you have an amazing melody driving your piece along, we don’t want that melody to seem static throughout the piece, adding perhaps one or two embellishments throughout the piece can really help bring it to life. You might play your melody twice the same exact way, but by the third time you ought to be embellishing it so that even though it’s the same melody, it sounds different.

That might mean playing it in a different octave, adding more bass, more flair, or a slightly different rhythm. However you do it, it should enhance the melody throughout the piece. Don’t let it grow stale or your beautiful melody will begin to grate on your listeners’ ear.

Tip 5: Don’t Rush

Every great artist knows that art takes time and in reality, depending on your work style and the size of the composition you are writing, it’s important to know that it might take years to complete a piece.

Every now and again lightning may strike and you’ll write a piece in a few hours, but for the most part, particularly when it comes to piano composition, it’s not uncommon for a standard composition to take anywhere from 6-9 months to complete.

The most important part here it to not become frustrated, at the end of the day composition is a leisure activity and if you’re really not having fun with it, set the composition aside for a while and come back to it later. Sometimes if you take a couple months off of a song, then come back to it, you’ll find it easier to actually finish it.

Tip 6: Get Recording!

Finally, have a digital recorder, or microphone set up (or even just your phone!), start recording your snippets. There’s nothing more frustrating than having a great idea, getting interrupted, and then forgetting it. That’s why we always recommend keeping a device nearby to record your masterpieces in action. Once the piece is finished, it can even be fun to listen back to these snippets and see how your work has progressed!

So there you have it! Now unleash your sound unto the world! We would love to hear your one piano compositions, be sure to share your sound with us using the #MillersMusic, or if you are looking to start your compositions on an upgraded instrument, contact our experts today!

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