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Topic: Technique

  1. #1


    A long time ago I made a discovery that I want to share with you all so that we can debate.

    I asked myself what makes the difference between an amateur composer and a pro. The answer I got was--Technique.

    When I first started to compose I drilled music theory on the keyboard. I would run up and down the scales putting chords on each scale tone up to the ninth until I could do it reasonably well. That was just one of the things I did. Not just study books but actually drill the techniques until I could do it.

    What I notice in a lot of demos here, no one in particular, so please don't be offended, is just plain lack of technique.

    I also hear comments from others that too much music education is harmful. To me that's like saying to a pitcher that practicing is going to throw your game off. There's actually no such thing as over education, just under application of that which is learned through drilling.

    So how many of you sit down everyday and just bang around some raw composition, performing and production technique? How many people really spend the time to improve their chops?



  2. #2

    Re: Technique

    Not me. The realities of my world- being constantly busy, and flat out lazy when I'm not busy- and relying on computer tools have rendered my technique weak. BUT at least I'm aware of the fact, I know what it was like to have excellent technique and I can fake it when I work. That's relating to playing. Now as for composition, I'm one of those unwashed, untrained types- I just do what I do.

    Unfortunately I have some live shows later this year so I'm going to HAVE to practice a little and get it together- woe!

  3. #3

    Re: Technique


    I think you've made some great points. Technology has made it easier to make music that sounds passable, but to really compose good music takes a great deal of education, dedication, and skill.

    I'm taking composition lessons right now and agree that you have to drill this stuff until it's down cold. My instructor would probably wonder how much drilling I do given all the mistakes I've made.

    I think one other key is that you have to train your ears. The biggest frustration for me when I goof on my lessons is that the mistakes don't always sound wrong until I hear what the better choices are. But I suppose this is part of the learning process.

    I remain solely responsible for the content of my messages, and agree to indemnify and hold harmless northern sound source, and their agents with respect to any claim based upon transmission of my message(s). Rock on.

  4. #4

    Re: Technique

    I think there is a differents in "composing" and "making music".
    Making music is more composing, arranging and editing.
    So, if you have a melody in mind but the samplelibrary (Thats our theme here)
    does not sound good in one specific note you just take another note and people say: sounds good.
    When you just compose like the old classic guys did, you have to imagine
    how the musicians (sample librarys) will sound.
    One of the best clients in my studio is Prof. Manfred Schoof, the most famous
    european jazz-trumpet player since the 60´s.
    He writes everything on paper, comes to my studio and I put it into sound
    with my samples. After 15 years he knows my sounds very well and it influences his way
    of composing like when you write for a real orchestra.

    If you are not a genius you have to study compositing but there are some
    composers, I guess Errol Garner for example who never knew how to write a note.

    It does`nt matter how you make the music.
    The only thing thats important for me to call it a compositing is,
    that you make your music out of single tones and not by just putting some
    phrases together in software like Apples Soundtrack.

    Chris 'Hein

  5. #5

    Red face Re: Technique

    I am a basket case in this area. Practice sax and piano 2 hours a day, compose and study every orchestration, and composition book that I can. I actually schedule it into my day. Composition technique is just like performance technique. When I develop my ideas as I play jazz, technique no longer gets in the way. I want to be in the same place with my composing and orchestration. It takes time and patience!



  6. #6

    Re: Technique


    Since you're a jazz player (as I am), are the compositions and orchestrations you create in the jazz style or traditional "classical" genre?

  7. #7

    Re: Technique

    I think the difference between an amateur and a pro is that the amateur makes little or no money, and the true professional makes a living at it.

    That said, there are pros who are brilliant and pros who are hacks. There are amateurs who are geniuses and amateurs who might consider a different hobby.

    We all bring varying degrees of inner talent, intuition and style to the party. The lucky ones among us are truly gifted. Practice, technique, skills and experience with top tools allows the fair to become good, the good to become great and the great to excel.

    I figure that I bring some talent to the table in some areas, and am weak in others. I sure wish I had more time in the day - as well as the focus and self-discipline - to more quickly bring myself to the next level. I've improved during the past few years, but not as far as I would have liked.

    But I'll always be an amateur. Music is my hobby, not my job.


  8. #8
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Nov 2004
    between this place and that place

    Re: Technique

    Good post! for me I just keep writing new stuff and trying not to because I have to do the production on other music, but music just pops in my head and I have to write. I think What JohnFairhurst said is pretty good too.
    You deffinitly need to know the technique of what you are wriitng, be it jazz orchestration or classical orchestration, or laying down grooves, or just doing piano arrangement, you need know all the techniques of the styles for those styles.

    Example Technique of say Film Style Score, you have your ethreal voices, slow wind melody under some fx, or light Asian percussion, then the tempo changes and the cress roll with cymble introduces hard dark percussion, brass following the Rhythm of the percussion, strings supporting it, winds adding harmony, bassically full orchestra playing, the tempo is faster the music is epic now, then that ends and were back to our Ethreal voices with a light ryhthm and under that a harp with the wind instrument playing a closing
    statement. Just writing that out someone could compose that. So is that Technique of that style? (and that would be just one style)

    Probably, which by the way is done so many times...but works.
    so yea you need to know Technique of compositions and styles
    All I can Say is...HA!...HA!...HAAAAAAA!!!!!

  9. #9

    Re: Technique

    Hi Jose,

    Great question - and I am constantly struggling to understand the answer to it. We discussed it a while back on this thread:


    One thing I've noticed is how easy it is to know good technique when you hear it but difficult to quantify it with words.

    I posed this question to others and I got a lot of answers about technique being relative sort of like beauty being in the eye of the beholder. I felt differently though. It seems to me that even if one doesn't like the music, they can still hear good technique so it must be a universal quality - not relative.

    One quality I think requires good technique is the following:

    The ability to clearly communicate a musical expression, thought, or idea with the fewest possible notes.

    This should apply to any music that has good technique regardless of how much one likes to listen to the music. For example, one could hear good technique in the Beatles but not necessarily like to listen to their music.

    A quality of technique is efficincy of idea and expression. This is VERY very difficult to master and I am by no means an expert at it, but it is a useful exercise to try to answer the question and struggle to achieve it.

    I remember remember reading a quote of Leopold Stokowski about the Shostakovich prelude in B flat minor that he orchestrated. Stokowski said "it is amazing how much Shostakovich says with so few bars." I think this is an excellent example of good technique.


  10. #10

    Re: Technique

    It's time to define 'technique' as it applies to composition (as opposed to performance)

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