I posted this in another thread, and thought it might be useful to composers who have never thought about approaching a new composition so systematically. Some may be adverse to this, but others may profit greatly from it. Feel free to post comments, additions, etc.
1....Come up with a theme or motive you like. The shorter it is, the more that can be done with it. There are three types of motives one can use, and they are interchangeable if the composer chooses:
• Rhythmic2....Decide on the basic elements of the piece based on the themes that have been come up with:
• Intervallic (chromatic or diatonic)
• A combination of both.
• Length3....Decide on the structure of the piece:
• Time signature
• Key signature (if tonal)
3....With all of this in hand, a composer should have a perfect "sketch" to work with. It is reccomended that large works be composed as a piano reduction first, then orchestrated. That way you can analyze your own work much easier. Also, composers need not write orchestral or ensemble works first. They should write music for solo instruments (preferably their own), then piano, then quartets or quintets from each section of the orchestra (string, woodwind, brass, percussion), then move up to bigger and bigger orchestrations.
• Outline sections of different treatments of thematic material. In other words, the parts of the piece. No need to decide which will go first, second, etc. here. Just come up with as many sections as the theme will allow. If it starts to sound to far away from what has been come up with initially, you might consider putting that material aside for different movements or pieces altogether. Try to pick out the treatments of the theme that are the most closely related to each other without sounding the same.
• Depending on how many sections you have come up with, now it must be decided what order they will be in and which ones will repeat. For instance, if you came up with three different treatments of the theme, you could arrange them in several ways:
°Sonata: ABABCAB (Very simplified)
•The important thing, is to organize it somehow. This is very important.
• Decide on the "shape" of the piece. Always try to do this before composing. Decide where the climax will occur (never less than two-thirds of the way through). Pieces without climax will seem very dull. Pieces the climax occurs too soon in will seem overly long (even if they are short). There is some debate on putting the climax later, but I love to plop mine right on the Golden Proportion.. approx. 66% How you create a sense of climax can include several factors: dynamic extremes, range extremes, harmonic tension, etc.