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Topic: Best books on composition?

  1. #1

    Best books on composition?

    Hello everyone. I've lurked here for a couple of years, but never registered until today. I have a question, and as a GPO owner, I knew just the crowd to ask.

    I've reached a point in my life where I'd like to start taking musical composition more seriously, with the goal of eventually doing it for a living. I have over a decade of classical training behind me, but I've been away from music for a few years and I'm a little rusty.

    My question is: What books do Garritan customers consider essential for the aspiring composer? I'd like to expand my library a little bit and have a treatise or two (or three) to work through. I'm game for anything, whether it be about melody, harmony, counterpoint...whatever. Just let me know what you think is important and why.

    If it helps, I'm most interested in the world of film music (and possibly game music), but I'm not limiting my horizon to those fields just yet.


  2. #2

    Re: Best books on composition?

    Hi MacPhisto -

    I'm not a film composer (nor do I aspire to be one), but I feel confident in suggesting the following:

    1) Buy, or otherwise obtain, as many scores and CDs/downloads of film music as you can. Listen, study, and copy these till the cows come home.

    2) Enroll in a college or music school that has film music composition classes. Or, take lessons or apprentice yourself to a working film composer. If you're serious about this, take the steps necessary to make it happen. Don't sit at home waiting to be "discovered".

    3) Get as much practical work experience as you can. Write music for student films, cartoons, documentaries, commercials, industrials, games, etc. Anything to give you experience and credibility. Go out and find work. Don't wait for it to find you.

    You are not going to learn how to write music for films from a book, but you can learn a great deal about the technical aspects of the craft as well as the ins and outs of the business. I'll leave it to others to suggest such books.

    Lastly, here's a link I posted in another thread with LOTS of videos about film music & composers:


    - k
    "An artist is someone who produces things that people don't need to have, but that he - for some reason - thinks it would be a good idea to give them."

    - Andy Warhol

  3. #3

    Re: Best books on composition?

    You mention various things that are not exactly composition. Harmony, counterpoint, melody, etc.

    One thing to be clear: Without a teacher/tutor it will be hard to learn composition, unless you have it in you, but you can certainly read about techniques of composition.

    I would say that all theoritical studies have great value, but also not to "waste" tons of time studying harmony and counterpoint. I can certainly see how it has benefited me, but I can also see how other people take what they need with non immediate ways, and it simply works.

    On books though, oh boy I have trouble recomending any. I studied in Greece, so not sure what books in English exist.

    I can name orchestration books by Blatter and Adler, as well as the fabulous free course in the Garritan forums. I can also strongly recomend, if you're into such a thing the 20th century Harmony by Persicetti, which is excellent to introduce you to more contemporary ideas. Schoemberg has written classical harmony, but seems a bit too strict for my own taste, but I don't know any other book in English, or don't remember right now... Fux has written modal counterpoint, I believe (but not 100% sure really).

  4. #4
    Senior Member rpearl's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jan 2005

    Re: Best books on composition?

    The Shaping Forces of Music by Ernst Toch is not a composition book per se, but it is such an intelligent book on how melody, form, rhythm, and harmony come together in meaningful and expressive ways, that it could nearly function as one. I return to it from time to time, and am always surprised (and delighted) to learn something new.
    Ron Pearl





  5. #5
    Senior Member Leaf's Avatar
    Join Date
    Apr 2006
    Dallas, TX

    Re: Best books on composition?

    Quote Originally Posted by MacPhisto
    Hello everyone. I've lurked here for a couple of years,
    Lurkers of the world unite!

    Welcome MacPhisto... and sorry for the lame joke, i couldn't resist.

    Can't answer your question, but will be great to read the answers others give, great thread topic.

    I also second that recommendation for the online courses at this forum.


  6. #6
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Dec 2004
    New York, NY

    Re: Best books on composition?

    Well Macphisto, what kind of stuff do you write now?? Basically, do you write instrumental music, songs, a little of both... Why don't you tell us what kind of music do you write right now...

  7. #7

    Re: Best books on composition?


    I give free composition and orchestration lessons to selected pupils.
    But you must have Sibelius, which we use for passing scores back and forth.

    If you are interested, contact me at tdATquorndon.com

    Terry Dwyer

  8. #8

    Re: Best books on composition?

    Take a look at this book.

    It is not a "How to" guide to composing, but it does have a lot of practical info on the film music business in general and working therein.
    This book is a pretty good overview of the industry.

    It also includes interviews with several big name composers;
    Bernstein, Silvestri, Kamen, Elfman, David Newman, and others.

    In my opinion, this is overall a very good investment for $16.

  9. #9

    Re: Best books on composition?

    Thank you all for your responses. You've all provided some interesting ideas or recommendations.

    tradivoro: I'm a pianist by training, with somewhat of a neo-classical bent. John Williams was my hero when I was kid (now that I think about it, I guess he still is), and his musical styling has affected me more than any other. Frederic Chopin is a distant second. The music I write probably sounds more like Chopin than Williams, but then I've not really written for the orchestra yet. I'm still far more comfortable with the piano.

    Poolman: I'll definitely consider your offer! I'm a Sibelius user already, so that prerequisite is not a problem.

    Thanks again, everyone. I'm going to check out the books you've recommended.

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