How to Compose Music??

Want to know how to compose music? Whether you're a total beginner or a skilled musician, read on to find out how to create your own songs.

Enroll in a class and take lessons for a beginners instrument if you are not already playing an instrument. You will need to be able to play the something at least at a basic level. Please do not assume piano is the only way to go. Yes it is conventional, but many composers have begun their compositional careers on instruments such as the guitar, oboe and clarinet.

 Learn to actually listen to the musical devices and their sound. 

Learn the musical scales. the most powerful scale tool musicians have is the diatonic modes, which are just scales, starting on different root notes. 

You will need to know all about music theory. Take a class in high school or college, or even teach yourself via the internet. You will need the knowledge regardless of how you learn it. 

You may want to take easy and well-known pieces and try to switch them around, make your own version of them, change the key, and alternate the chords. Be creative! 

Listen to other composers' music to learn techniques through instrument combination or rhythms that get the most out of each emotion. 

Understand that after creating the melody, knowledge of harmony and accompaniment is essential. Some helpful things to look up for an accompaniment would be chord progressions and scale knowledge. Remember that music theory was made so each musician wouldn't have to experiment as much when making music. 

Know the sounds of each instrument used in your composition. Know which instruments fit into the category of music (e.g. String Quartet ~ 2 violins, viola, cello; Brass Quintet: 2 trumpets, horn, trombone, tuba).

Sit at the piano or pick up a guitar and have fun. Play by ear. Play things and see if they sound good together. If you want to be able to play the same thing again later, try using a MIDI keyboard. It can be hooked up to a computer, and will print your notes onto sheet music for you. 

If you have good ear training try to make a melody in your head, then hum it, and pass it to the guitar or piano. This takes a lot of practice and dedication, but is a great composing tool. 

Have a notebook with the musical staff and pencil handy, if you don't use a MIDI keyboard. Write the note combinations that sound good to your ear. With guitar, write down the chords and guitar lines you play. It will help you to be familiar with music so you can name the chords and know the notes/scales that should be played along with the chord. 

Create a rough draft. Just like a written composition in English class, music requires multiple revisions before the final piece is ready. Build off your melody. The best thing here is imagination. Don't forget about dynamics, expressions, or articulation. 

Utilize contrary motion. Contrary motion is the technique of having one line go down while the others go up. This is an extremely useful technique that will rapidly improve the sound of your piece. 

Consider carefully the structure of the piece; if it has sections make them clear, and keep the listener interested. Try to think where the listener will become bored, and be brutal with your judgments. Also, read up on musical forms. 

If you are a student, go to your music teacher and ask him/her for help. Often you will find they are more willing than you assume. 

Use counterpoint. It is a defining feature of classical-era music, and will make your piece sound really amazing. (


Composing From Rhythms

  1. Start from the rhythmic foundation (percussion and bass), the chord progression (guitar and/or keys), or the melody (lead guitar/keys). Songs have a definite structure to them. You want to get to the foundation as soon as you can, to create a strong base for your piece.
  2. Create a groovy bass line that complements the melody but doesn't copy it note for note (use counterpoint for example).
  3. Make a drum beat starting with just the kick and snare that complements and supports the bass line. Note: just lay down a basic beat to act as a template. Once you go to the other sections you can return to change things up a little based on the progressive sound of the song. Quite often I find I have a vision of what I'm trying to write and it will morph into something new. You have to be able to make adjustments along the way.
  4. Create a rhythm that complements the core/ foundation of the song. Start with a basic chord progression and build/ change from there. For example a chord progression may use I, III, and V (ex C, E, G) and fall into a: I, III, pattern for example (where I is the root of the chord and III and V are the next two higher notes in the chord).
  5. Play individual notes randomly, then see which ones sound good playing at the same time and use that to build chords from scratch.
  6. While you write the music, write lyrics to the song. You may have lyrics, then tailor a song to match them, or do the lyrics after the rhythmn. The thing to keep in mind to to ensure you tell a good story. Don't be afraid to change lyrics or the music to achieve the best mutual fit.
  7. Make sure you put in all the essential elements: Intro, verse, hook, bridge(optional), and outro/CODA. Let the lyrics help guide you if you have lyrics.
  8. Pick a key idea of the song or a catchy phrase and a cool guitar/ keyboard lick to create a melody. Choose the mood or style of the song. You'll know you're there when you can't get the phrase/ lick out of your head! Quite often a 2-8 word phrase will do it ("shoulder lean", "love shack, baby love shack", etc).
  9. Once you have it to this point add a pad, sound effects, lead parts, etc.
  10. If your song "tastes right" then you've done a good job
  11. Record and listen back to your song as a music critic (would you listen to this on the radio or change the station?). Let others listen to it and make suggestions.
  12. Go back and make any adjustments you need to, but be warned! too many adjustments will make your song sound/ "taste" terrible, Do not over correct.

Composing from Chords

  1. Keep in mind that some of these steps are - clearly - for songs with guitars. You don't have to follow all of them exactly - in fact, some of them can just be omitted if you don't need them for the kind of music you play. It's not recommended that you do, but follow the general outline.
  2. Pick a scale/mode for a note. Any one works. If you're writing a progressive song, then you have the option of picking more than one, just make sure the two aren't the same thing (check out the notes in each scale and make sure that they are significantly different). The chomatic scale is usually sonically pleasing.
  3. Find out the chord configuration for that scale/mode (the major scale, starting from the first degree, is as follows: major, minor, minor, major, major, minor, diminished, seventh, ninth). Add chords of two to four notes to some melody notes to produce harmony.
  4. Come up with a drum beat. Don't overdo and try to "display all your talent," especially if the tempo of the song doesn't call for it. Try different beats and speeds (tempo) of the beats form an electronic drum source. Start with a slow tempo and insert the melody into the rhythm.
  5. Write the rhythm and lead guitar riffs. If you're writing an upbeat song, you can use full/barre chords, power chords or both. If you're writing a slow, calm song, only use full/barre chords, or there will be nothing in the song worth listening to. If you're going for the heavy metal song, then you can use the higher note/bass note patterns that At the Gates popularized for flavor or groove (although it's not recommended that you do it a whole lot, or else you'll seem like you're hopping on the mallcore train), power chords can provide the chord progression, and full/barre chords can add something different.
  6. Add the other instruments. Bass can follow the chord progression, but also has the option of doing whatever as long as it stays in the key everyone else is playing in. Keyboards/pianos generally follow the chord progression, although some bands have keyboardists that follow the lead guitar part.
  7. Write the lyrics if you have them. Come up with the chorus, bridge, etc. Progressive songs don't necessarily need the song structure.
  8. Add the extras such as solos, etc.


  • Do not make your song more complicated than it needs to be! The biggest mistake composers can make is to show off their theory knowledge and create a piece that is nearly impossible to play, and looks complicated when written out.
  • If your music doesn't come out the way you may want it to, don't give up! Remember, it's your piece and you can do what ever you want with it!

Things You'll Need

  • Instruments
  • Music Writing Software

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