Composers and Composing

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Published: 31st August 2012
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In music, there are different talents. Performing an instrument, including singing, is one talent; conducting is another; and composing is yet a whole other. Musicians tend to have a penchant for one more than the other, and where they have such a niche, their talents tend to shine there most.

For example, let's look at two child prodigies. One is a six-year-old who plays violin exceptionally. The other, of the same age, plays piano very well. The first child's inclination and passion is with the violin. The second child's is with the piano. These two enjoy playing their respective instruments. But now let's take a look at a third child, who, while taking music lessons, discovered that he likes to add his own rhythmic variations and harmonies in order to create his own songs and melodies. These children each have different inclinations and, as you can see, these tend to blossom early on. All, however, are considered musicians. So, the composer is definitely a musician.

Composers know how to play their desired instrument, but they need not be a virtuoso necessarily in order to compose. Some of the greats, however, were, such as Beethoven, who was a genius in all aspects, including being a multi-instrumentalist. But most composers do not tend to practice long hours of repetitive patterns like instrumentalists do; they rather devote their time to writing their own works. These are in fact two different disciplines.

Among world-class performers and recording artists, we do find those who are well known for their own compositions. However, the talent for most lies in bringing to life what others have composed by embracing their essence and message. As a matter of interesting fact, you will be surprised to know how many famous pop and rock artists had other songwriters.

Due to a certain misconception, many people hold unfair expectations of performers, composers or conductors in that they assume that an expertise in one automatically indicates an expertise in another. That's like expecting a gynecologist to prescribe you a hearing aid. Musicians may or may not be one or the other, but you will tend to notice where their primary ability lies. Though these talents are in essence specialty areas, what they share in common are the basics. Therefore, all musicians should be educated in the basics of music - all aspects.

Composers have a natural feel for harmony. They recognize it better because they have an inclination to, since it is such an integral component of creating a musical piece. The same can be said for melody and also for understanding different rhythmic patterns and variations.

Since improvising is such a key stock-in-trade in composing, composers tend to have the ability to transpose into different keys easily. Incidentally, the keyboard, a polyphonic instrument, is the most common tool for composers, and very valuable for any musician to know, actually.

Composing methods vary from person to person. For some, it comes fast; for others, it's more methodical; everyone has their own way. Even among the renowned greats, this was the case.These are simply individual idiosyncrasies and have no bearing on talent. To each his own in that regard.

Since composing comes naturally, it seems that it is a relatively simple process, but it isn't. It requires time and energy on top of knowledge of music, for a piece to manifest itself properly. The more one is educated in music, the more freedom one has to express onself – the more tools in ones arsenal, which means that creativity can manifest itself more optimally.

by Evelyn Simonian
© 2012. Evelyn Simonian

Evelyn Simonian is a pianist and music teacher who applies “music with movement” to her students. She has been featured in televised interviews as well as several magazine and newspaper articles.

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