[LAU] Cowboy composing

Tobiah toby at tobiah.org
Wed Dec 10 15:22:23 EST 2008

Leslie P. Polzer wrote:
> Hi folks,
> I'm looking for hints that will help me get started in composing
> a piece all of my own.

Think of the piece as written communication.  Have a major
theme in mind - the thing that you want to express with this
piece.  Let's say it's about your sunglasses.  Find out how
you feel about your sunglasses.

They are just so cool, only a fool, would use anything
else to block the sun.  Wear them with a smile, and all the
while there's no better way to have fun.

There is the chorus.

Now think of three things that support the chorus.

* They were inexpensive, I got a good deal.

* They protect my eyes from the sun.

* They make me look good, and women are more attracted
  to me when I wear them.

Now flesh out a rhyme for each and you have your verses.

Say the chorus over and over until the natural variations
in pitch and timing come about and think about translating
those into a melody.  Exaggerate the contours of both.

Write down the resulting notes of the melody and find out what
chords make sense harmonizing that melody.  Now juggle the chords
and the melody so that they are musically interesting.

Now you have the bones that you can hang meat off of.  Choose
your instruments, and record.  Season with catchy riffs and
percussion effects.

Taking a structured approach to the process, always driven
by keeping the main them of the communication in mind will
probably yield a surprising result.  Stick with only paper
and pencil as long as you can, then lean how to play your
piece.  If you start with your instrument you will inevitably
fall into the trap of having all of your pieces sound the same,
and you will limit your creativity to what your fingers already
know.  If you write the piece first, then learn how to play it
and sing it, you may experience the feeling that someone else
wrote the piece.  After writing many pieces you will find that
they may be quite diverse in style but still have an unmistakable
common feel.  That is your newly found compositional voice.

Evolve the process so that it is more personal and sophisticated.
You will find that you are never out of material, because
there is always something new in your life to express.  If you 
stick with the chords you already know, and use the two same
strumming patterns, you are guaranteed to run out of ideas

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