Welcome to The Everything® Music Composition Book! This book is designed to give you practical and realistic information about a subject that is complicated by gray areas, vagaries, and even contradictions. Many of these complexities derive from the sheer enormity of the subject matter. Composition in western history encompasses musical thought from (at least) the archaic period in ancient Greece to the present. That's over 2,500 years!
This book attempts to pare down this rich and detailed history to its essentials. However, the serious student of composition must view this text strictly as a starting point. On the other hand, if you want to compose just to have fun, you should find enough information here to get you up and running.
If you've ever studied composition, you probably know that educators and authors tend to advocate strict “rules.” Truth be told, this book does fall into this category on occasion. However, great care has been taken to educate and inform you without stifling your creativity and imagination. After all, the goal is to create music that is unique to you.
Compositional rules are helpful since they are modeled after the works of great composers such as J.S. Bach. Therefore, you shouldn't violate these musical “laws” out of ignorance, laziness, or just plain stubbornness. However, rules ultimately do not tell the story of music as an art form. If the rules were never broken, visionaries like Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Frédéric Chopin, John Cage, and Billy Strayhorn would not have existed. Instead, the world would be listening to academic exercises. In the end, composition is more about you and your relationship with sound than any “rule.”
Before you begin studying this book, keep in mind that this publication views music, like all art, as subjective. As such, aesthetic judgments about what is “superior” and what is “inferior” are not considerations. For example, this book will not compare composers in an attempt to prove that one is “better” than another.
This book also rejects the derogatory term “serious music” and instead suggests that all music is serious and worthy of consideration. Along these same lines, music will not be judged by a hierarchy and you will not hear the terms “low art” or “high art” used to describe any composition or musical style.
This book has three main categories:
“How to” Instruction
Resource guide (Appendices)
Further, the instructional aspects of the book are divided into two parts:
General information about composition.
General information about specific instruments and voice. Bear in mind: this book seeks only to introduce you to select instruments. See Appendix B for additional resources.
You may move through the chapters in any order you choose since information is not necessarily presented in a strict, cumulative fashion. The only exceptions to this are Chapters 4–8, which deal with the basic elements of music.
Lastly, this book assumes that you play an instrument of some kind. If you don't, your first task is to take one up. Every composer should have a primary instrument for the simple reason that composers who are not musicians generally do not make good composers. As a composer, it's important to be involved with the actual mechanics of making music. (As you will learn later in the book, the central instrument in western music is the piano, so it would be a good idea to study this instrument even if you don't plan to write piano music.)
It's hoped that The Everything® Music Composition Book gives you the tools you need to begin composing music. In some ways, composing music is a lot like a treasure hunt. It is the search, and the hopeful acquisition, of something rare and exceptional. Your mission begins now; enjoy the journey.