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Miscellaneous Concerns


1. Getting Started
2. Motivation / Dry Spells
3. Creative Principles
4. Helping Factors
5. Miscellaneous Concerns

FAQ Contents


Is it OK to compose at the piano?

Everyone must develop their own approach to creating. Many use improvising at the piano to get the ideas flowing. However, at some point in the creative process, it is better to get away from the keyboard for a more object view. Certainly, you should not let your fingers and reflexes dictate what you write. Composing is a atter of LISTENING and thinking. It is possible that reflexes can suggest a starting point. For instance, the chords at the beginning of Stravinsky's Symphony of Psalms and also those at the start of Danses des Adolescentes from Le Sacre du Printemps were both suggested by hand positions on the keyboard. While the ideas came from something tactile, what Stravinsky did with them had nothing to do with the keyboard. Furthermore, there is nothing wrong with writing music which lies well for the instrument. Piano music should be pianistic. Clarinet music should be clarinetistic!

Why is it so important to write down my music?

Notating your music is the best way to clarify your ideas, especially the rhythmic ones. Also, analysis and self-criticism are much easier with a written copy. For a composition lesson, it is essential that you bring your music already notated, on paper or on computer disk. Verbal descriptions and demonstrations at the keyboard are impossible to evaluate effectively.

How can I find a title for my piece?

There are a number of methods you can try. Normally, your title should reflect the basic idea of the composition. But it doesn't have to! Consider some of the titles of works by Milhaud and Satie. Recently, designations like "Symphony No. 2" and "Sonata" are coming back into vogue. In some ways, a title serves as a kind of packaging. It should be interesting enough that listeners will want to find out what is "inside."

What are some of the opportunities for composers?

The most comprehensive list of opportunities for composers is published by the American Music Center. A membership allows you to receive their Newsletter and Opportunity Update as well as discounts on brochures such as Opportunities for Composers (a listing of grants, competitions, etc.) and Contemporary Music Ensembles: A Directory. Ask for their Information Packet.

Isn't composing expensive, at least in the initial stages?

There are certainly expenses for getting your music notated, performed and recorded, but you should consider this an investment -- in yourself.

Should I purchase a computer for my work?

A computer, notation program and synthesizer are very useful tools for producing a score, especially a large one. It's much easier to listen for wrong notes than to find them visually. And, of course, computers can extract parts! Music notation programs are only tools and should not be a factor in creative decision making.

How do I get my music copyrighted?

Unless you're a big name rock star, there isn't much reason to apply to the Library of Congress for copyright. The small circle-c (©), date and your name at the bottom of the first page is sufficient. Publishers actually prefer that you not register your own copyright. If, at a later time, it is accepted for publication, they will have to re-file for a change of ownership.

How do I get my work published?

Concentrate first on writing music and getting it recorded, on cultivating working relationships with performers and on developing an audience. After you have a body of work, you may approach a publisher, usually, this is after you have a number of significant performances to your credit. Publishers doesn't just print your music, they invest in the person and that person's potential.


- James Fry
- April 17, 1996

Please give credit to the author if you reproduce or use parts of this FAQ.