5 Ways to Improve Music Composition for Self-Expression
Written by  Daisie Team
Published on 7 min read


  1. Improve melody writing
  2. Develop rhythmic sense
  3. Enhance harmonic knowledge
  4. Expand orchestration skills
  5. Cultivate musical storytelling

Looking to amp up your music composition skills for better self-expression? You're not alone. Many budding musicians and composers, just like you, are on a quest to discover new ways to make their music truly their own. By honing your melody writing, rhythmic sense, harmonic knowledge, orchestration skills, and musical storytelling, you can improve your music composition and paint a more vivid musical picture of your emotions and experiences. Let's dive right in!

Improve melody writing

A melody is the heart of any musical composition—it's the tune you hum, the notes that stick with you long after the song ends. If you're wondering how to improve music composition for self-expression, tweaking your melody writing skills is a great place to start.

Understanding the role of a melody

A melody is much more than a random sequence of notes—it's the musical line that guides your audience through the world you've created with your music. It's the message carrier, the emotion stirrer, and the memory maker. So, how do you create such a powerful tool?

  • Choose your key: Selecting the right key for your song can set the mood right at the start. Major keys are often associated with happy, uplifting tunes, while minor keys tend to evoke more somber, reflective feelings.
  • Work on note progression: A well-structured note progression can take your melody from ordinary to memorable. Experiment with different combinations of notes, and keep an ear out for what sounds pleasant and unique to you.
  • Use repetition wisely: Repeating certain parts of your melody can make it more catchy and memorable. But beware—not too much repetition, or your melody could become monotonous and lose its charm.

Experimenting with rhythms

Adding variety to your rhythm can make your melody more interesting and expressive. Here are a few ways to do it:

  1. Alternate note lengths: Mix long and short notes to add a dynamic quality to your melody. This can create a sense of movement and keep your audience engaged.
  2. Play with pauses: Silence can be just as expressive as sound. Strategically placed pauses can give your audience a moment to absorb the emotion of your music.
  3. Add syncopation: If you're feeling adventurous, try incorporating syncopation into your melody. This involves emphasizing off-beat notes, which can add a refreshing twist to your music.

Improving melody writing may seem like a daunting task, but remember—every great composer started from scratch. With patience, practice, and a keen ear for what sounds good to you, you'll be well on your way to creating melodies that capture your unique musical voice.

Develop rhythmic sense

Rhythm is the heartbeat of your music—it gives it life, motion, and energy. If you're curious about how to improve music composition for self-expression, developing a strong sense of rhythm is an essential step. Let's explore this in more detail.

Understanding rhythm

You can think of rhythm as the framework that holds your music together. It's the pattern of long and short sounds and silences that add structure and flow to your composition. So, how can you develop a better understanding of rhythm?

  • Learn to count beats: Understanding how to count beats in a measure is the first step towards mastering rhythm. Whether you're working with simple 4/4 time or complex 7/8 time, knowing how to count beats accurately can help you structure your composition effectively.
  • Listen actively: Music is all around us. By actively listening to different types of music, you can pick up on various rhythmic patterns and incorporate them into your own work.
  • Experiment with different time signatures: Don't be afraid to step out of your comfort zone. Experimenting with different time signatures can open up new rhythmic possibilities for your music.

Practicing rhythm

Developing a strong rhythmic sense takes time and practice. Here are a few ways you can hone your rhythm skills:

  1. Use a metronome: Practicing with a metronome can help you maintain a steady beat and improve your timing. Start slow and gradually increase your speed as you become more confident.
  2. Tap it out: Tapping out rhythms with your fingers or feet can be a fun and effective way to internalize different rhythmic patterns.
  3. Write your own rhythms: Try composing your own rhythmic sequences. This not only improves your rhythm skills but also encourages creativity and self-expression.

Remember, the goal is not to become a rhythm machine, but to develop a sense of rhythm that aligns with your unique musical voice. So take your time, enjoy the process, and let your rhythm guide your music to new heights of self-expression.

Enhance harmonic knowledge

Harmony is the glue that binds melody and rhythm together in a musical composition. It's like the color palette an artist uses to bring their vision to life. So, when it comes to improving music composition for self-expression, enhancing your harmonic knowledge can go a long way. Let's find out how.

Understanding harmony

Harmony in music is about the chords and chord progressions that support the melody. It sets the mood and character of your composition. But how can you deepen your understanding of harmony?

  • Learn the basics: Start with understanding scales, intervals, and basic chords. These are the building blocks of harmony in music.
  • Analyze music: Break down your favorite songs into their harmonic components. What chords are used? What feelings do they evoke? This can give you a better understanding of how harmony works.
  • Experiment with chord progressions: Don't be afraid to mix and match chords in unconventional ways. Sometimes, the most compelling harmonies come from unexpected places.

Practicing harmony

Like any other aspect of music, harmony requires practice. Here are some ways to refine your harmonic skills:

  1. Play different instruments: If you usually compose on a piano, try a guitar. Different instruments offer different perspectives on harmony.
  2. Reharmonize existing songs: This can be a fun exercise and a great way to explore new harmonic ideas. Take a song you know well, and try to create a new chord progression for it.
  3. Compose with a focus on harmony: Try writing a piece of music where harmony takes the lead. This can challenge you to think about harmony in new ways.

Enhancing your harmonic knowledge can open up a whole new world of musical possibilities. Remember, the goal isn't to learn every chord under the sun, but to understand how harmony can serve your unique musical voice. So dive in, explore, and let harmony add depth and color to your music composition for self-expression.

Expand orchestration skills

Think of your music composition as a painting, the orchestration is the brush you use to apply the colors of your melody, rhythm, and harmony. It's the art of assigning, layering, and blending different musical sounds. Expanding your orchestration skills can greatly improve your music composition for self-expression. But how?

Getting to know your instruments

Just as a painter needs to understand their brushes and paints, a composer needs to understand their instruments. Here are a few steps to get you started:

  • Study each instrument: Learn about the range, timbre, and the unique strengths of every instrument. It's like getting to know your team players!
  • Listen actively: Develop your ear by listening to music with a focus on the different instrumental parts. How do they interact? What role does each instrument play?
  • Experiment: Try writing for instruments you're unfamiliar with. This can stretch your compositional skills and lead to surprising results.

Mastering the art of orchestration

Once you're familiar with your instruments, it's time to orchestrate. Here are some ways to improve:

  1. Score study: Analyze the orchestrations in scores of music you admire. How has the composer used the instruments to support and enhance their music?
  2. Arrange and rearrange: Take a piece you've written and arrange it for different ensembles. This can give you insights into how different instrument combinations can affect your music.
  3. Orchestration exercises: Practice orchestrating simple melodies. It’s a lot like solving a puzzle, finding the right instrument for the right note at the right time.

Expanding your orchestration skills is a journey of discovery. It's about exploring the vast landscape of musical sounds and learning how to harness them to express your unique musical ideas. So, go on and take the leap. Your music will thank you for it!

Cultivate Musical Storytelling

Now that we've got some tricks up our sleeve for improving music composition, let's move on to another fascinating aspect—musical storytelling. This is the ability to convey narratives or emotions through music, which can significantly enhance self-expression in your compositions. But where do you start?

Understanding the Language of Music

To tell a story through music, you need to understand its language. Here's how to do just that:

  1. Embrace Dynamics: Like the rise and fall of a story, dynamics in music can express the emotional highs and lows. Experiment with volume levels to create tension, relief, surprise, or calm.
  2. Manipulate Tempo: Tempo, or the speed of your music, can dictate the mood. Fast can mean excitement or urgency, slow can translate to tranquility or sadness. Don't be afraid to play around with it!
  3. Explore Modulation: Changing keys within a piece can create a shift in the emotional landscape, similar to a plot twist in a story. It can take your listener on an unexpected journey.

Creating a Narrative Arc

With the language of music in tow, you're ready to create your narrative arc. This is your musical journey from start to finish.

  • Plan Your Journey: Just like a novel has a plot, your composition should have a structure. Is it a peaceful stroll in the park, or a grand adventure across the universe? Decide on the journey you want to take your listener on.
  • Develop Themes: Themes in music are like characters in a story. They can evolve, face challenges, and transform. Develop your themes and let them guide your musical narrative.
  • Express Emotion: Ultimately, music is about emotion. Let your feelings guide the process. If you're moved by your music, chances are, your listeners will be too.

Cultivating musical storytelling is all about connecting with your listeners on an emotional level—taking them on a journey they won't forget. And remember, every story is unique, just like every composer. So, what's your musical story?

If you want to take your music composition skills to the next level and express yourself more effectively, we highly recommend checking out the workshop 'Indie Film Composing: Building Your Composer Brand' by Daisy Coole. This workshop offers valuable insights and techniques for enhancing your compositions, helping you build a strong composer brand that resonates with your unique self-expression.