Practical Tips for Better Music Composition
Written by  Daisie Team
Published on 9 min read


Have you ever sat down at your piano, guitar, or other instrument, and found yourself stuck in a musical rut? You're not alone. Whether you're a seasoned maestro or a budding musician, knowing how to improve music composition for skill development is a common challenge. This blog will provide you with practical, easy-to-understand tips to enhance your music composition skills. Let's dive in!

Study Theory and Harmony

The first step in improving your music composition skills is to study theory and harmony. This might sound a bit intimidating, but it's not as complex as it seems.

Music theory is simply the language of music. It's about understanding how notes, scales, and chords work together to create melodies and harmonies. So, how can you get started with music theory? There are many online resources and books available that can help you learn the basics.

Next, let's talk about harmony. Harmony in music is the process by which individual sounds are bound together. It's what makes a piece of music sound complete and pleasing to the ears. To improve your understanding of harmony, try to learn and play different chord progressions on your instrument.

Incorporating these elements into your practice routine will help you develop a deeper understanding of music, which is key to improving your composition skills. Remember, practice makes perfect, so be patient with yourself and enjoy the journey of skill development.

By studying theory and harmony, you're arming yourself with the tools needed to compose music that resonates with listeners and stands the test of time. So, what are you waiting for? Dive into the world of theory and harmony and see how it enhances your music composition abilities!

Listen to different genres

Now that you've begun mastering theory and harmony, let's discuss another important aspect of improving your music composition skills: broadening your musical horizons.

Listening to different genres of music is like opening a door to a world of diverse musical elements. Each genre has its unique characteristics, structures, and techniques that you can explore and incorporate into your compositions.

Do you usually listen to rock? Give jazz or classical music a go. Are you a pop music fan? Try exploring folk or blues. You'll be surprised at how much you can learn from genres outside your comfort zone. You might even stumble upon new rhythms, melodies, or chord progressions that spark your creativity.

Remember, variety is the spice of life—and the same holds true for music composition. By exposing yourself to different genres, you're not only enhancing your musical understanding but also fueling your creative engine. So, don't limit yourself to just one genre. Explore, experiment, and see what resonates with you.

Who knows? You might find inspiration in an unexpected place. After all, great composers aren't born—they're made, molded by a myriad of influences and experiences. So, why not enrich your musical palette and see how it transforms your compositions?

Experiment with music structures

There's a certain comfort in familiar territory. But if you're wondering how to improve music composition for skill development, it's time to shake things up a bit. Let's talk about experimenting with music structures.

Typically, most songs follow a standard structure: verse, chorus, verse, chorus, bridge, and final chorus. It's a tried-and-true pattern that works, but it's not the only game in town. Have you ever tried to compose a song without a chorus? Or what about a piece that starts with a bridge?

Breaking free from traditional structures can feel like stepping off the edge of a map. But trust me, it's an adventure well worth taking. The more you experiment, the more you'll discover your unique voice and style as a composer.

Consider trying out different song forms like AABA, ABAB, or even something as abstract as ABCDE. These aren't random letters; they represent different sections of a song. For instance, in an AABA structure, 'A' could be a verse and 'B' could be a bridge. The possibilities are endless.

Remember, there's no one-size-fits-all when it comes to music composition. It's all about finding what works for you and your music. So, go ahead, step outside the box, and experiment with different music structures. You might just stumble upon a new composition technique that elevates your music to the next level.

Use various instruments

When it comes to composing music, instruments are like paintbrushes for a painter. Each one brings a unique color and texture to your composition. That's why learning how to use various instruments can be a game-changer in your quest to improve music composition for skill development.

Think about it: a melody played on a piano will have a different feel than the same melody played on a guitar. The texture, the tone, the dynamics—each instrument brings its own flavor. And the more instruments you can use, the more flavors you have at your disposal.

Now, this doesn't mean you need to master every instrument out there. But having a basic understanding of how they work, and their unique sounds, can help you create rich and diverse compositions.

How about incorporating a violin for a haunting melody, or a flute for a light and airy feel? Or spice things up with some percussion—bongos, tambourines, or even a maraca. Why not?

So, the next time you sit down to compose, don't limit yourself to the instruments you're familiar with. Step out of your comfort zone and explore new sonic possibilities. The result might surprise you!

Create a melody first

Here's a secret from the music composition playbook: start with the melody. You know, that catchy tune that sticks in your head long after the song has ended? Yep, that's the one. So, how to improve music composition for skill development? Simply start with creating a captivating melody!

The melody is the backbone of a composition—it's what listeners often remember the most. It's the tune you hum in the shower, the rhythm you tap on your steering wheel. It's the heart and soul of a song.

But how do you create a good melody? That's a million-dollar question, isn't it? The answer lies in balancing repetition and variation. A catchy melody often has a pattern that repeats, but with slight variations to keep it interesting. Think of it as a conversation: you don't want to keep saying the same thing over and over, but you also don't want to jump from topic to topic without any connection.

So, the next time you start a new composition, try starting with the melody. It might feel strange at first, especially if you're used to starting with chords or rhythm. But give it a try—you might find that it opens up a whole new world of musical possibilities.

Remember, practice makes perfect. So, keep at it, and soon, creating captivating melodies will become second nature to you. And that, my friend, is a surefire way to improve your music composition skills.

Be consistent with rhythm and tempo

Now that you have your melody, let's talk about rhythm and tempo. You've probably heard these terms before, but what do they really mean in the context of music composition? And more importantly, how can understanding them help improve your music composition skills?

Rhythm, in the simplest terms, is the pattern of sounds and silences in music. It's the beat that makes you tap your feet, snap your fingers, or sway your body. Tempo, on the other hand, is the speed of the beat. A fast tempo can make a song feel energetic or upbeat, while a slow tempo can make it feel calm or melancholic.

When composing music, consistency in rhythm and tempo plays a key role. Imagine you're listening to a song that suddenly changes tempo without warning. It might feel jarring, right? The same goes for rhythm. A sudden change can disrupt the flow of the composition, making it hard for listeners to follow along.

That's not to say you should never change rhythm or tempo. Sometimes, a well-placed change can add depth and interest to a composition. But as a rule of thumb, it's best to maintain consistency unless you have a good reason to change.

So, the next time you're composing, pay attention to your rhythm and tempo. Develop a steady beat, and let it guide your composition. It may seem like a small thing, but you'd be surprised at how much of a difference it can make. After all, consistency is the key to mastering any skill, and music composition is no different.

Add textures and layers to the composition

Just like a good cake has different layers, a great composition has different musical textures. Think of each layer as a different instrument or voice, and the texture as how these layers interact with each other. Intrigued? Let's dive in deeper.

Now, you might be wondering—why bother with textures and layers? Well, adding layers to your composition can create depth and richness. And a good texture can make your music more interesting to listen to. It’s like adding color to a blank canvas; it brings your composition to life!

So how do you add textures and layers to your composition? Start by introducing one instrument at a time. Maybe you start with a piano melody, then add in a soft drum beat. Gradually, you can introduce more instruments like the guitar, bass, or even a violin. Remember, each instrument plays a unique role and adds a distinctive layer to your composition.

As for the texture, it could be anything from a simple melody with a single instrument, to a complex symphony with multiple instruments playing at once. The key is to find a balance that suits your composition. Too many layers, and your music might sound chaotic. Too few, and it might sound dull.

So go ahead and experiment. Try different combinations of instruments and textures until you find what works best for your composition. Remember, the goal is to create a rich, engaging sound that captures the listener's attention. And who knows? You might just discover a new sound that takes your music composition skills to the next level.

Build on a Theme

Have you ever noticed how some of the most memorable songs have a recurring theme? Whether it's a melody, a rhythm, or a lyrical idea, a theme can be the glue that holds your composition together. It's kind of like the chorus in a pop song—it's the part you remember and sing along to.

So, how can you build a musical composition around a theme? Here's a simple way to start. Pick a simple melody or rhythm that you like. Then, use that as the foundation for your composition. In a sense, you're making this melody or rhythm the 'star' of your song.

Once you have your theme, you can start to build around it. You might add other melodies or rhythms that complement your theme. Or, you might develop variations of your theme. For example, you could change the tempo, rhythm, or instrumentation of your theme to create a different mood or feel.

Building on a theme is a great way to give your composition structure and coherence. Plus, it's a fun challenge that can help you grow as a composer. So next time you sit down to write a song, try building on a theme. You might be surprised at the results!

Rewrite and Revise

Let's face it—no one gets it perfect on the first try. Even Mozart and Beethoven had to revise their compositions. So, if you're wondering how to improve your music composition for skill development, don't overlook the power of rewriting and revising.

Think of your first draft as your creative playground. This is where you let your ideas flow freely, without worrying too much about whether they're 'good' or 'bad'. But once you've got your ideas down, it's time to put on your editor's hat.

As you revise, pay close attention to the flow of your composition. Do the different parts fit together? Is there a smooth transition from one part to the next? Is there anything that feels out of place, or that distracts from the main theme?

Also, don't be afraid to cut. If a part of your composition isn't working, it's better to remove it than to let it drag down the rest of your song. Remember, every note, every chord, every rhythm should serve the overall composition.

Finally, give yourself permission to take a break. Sometimes, stepping away from your composition for a day or two can give you a fresh perspective. Then, when you come back to it, you'll be able to see and hear things that you might have missed before.

So, ready to take your composition to the next level? Grab your instrument, your notebook, or your software, and start revising!

Ask for Feedback

Let's be honest, we all need a little help sometimes. If you're looking for ways on how to improve music composition for skill development, seeking feedback can be a game changer.

Now, you might think, "But it's my composition. I should be able to figure it out on my own." While it's true that you're the ultimate decision-maker for your music, getting an outside perspective can often shed light on areas you might have overlooked.

Who should you ask? Well, anyone who's willing to listen! Maybe it's a fellow musician who can give you some technical advice. Or a friend who doesn't play an instrument but has a good ear for music. Or even your listeners—if you're sharing your music online, consider asking for feedback in the comments.

When asking for feedback, be specific with your questions. Instead of just asking "What do you think?", try asking "What do you think of the melody in the chorus?" or "Does the tempo feel right to you?" This way, you're more likely to get constructive feedback that you can actually use.

Remember, feedback isn't about finding out whether your music is 'good' or 'bad'. It's about finding ways to make your music better. So, go on and ask away—your music will thank you for it!

If you're looking to improve your music composition skills and take your creations to the next level, check out Debbie Knox-Hewson's workshop, 'How to Get Better at What You Do - Go from Good to Great!'. This workshop will provide you with practical tips and techniques to elevate your music compositions and help you become a more skilled and confident composer.