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Advice for the Emerging Composer: A Forethought

September 5, 2008 at 10:19 pm UTC

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All right…

I get a LOT of emails from emerging composers looking for advice, and I know exactly how they feel. When I first began writing I tried to talk with as many composers as possible, just begging for a single crumb of an idea that might help me move forward. Many, many composers have been helpful to me throughout the years, and I’m incredibly grateful for their tutelage.

Based on the emails I have received over the years, I think there are two major areas that might be of help:

  1. The creative part of the process.
  2. The business part of the process.

Concerning the creative aspects of writing a piece:

  1. How do I find my own ‘sound’?
  2. How do I get the sound in my head on to the page?
  3. How do I develop an idea/finish a piece?
  4. How do you overcome ‘writer’s block.’
  5. Where do you find inspiration?
  6. Which program do you use for notation?
  7. Do you write at the piano?

Concerning the business of being a composer:

  1. How do I get my music performed?
  2. How do I get my music published?
  3. Should I get my music published, or should I self-publish?
  4. What is a copyright, and how do I get my music copy-written?
  5. How do I get commissions?
  6. How much should I charge for a commission?
  7. Can I make a living as a composer?
  8. What is ASCAP? Or BMI? Should I join one of them?

We’ll use these topics as a starting place. While it’s not a comprehensive list, I think it’s a good foundation, and it’s definitely stuff that they don’t seem to be covering in school. We can expand on this as we get going. If you see that I haven’t addressed something you’d like to hear about, don’t hesitate to post a comment. More than anything I want this to be helpful.

I know that ’emerging composer’ is a big category; some of you are just starting, and some of you have been writing a while and are trying to move to the next level. I’ll try to respond to your posts and help in any way that I can.

Here we go!