Writing music



This is a guide to writing music.

It includes lots of practical advice covering the bread and butter issues of sound, noise, rhythm, melody, harmony and composition.

Who the guide is for

The guide is written for anyone interested in writing music. If you are a music writer or singer or musician, then welcome. If you are not, welcome too. Musician and nonmusician, amateur and professional, beginner and experienced, everyone will find something of interest here.

No prior knowledge of music is necessary. The guide is written from the ground up.

The guide covers all types of music. There is no emphasis on any particular genre. The guide promotes a cross-genre approach to writing music in the firm belief that the principles and techniques of music writing are the same regardless of the type of music you are interested in. As to what constitutes good or bad music, the guide is scrupulously agnostic.

The guide is intended to help you write music. Hopefully it will inspire you to write music if you have not done so before. If you already have some experience, then the guide will have been a success if you find a hint or tip, or a technique or method, or a different way of doing something, that proves useful in your work.

What you need

First, you do not need to be a genius to write music. It is not the exclusive preserve of a gifted few. Writing music is just like any other job, craft or profession, all you need is an ability to learn and a desire to improve by getting your hands dirty writing stuff.

Second, you do not have to be inspired to start. Waiting for inspiration is like waiting for a bus, nothing happens for ages, then three arrive at once. Inspiration will strike, exactly when is impossible to predict, best to just get on with it in the meantime.

Third, you do not need to be able to sing or play an instrument to write music. It helps, of course, to have a musical background, but it is no longer essential in an era of computers and mobile devices.

You start writing music by scribbling ideas down on a piece of paper. All the music in this guide started life as squiggles in a notepad and all sorts of bubbles and arrows were added to help visualise development.

To convert an idea to music you will need to:

  • Record a voice or instrument.
  • Play back and edit the recording.
  • Distribute the finished piece to the adoring public.

You can do the entire lot on a computer or mobile phone or similar device. Use the microphone built into the device to record ideas. Buy a quality microphone to produce a professional sound. Use an app or programme to write the music, to play it back and edit it, and to download the final version to the internet.

How the guide works

The guide is structured as follows:

  • Sound covers the science and perception of sound and how sound is generated with an instrument.
  • Noise tackles unpitched sound and looks at how to write noise and process it into a sound effect.
  • Rhythm continues the theme of unpitched sound and looks at writing rhythm with percussion instruments.
  • Melody moves from unpitched to pitched sound and looks at writing melody for solo singers and musicians.
  • Harmony continues the theme of pitched sound and looks at writing harmony for vocal and instrumental groups.
  • Composition runs through the structure of a finished piece of music and the steps involved in writing it.

Each part of the guide consists of sections which deal with a group of related topics. Each topic forms a chapter and explores a specific aspect of writing music in detail.

The guide includes external links to websites, coloured and underlined, such as the wonderful Wikipedia. There are internal links too, coloured but not underlined, that connect to other parts of the guide.

The guide includes graphics so you can see what is going on. A graphic such as a figure or a table is labelled with italic text in lower case.

The guide includes audio so you can hear what is going on. Audio is labelled with bold text and is always written in lower case letters. Every piece of music in the guide, every finished work, is in the public domain. None are subject to copyright and you are free to use them as you wish. The complete set of audio files is downloadable in a single package from our website.

The guide is informative, thorough, comprehensive and logical:

  • The aim is to provide sufficient information to help you write music. Technical terms are explained as clearly and succinctly as possible, and there are internet links to enable you to pursue any topic in greater detail.
  • The information has been researched. Where there are gaps in knowledge, and there are a lot, a tentative attempt has been made to plug them.
  • The guide covers all the techniques for writing music known to man woman and child in the Year of the Sheep (2015).
  • The guide takes one step at a time. Each topic covers a single aspect of writing music. Every topic has a practical example that is as short and simple as possible. Each topic builds on knowledge gained earlier in the guide.

The only negative is that the guide does not contain the fabled Seven Steps To Writing A Hit Song. Oh, and it may not make you rich and famous either.

In short, the guide provides the tools to write music, shows how they work and why, and encourages you to do it yourself.