How to Become a Composer

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Musical composition is an essential part of the music field that involves creating an original piece of music or making modifications to existing pieces. Composers are trained musical professionals that create written pieces of music for a variety of performers and ensembles.


Hey, I'm Joshua T. Osborne

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What does a composer do?

Composers create music by transcribing their ideas into musical notation. They use harmony, melody, rhythm, and tonal structure. They also determine the melodic structure, tempo, mood, chorus, and flow. They write a variety of pieces of music such as songs, operas, symphonies, radio and television jingles, musicals, sonatas, and film scores. They often use pianos, keyboards, and a variety of musical instruments to assist with their compositions. Composers typically create compositions using traditional pen and paper, but some use computer software to assist with their work. Many composers specialize in a specific type of music such as jazz, classical, pop, and folk music. Composers create pieces of music based on the music genre, needs of the musicians or ensemble, and the target audience.

What kind of training does a composer need?

Composers typically need at least a high school diploma and related music experience. Many composers complete formal training in music and attain a bachelor degree. Prospective composers usually have a strong background in the history of music, music theory, music composition, and the understanding of many different instruments. Many composers have started out as musicians or performers and moved on to composer positions after they acquired extensive experience. Many also complete volunteer or internship experiences to gain practical experience. Composers must keep their skills up to date and stay abreast on advances in the field. They often complete continuing education and additional training throughout their careers.

What are the prospects for a career as a composer?

Employment of composers is expected to grow as fast as average for all professions, increasing 10% from 2008 to 2018 (1).

Job prospects are expected to be great especially for composers with advanced training and extensive experience. Numerous job openings will arise from the need to replace composers that retire, transfer, or leave the field for other reasons.

How much do composers make?

As of January 2010, composers with 1 to 4 years of experience earn average annual salaries between $15,000 and $43,000. Those with 5 to 9 years experience earn average annual salaries between $25,000 and $216,000 (2).

A career as a composer is an excellent choice for individuals with a strong interest in music and creating a variety of original pieces for many different purposes. Composers must have a solid understanding of composition and how to incorporate a variety of elements to create many different types of music. They must also have a solid knowledge of many different musical styles. Patience, determination, detail orientation, and creativity are necessary characteristics. Composers must have excellent communication because they often collaborate with a variety of musical professionals such as musicians and singers.

Joshua T Osborne

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