Getting To Know Your Creative Self

Getting To Know Your Creative Self

Finding your way into composition. 

Sally Whitwell
Sydney, Australia

Getting To Know Your Creative Self

Finding your way into composition. 

Question:

Hi Sally, I am a big fan of your music, and I am interested in getting involved in composition, but I’m not sure where to start. I play piano, and I have reasonably good music theory knowledge, but I don’t think I’m that creative! What should I do?

Answer:

I know exactly what you mean. It took me until I was 34 years old to decide that I might be able to do it!

My 'way in' to composing was via arranging. I started off a very long time ago arranging pop songs for various choirs I was accompanying (principally the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Choir, who thankfully were up for pretty much anything). My first was a jazz a cappella style arrangement of Lennon and McCartney's Yesterday. As the years went by they increased in outlandishness, starting with a disco mashup of Love is in the Air with Gershwin's But Not for Me and ending (most recently) with an arrangement of A Day in the Life for choir, strings and harpsichord, with apologies to Handel. Go figure. What I discovered is that it is actually only a very small step from inventive arranging to writing original material and, basically, arranging it.

It's important to remember that creativity is a constantly evolving thing too. For instance, for years I thought that I couldn't write text, but now I find I mostly write my own text, e.g. https://vimeo.com/167223192/9569d0c750. I carry a notebook/manuscript paper and am constantly jotting down things I observe in the world around me. Being observant is key. I feel like I've graduated from composer to songwriter!

Have you checked out Music Composition Toolbox by Damian Barbeler, Diana Blom and Matthew Hindson? It's an excellent start for finding your ideas and learning how to develop them into a piece of music. I still use it as a kick-starter if I'm struggling for ideas. http://www.binarydesigns.com.au/bdstore/MCTOOLBOX.html

Most importantly, put something down on paper. Do it now. You can't edit a blank page.

Hope that's all helpful!