• Lydia Keeney

The Secrets of Composing


Imagine listening to a piece of music that touches a special part of you. Has it ever caused you to think, “Wow, just wow. That person has skills that I wasn't born with. They just have the gift.”?

As a music teacher, I've heard almost all of my students say that early on, and I beg to differ.

First, please understand that a small amount of people's musicality comes from things out of the person's control like genetics and how much music the person was immersed in as a child, but the main reason they're outstanding is because they've devoted a lot of time, hard work, and practice into mastering it. We're talking about like 1% vs 99% here, so don't sweat it if you weren't a little baby Beethoven.

Good news for us! We can leverage the same tools at our disposal as your favorite artist uses to reach the top of the charts (and/or your hearts <3). Let's break those tools down.

Finding Patterns

When you think of the word compose you think of something that is completely unique and on its own island. But in reality, there is no such thing as original when it comes to songs. People are taking familiar notes and familiar patterns and just recreating them in small ways so they can call them their creation. The longer you play the piano and the broader your repertoire and styles you play, the easier it will become to sit down and recreate a song using the patterns you have accumulated in your “storehouse of knowledge” and make it your own.

Get into the innovative mindset

There are two types of people in this world, people who stick to a script and people who love “recreating” and going off of it. I think one of the beginning steps in composing is

learning how to stop using that script. Start thinking about how to enhance already created songs. Get into that creative mindset. Listen to songs on the radio or a simple classical piece of music and imagine how you could tweak it a little to make it better. Play a simple song you’ve learned and take that song and change one note. Does it sound good? Change another one. Go outside of your comfort zone. Being creative in a successful way is like anything else.

Practice, Practice & More Practice

It’s a slow process (Please note I did not say a boring or unrewarding!). You’re not going to sit down the first time you try and create a beautiful masterpiece. You’re going to probably make a whole lot of discord before creating accord. Take the time I was learning to yodel. Uh, I'm sure my parents love that precious memory... Don’t worry, this is all normal. You will have to devote time to practicing. When you come up against a wall, learn to jump over it. As humans sometimes it's hard for us to devote a lot of time to something we won't see the results in until later. With learning an instrument this is essential. Forget about instant gratification, throw it out the window. Accept that you are going to start out at A and you have to keep working REALLY hard to get to Z. When you come up against a wall, learn to jump over it. Good luck!

If you're interested in taking piano lessons from me, please shoot me an email!


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