If I had one suggestion for anyone wanting to learn to write music, it would be to learn the fundamentals of music theory. The Royal Conservatory of Music used to refer to these course levels as elementary, grade one, and grade two rudiments. They’ve renamed these levels and spread the material out over eight books. That’s a hard sell to someone who wants to get started quickly. So I still play it old school, work through three small books and finish it. Why am I so focused on getting perspective composition students through this material? Because it’s the most important music theory they’ll ever need to know.
If students take the time to learn the fundamentals, they’ll be in great shape to start writing music. These fundamentals won’t help you create a better melody, epic chord progression or provide you with all the knowledge you need to write music, but they will give you the keys to the kingdom. Learning the fundamentals of music theory gives you the underlying language you need to understand and study the music you want to compose. It doesn’t mean you’ll understand every book, article, or lecture about music theory, but it could start the chain of events that likely will.
Think of music theory as an ever-growing chain of knowledge. If you learn the fundamentals, the first eight links of the chain form. If you start reading something you need help understanding, find the information you are missing, then study to fill in the links. Is it always easy to figure out what information you’re missing? No, but in most cases, it is. So why am I on about this?
Even with the most basic fundamental knowledge of music theory, you can start reading about the music you want to compose and understand how to get started. If you pick up an introductory book on how to write for orchestra, create an EDM track, blues, jazz, R&B, or whatever genre you like, you’ll be more than likely able to understand, follow along, and get right into creating the music you want.
Yes, I studied and taught writing 16th-century harmony and counterpoint, but it wasn’t that information which allowed me to move into orchestration for film and television; it was the fundamentals. Thanks for reading; I’m just a music teacher having fun; catch ya on the next one.