The Ten Rules of the Composer

I am going to share with you the 10 main rules that a composer should keep in mind.

I composed my first musical pieces at the age of seven. My main motivation was to create a game with the black keys. Being so young, I didn’t know it was a pentatonic scale. Later, at the age of seventeen, I began composing in the style of progressive rock, a musical style that was flourishing at the time, taking advantage of the fact that the first synthesizers were already on the market. Subsequently, I discovered jazz rock and that´s when I couldn´t stop composing.

I must also mention that my education in Classical music provide me with the knowledge of musical theory and the technical skills necessary to develop my musical ideas.

Many years have passed since then (more than fifty years), and today I can say that based on my experience and perspective, these would be the ten qualities that a compose should acquire:

1. Solid knowledge of music theory

The more techniques you know, the better and more diverse your compositions will be.

2. Time and patience in the art of composition

No matter the outcome, what matters is enjoying the process. It’s a game where you remove, add, or enjoy moving the pieces, delve into the creative process, and into yourself.

3. Innate curiosity

To compose, one must delve into the music of other composers that nourish and inspire us to find our own inspiration and identity.

4. Analytical mind

You must be capable of analyzing music in terms of harmony, melody, forms, basslines, and, in general, all those elements that are part of compositions.

5. Risk taking

Always take risks. Without risk, there is no innovation, but the result should always be coherent and inspiring.

6. Accepting mistakes / failures as a learning formula

Mistakes should be turned into opportunities to learn. Do not ignore your errors: analyze them, take your time, and strive to make changes.

7. Accepting successes to continue advancing in learning

Learning should also be rewarded, but that doesn’t mean you should stop; you have to keep moving forward. The world of creation is infinite.

8. Self-critical ability vs. Personal and creative boycott

It is crucial not to fall into discouragement or demand so much of ourselves that it hinders our progress. There are more prolific times than others. It’s about getting to know ourselves better. Sometimes, we need to stop and take time to recharge. Don’t think you’re not cut out for it, and don’t let anyone convince you otherwise. Trust yourself and your need to keep creating music.

9. Level of self-demand

We are not machines; we are people who feel and have different moods, as well as responsibilities. Over time and with mastery, you will leverage your moods to find the reasons that inspire your compositions. Study and work hard, but never punish yourself because that will distance you from yourself and from the music.

10. Absolute humility

Music is so vast, with numerous composers spanning all eras and styles, that feeling superior to others is ridiculous. We must always master our ego, as it can be a destructive force. Even if others praise you, that is momentary and unreal. The true success lies in going ahead on the path, always grounded, to keep evolving as musicians and creators.

I hope this 10 rules that a composer should keep in mind, be useful to you.

Polo Ortí

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