Here, we outline our top tips for aspiring composers – from familiarising yourself with music composition software to learning how to promote your music.
A solid body of work, presented in a professional portfolio, can work wonders in a field as fiercely competitive as the world of professional music. Assembling your portfolio should be something that you put time and consideration into. This, after all, is the demonstration of your work so far, but also of your potential and talents as a composer.
The quality of your scores, especially their engraving, is crucial, as is your ability to carefully curate your selection. Rather than trying to include every piece of amateur juvenilia you have lying around, select a handful of your best work.
While some elements of the composer’s skillsetremain constant and largely unchanged, others are very different from those that would been required in previous eras. In particular, technology has revolutionised the way we create and experience music, making fluency with these tools a necessity.
This is particularly important for musicians just starting out, especially when they’re attempting to forge a career composing for media, such as video games or film. At this stage of your career, it’s highly unlikely that you’ll have access to live performers and instrumentalists to help you create your work.
While larger scale projects may have a full-scale symphony orchestra at their disposal, smaller ones may require a composer to familiarise themselves with a range of tools for producing a finished soundtrack – from MIDI keyboards to music writing software and the post-production features of a DAW.
Fortunately, these tools are becoming more sophisticated, and more intelligent, with every passing day. One the one hand, a simple app like ScoreCleaner Notes can note down basic melodies that are hummed into it, making it ideal to capture ideas while on the go. Further down the line, Dorico is the first music notation software to have been built with integrated AI functions – making it the first program of its kind that you can compose directly into.
The simple and honest truth of breaking into the world of professional composing is that it takes a lot of effort, and more often than not, a lot of time. Without a supplementary source of income, you’re likely to see your bank account dipping dangerously low before you can see your musical ambitions coming to fruition. This may involve taking another role within the music sphere, such as a composer’s assistant, or a professional engraver. The benefits of a role such as these is twofold – first, it provides you with a source of income, and secondly, it allows you to be honing your skills and building your musical awareness, even when you’re not composing yourself.
From putting together a network of contacts within the music world to taking to social media and creating your own website, taking the time to put yourself out there and promote your work is now essential. Plenty of people may roll their eyes at that over-used buzzword ‘networking’, and many young composers may feel self-conscious about creating their own dedicated websites, but the benefits of these simple steps can be significant.
Additionally, it is worth considering entering your music into competitions. Most have an extremely easy submission process and offer everything ranging from cash prizes, to the signal boost it will give your profile – making the cost of entry minimal in comparison to the benefits of a potential win.
Entering the world of professional music as an aspiring composer can be a daunting prospect – but it is also not beyond all reach, and these tips can help you to improve your chances of achieving your musical ambitions.