Composing music is more than just a left to right writing process, especially when composing for multiple instruments.
Deciding which instrument to incorporate is critical when choosing the exact atmosphere intended to be portrayed by the piece. It also determines the roles that might be played by the instruments, since some hold a higher pitch range and some have a lower pitch range. Most instruments have different timbres, which is the sound quality of an instrument.
A piece with different timbres would sound extremely different than a string ensemble setting, when compared to a wind ensemble.
It’s good to have a strong sense of structure within a piece before applying notes and keys. It is a common technique amongst composers to label sections with letters.
For example, an A section followed by a B section. One section in a piece expresses a melody and/or harmony that stands out significantly to the overall structure if it were to reappear or be re-interpreted in another section. The compositional form known as a ‘Rondo Form’ can have a structure such as A-B-A-C-A-B-A.
It’s good to make an overall structure first, then work deeper into the specifics.
When creating a section, it’s good give it a structure as well. Music can be compared to the idea of having a conversation or story. Therefore a phrase, a musical passage, or multiple phrases can fit in a section of a piece. Within a phrase should be an antecedent and a ‘consequent’.
The antecedent could be like the question.
For example, in the song ‘Twinkle Twinkle Little Star,’ the first part sung as “twinkle twinkle little star’ would be the antecedent, and the following part ‘how I wonder what you are’ would be the consequent. These phrases ensure the direction the piece will go and which passages will sound conclusive, or in music terms, cadential. After the entire structural process, its good to apply and key and the tonal direction the piece goes, meaning which harmonies appear and where key changes may occur. This is determined mainly by the key, which assigns specific notes to the overall sound of the piece. Some pieces have no keys at all, but have a specific idea or arrangements of notes that need to be followed.
Melodies, motifs and harmonic layouts can all be made once the setting of notes or scale is established to a piece of music; then, it is up the composer to create the art and tell the story they want to express.
Of course, this is considered a common technique. Most music that has led to the music we have now was composed with these characteristics in mind. However, it is possible to experiment and not follow these theories and structures when composing. When practicing composition, it’s good to keep these techniques of form and structure in mind.