Five tips for aspiring composers
First, let's clarify - I am also an aspiring composer! For anyone who's interested though, here are a few things I've learned over the years...
2. Learn from the GreatsYou're a pretty good writer, but there's always someone who's further on than you. They've been where you are and have developed. Night school might not be your thing, but why not book in some time with somebody who is an established writer? Over the years I have asked for and got time with composers such as Robert Redhead, Kevin Norbury, Trevor Davis, Peter Graham and Kenneth Downie. I came away from every single one of those meetings with more tools in my composing toolbox.
Also, buy study scores or if you're an SA musician, ask your music department for an authorised photocopy for study purposes - they're usually happy to help. Some brass band scores that have really helped me over the years are Resurgam (Eric Ball), Majesty (Kenneth Downie) which the Army's UK music department gave to me, and Contest Music (Wilfred Heaton) which I bought myself.
4. Start smallEverybody wants the glory of a Symphony, yet few get there without learning the fundamentals. A great way to do this is through the discipline of writing for a smaller group. I say discipline because in writing for smaller groups you learn (i) to cut out the effects and (ii) which notes really count. A bigger score gives more scope for more fireworks and effects.
So, if you're an SA brass writer why not get down to writing some Unity Series music? If you're a song-writing composer why not come up with a melody line with some basic chords underneath? I then concentrate on nailing the bass line and the inner harmonies can then be filled in.
5. Get a penFinally, don't rely on your software so much that you lose (or never have) the skill of music calligraphy. I can testify that back in the day everything was hand-written, so it's easier for me. But if you've begun with a PC, celebrate the fact that it won't take you twenty hours to write out the parts, and then go buy yourself some manuscript paper and two black fibre-tipped pens.
I use a thicker pen (0.5mm) for title text, notes, beams, hairpins, etc and a thinner one (0.3mm) for small text (e.g. 'Andante', 'Tutti', etc). You need to practice your calligraphy to be prepared for (i) jotting down musical ideas on the bus, and (ii) for when your windows PC breaks down (Mac users tell me that never happens to them) J