“If you want to learn to compose, compose a piece of music. Don’t ask anyone how to do it. Look at other scores, write your best piece, FINISH IT and then get real human beings to perform it. You will learn more from that single experience than you ever will from a teacher.”
That’s from the blog of my favorite composer, Eric Whitacre. People often ask me how I learned to compose, and this is exactly how I did it: through practice. Some people think that you can’t practice composing like you can practice an instrument, and they’re wrong. I was composing duets before I even knew what a major triad was. They weren’t great songs, but I was practicing. And hey, everyone has to start somewhere, right?
So now I’m extending my comfort zone and composing for an ensemble for which I’ve never composed before: string orchestra. In the broader scope of things, you could consider my entire WISE project “practice” for my real-life composing. Then again, every piece I compose, practice or not, is real-life composing. Even pieces that I don’t intend to write for the purpose of improving my skills go quite a ways toward making me a better composer. It’s not like I’m getting paid to write music (yet), and even if I was, I probably wouldn’t differentiate between my professional and leisurely composing. At the end of the day, writing music is simply a part of my life. I don’t do it to practice, get a good grade, or earn money, although those are great side effects. I do it because I love doing it.