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Composing Tips for the beginner

Composing Tips for the beginner

Listen to your world, dissect music your way, trust your fellow musicians

GPG Music’s Shaun Salem, music educator, conductor and composer, discussed his composing process with advice for new writers.

First tip: Listen for motifs. These can be small gestures as simple as two or three notes long, in all music you listen to then develop fresh material to build on. Save all  material and ideas because it can be used in a different context. Think of daily activity sounds. Be inspired everywhere.

Second tip: Some people have the ability to compose in their head; for the rest of us notate the piece in software such as Finale.

Third tip: Research existing styles or genres to determine trends. Then consider how you would interpret the piece differently. Dissecting a piece can help you compose new ones. Some composers may consider Beethoven George Bridgetower to base marching band shows as a foundation to conceptualize dramatizing the music in a fresh, untried way.

Fourth tip: Assure each piece explores ways to build more impact into each movement of the show. If you have one, work with a mentor composer who can guide your work.

Fifth tip: Ask to have your work reviewed. Keep asking questions and revising until the work is ready to perform.

Sixth tip: When your piece is performed, trust the musicians. They want you to succeed because they want to perform well. “The goal is always to provide performing artists with a piece to feel great about and inspire younger musicians to achieve success in performance.”

Keep writing great music! It matters to inspire the next generation.


GPG Music is the premiere source for award-winning music and design for inspirational marching band, captivating concert music, and powerful indoor percussion. We’ve been supplying K-12, college and independent groups for nearly two decades. The GPG team includes educators, designers and composers dedicated to providing reasonably priced custom-level compositions and visual design for all ability levels. We have hundreds of music selections to choose from and a sophisticated reservation system offering levels of exclusivity on show licenses.