About composing music

I have often heard the usual “anyone can compose music” and I wanted to share my opinion and experience about music composition.

If you look at it as something akin to learning to fix car or build your own PC, yes, everyone can learn some chords paint them in MIDI or record them and put some melody over it and call it music. Been there done that. Got myself MIDI keyboard, read books on music theory, watch countless videos about composing and than used that KNOWLEDGE to make something resembling music. It wasn’t nice and, long story short, I sold MIDI keyboard, quit music composition and returned to my original love of PLAYING guitar. Worth noting is that I have tried myself in composition for past 20 years, of course with breaks and not whole 20 years, and managed to make only one, very mediocre, song.

So whilst “everyone” (unless with serious health issues, hence why I dislike exclusive terms like NEVER/EVERYONE/NOBODY) can learn to paint some chords and melodies from theory they learn and videos they watch, not everyone will be able to make something good. I also do not like term “good music is subjective” because than we belittle great musicians and say any garbage can sound good. There is objectively good music and not-so-good one, that’s why there are countless music critics. I do not buy the idea that composition is some skill you can read or learn about, it’s not like reading PC manual and learning to install Windows. I’d rather compare it to cooking, or painting… Art in general, as it’s different than just some skill. So whilst I can make myself some basic meal, my wife almost always blows me away with her cooking. Whilst I can draw stick-man and call it a painting, I doubt many painters and critics would pay much attention to my drawing. Yes, I can paint, but is it good?

I like how Justin often emphasizes in his courses that we shouldn’t “learn” music, but feel. And dry knowledge only gets you so far. Prime example was in his “Re-active listening” exercise.

So to recap. Whilst I am not trying to extinguish anyone’s dreams of composing, I’d like to say that it’s simply wrong to bash around internet the notion that “everyone can compose music”. Coming from me, person who tried himself in composing. I think you need more than knowledge, if talent is overused word, I’d use word heart. You need some skill/talent/feeling that you cannot acquire by learning. I don’t even get why admitting that is seen as something bad or sad. Music is very broad, just like any arts are. So if you, like me, cannot compose music you can still enjoy playing instrument and learn to play songs of others. There is nothing wrong with it. Just as in cooking someone cooks and someone prepares the ingredients… Or in video arts, someone creates movie, other edit it… I hope you get what I mean.

If I realized sooner that fact, and if I wasn’t always giving in to “everyone can learn to compose” crowd, I’d be much better in playing guitar by now and wouldn’t waste countless years trying to be next Hans Zimmer. Some can compose, some cannot. And that is beauty in life, that each if us have unique skill set and I think that’s worth being grateful for.

But everyone can compose music. Not everyone can compose good and memorable one though. That’s the key difference.