Probably the single most important mantra for any composer – at any level – is that music is merely 12 notes. If you look at the piano, there are only 12 notes between any octave. After those 12 notes, the octave simply repeats all over again.
Why is it so important to keep reminding yourself of this? Because often times, composers seem overwhelmed with the thought of having to compose a new piece of music. This emotion is usually based on the fear that they will not be able to create any music of value or interest. My feeling is that this fear is simply the fact that they haven’t studied their 12 notes well enough.
While there are only 12 unique notes in all of music, their are hundreds if not thousands of combinations that can be made from these 12 notes. These 12 notes can combine in fascinating ways to create wonderful harmonies and melodies. The more time you spend experimenting with these combinations, the more choices you will have at your fingertips. As you will learn in our new Secret Composer software, harmonies and melodies are simple to create, and more importantly, fun to learn.
Once you really understand how to create melodies and harmonies, you will find that composing music is easier than you thought. No matter what style of music you have a preference for. Whether creating orchestral, pop, jazz, electronica or folk music, melodies and harmonies are the key to creating your mood.
As a working Hollywood composer for over 25 years, I’ve had to compose music in virtually every style. Many people are fascinated by the fact that I can quickly switch from one musical style to another. To me, that’s no big deal at all. I’ve simply learned how to combine 12 notes. With the rare exception of some cultures around the world that utilize quarter tones, every musical style utilizes the same 12 notes. Whether you want to compose Hungarian gypsy music, Celtic ballads, big band jazz, hip hop or heavy metal rock, you still only need to learn 12 different notes. While you might combine these notes differently for each musical style, they are still the same 12 notes.
Don’t let the thought of composing music intimidate you. There are 26 letters in the English alphabet, 39 in the Armenian alphabet and 74 in the Cambodian alphabet. And Chinese writing can contains as many as 40,000 characters. But there are still only 12 notes in the musical alphabet. Don’t let them scare you.