Skip to main content

How to Be a Composer TODAY: 3 Life-Changing Tips PART 1

3 TIps You REALLY Need to Know about How to Be a Composer TODAY Part 1

Recently I have been thinking about why I chose the profession that I have, that of being a composer. Now I wear many hats, like many composers do today. On any day I could be a composer, a teacher, a writer, a sound engineer, a video editor, an animator, or...like most days...a parent and provider of questionably nutritious and strangely orange Mac-N-Cheese.

And I suppose that I am wondering about my role as a composer more and more each day as I realize that really composing is only a small part of the media universe that I occupy. I have been writing music since high school, yet my career took off when I decided to mix my classical training with bizarre animation and electroacoustic music. Maybe it was the kid inside of me that still gets excited when she hears the familiar melody from Spielberg's Close Encounters of the Third Kind or has her heart skip a beat when she hears John William's soaring brass in Star Wars. 

Expert Music Advice Today at Musicxray with Sabrina Pena Young

While a good part of my formative years were spent rehearsing or practicing excerpts in our family's attic room, my favorite use of music is when it is combined with the visual. Listen to Jaws without the soundtrack, and you just have a weird mechanical fish. So for me, combining the visual with the musical just made sense in some intangible way. 

This is where I stray from the strictly classical composer. Being a composer today involves so much more than writing string quartets or symphonies. Yes, there are purists that insist that their students only focus on atonal theory, harmonic structures, and writing for every instrument under the sun, including the English horn (which is a lovely instrument, by the way). In a world where anyone with a laptop can "compose" music, this training is absolutely necessary to succeed today. But here are three more tips to help you as a composer.

1) Knowledge is Your Weapon

When I was in college I racked up I believe around 180+ credits. I took everything from marimba ensemble to jazz composition to film and Photoshop. I delved into the honors program, learning about philosophy and science and literature. I interned with inner city ministry, studying social injustice and politics. I have learned pottery, stop motion animation, academic writing, teaching, and HTML. 

Recently I have spent time learning about cosmology and economics as I finish my first science fiction novel Libertaria: Genesis. All of this and more has informed my work, the projects I choose to explore, the questions I attempt to answer as an artist. This knowledge has also led to meaningful work that pays the bills. 


Knowledge is your weapon. Spend more time reading and creating and less time texting and tweeting. You cannot hope to inform society when you only echo someone else's thoughts.

2) You Must be Flexible to Survive

Ironically I just got off the phone with a fellow musician who is reevaluating life and career choices. The reality is that the music industry today is not what it was when I was in college, and it won't be what it is today in another decade. 

Technology is accelerating the rate of change exponentially in the music industry and we must adapt constantly to survive as musicians and creative individuals. 

What does this look like for you? This might mean that you pursue more than one avenue of study in college. I advise all serious musicians - performers, composers, audio techs, educators - to take courses in music business, marketing, and business in general. These classes will teach you how to earn a living with your art. Do you have a secondary pursuit that you enjoy? Then engage in that pursuit whether it is writing, technology, science, visual arts, or even the health industry. You never know when your other talents will help your music career. In my life, my experience in writing, website design, and visual arts has helped me immensely, as well as my love for teaching and mentoring. 

3) Redefine Success for You

The general populace has a very general narrowed definition of music success that centers on the handful of mega popular superstars that are supported by billion dollar industry giants. Anyone actually in the music industry knows that success is measured in a nearly infinite number of ways. 

I will go more into this topic of success in the second part of this articles. So be sure to subscribe to the blog to get the latest updates, or follow us on Twitter.

Young is the foremost expert on virtual opera production and online collaboration with the debut of
her machinima opera Libertaria: The Virtual Opera. Libertaria includes a live international cast and film crew, virtual choirs, sound synthesis, machinima, and contemporary choral writing, produced entirely online using crowdsourcing, social networking, and the Internet. Critics call Libertaria "Groundbreaking" and "Wagner 2.0". Works performed internationally at the Beijing Conservatory, the International Computer Music Conference, Miramax's Project Greenlight, the Athena Festival, the New York International Independent Film Festival, Art Basil Miami, Turkey's Cinema for Peace, Art Miami, and Pulsefield International Exhibition of Sound Art, the Holland Animation Film Festival, Australasian Computer Music Confetence, Buffalo's Women and Arts Festival, and countless venues worldwide. Young's recent projects include the social media opera The Village and a recent TED Talk on opera and the Internet at TEDxBuffalo.

Comments

Slow Marks said…
This is one of the most astonishing venues that I've attended for my numerous experiences. The venues in Los Angeles are spot on with the decorations. The overall experience was amazing! Had a fun and comfortable time here.

HOTTEST POSTS!

Music Secrets: How to Write an Opera, Part 1

Feel like writing an opera is only for big name composers with big budgets? Or are you willing to take the plunge and create a work in one of the most compelling and cutting edge musical forms...an opera? Almost two years ago I embarked on the largest musical production I have created to date -  Libertaria: The Virtual Opera. After writing the award-winning Creation Oratorio and dozens of multimedia works, I wanted to combine my love of the audio and the visual into a single large scale work.  Find a Great Dramatic Story You need a strong story to write a compelling opera. Fortunately you can easily borrow from thousands of public domain works and modernize them. Think of West Side Story (just a contemporary version of Shakespear's Romeo and Juliet) .   Many great operas use Shakespeare, the Brothers Grimm , and Biblical stories, all of which include interesting characters, strong themes, and action.   Libertaria borrows heavily from messianic stories, but is se

Music Secrets: How to Write an Opera, Part 2

Music Secrets: How to Write an Opera, Part 2 After the incredibly positive feedback that I had from Music Secrets: How to Write an Opera, Part 1 , I thought I would talk a little bit about the composition angle of writing, at least how I do it in regards to vocal music . Here's a quick primer for anyone learning some of the basics of writing vocal music for opera, musicals, classical music , etc.  1. The Sketch I have had several great teachers in my life - Dr. Clare Shore , Hilton Jones, Dr. Kristine Burns, Paul Reller , Dr. Frederick Kaufman, Dr. Orlando Garcia, Chuck Owen, etc. My composition prof (and USF SYCOM guru) Paul Reller helped me develop the composition technique that I have had for years.  Download the Libertaria: The Virtual Opera Soundtrack at iTunes When I have the time to go through the entire composition process (because sometimes I have to skip a step or two for deadlines), I will start out with pencil, paper, and a piano (or keyboard, in my case).

Free Classical Sheet Music and Free Opera Downloads @ Scribd

Sheet Music (Photo credit: jayneandd ) Awhile ago I decided that I would upload the bulk of my music scores and sheet music to sites like Scribd, the Petrucci Music Library , and Archive.org for free sheet music downloads. Some musicians told me that it was ridiculous to give away my music. The truth is that I don't depend on music publishing sales of my scores, and I would rather inspire a young piano student, percussion ensemble, opera singer, grandma, bored music student, or music teacher to play and study my music than hold on tight to my copyrights and let my music scores collect virtual dust on my hard drive.  The Petrucci Library, Scribd, and Archive.org all have dozens of free music scores available for choir, vocal solos, piano, percussion, orchestra, opera, multimedia works, and more. You can see a short list of available free sheet music by checking out the Scores page. You might want to check out scores to my modern opera Libertaria: The Virtual Opera , an ex

Free Sheet Music Download: Classical Music Flute Solo Airborn Sand by Composer Sabrina Pena Young

Free Sheet Music Download: Classical Music Flute Solo Airborn Sand by Composer Sabrina Pena Young FREE MUSIC DOWNLOAD:  http://imslp.org/wiki/Airborn_Sand_(Young,_Sabrina_Pena) Originally composed during a hurricane in South Florida . Inspired by a news reporter 's comments about "Airborne sand " whipping through her hair, the composer decided to write a work for flute that imitated the movements of sand whirling on a beach during a hurricane. It was subsequently performed at the University of South Florida in Tampa . Flute Solo Related articles Friday Freebie: Old Rugged Cross The Landing - Science fiction Robot music - Sabrina Pena Young Music Marketing Secrets: How to Use Twitter, Youtube, Social Media - S P... Quiz: Which Classical Music Era Are You? Latest iTunes 12.5 Beta Should Please Classical Music Fans After Dark - Romanian Rhapsody concert at the Limerick City Gallery of Art Russian inspiration for Clandeboye Festival The Tran

How to Write Film Music in 5 Easy Steps

How to Write Film Music in 5 Easy Steps How to write film music in five simple steps for any composer. Thanks for checking out this video! Subscribe for more great content! Like this? Then check out AMAZON BESTSELLER Composer Boot Camp 101, a comprehensive guide to songwriting, composition, and film music with 50 exercises for students, educators, and music professionals! DOWNLOAD TODAY

The Phantom of the Opera - Prague Cello Quartet

The Phantom of the Opera - Prague Cello Quartet

What Skills Do You Need to Become a Songwriter?

What Skills Do You Need to Become a Songwriter?  Becoming a successful songwriter is the dream of many musicians. But knowing how to write a song , learn an instrument, and make a successful musical career can seem impossible. Well, it does take a lot of work. Not everyone that wants to be a professional musician will succeed, and many just enjoy writing songs as a fun hobby for their enjoyment.  Do I need to Sing or Play a Musical Instrument? This might seem like a simple question, but it actually has a complicated answer. Why? Some songwriters never learned a single instrument yet can come up with great lyrics and catchy melodies. Others have played piano or guitar for years or are trained singers. So what is the answer?  As a songwriter, you need to understand different aspects of the songwriting process. That doesn't mean you have to have an incredible voice or be the best guitar player on the block. What it does  mean is that you need to know music. There is no better

What is Blue? and other Post Postmodernist Thoughts

1000 Pennies for Your Thoughts - NARA - 534149 (Photo credit: Wikipedia ) One of my many hats is online university instructor. I teach courses in Media and Music History. In my Media in American Society class, we discuss many aspects of media, including truth in media, media conglomeration, marketing, advertising, and the like.  Today my students had an intriguing discussion/debate online about news and partisan politics. The debate was a healthy one, with some students claiming that they see all sides, others describing their favorite political pundits, and others lamenting the lack of authenticity in the media today. In the end, the fact that there would be no answer to today's questions, largely due to the lack of authenticity and the inability to trust anything in print, online, on a TV, spoken by a political leader, etc. etc., I brought up a short discussion on postmodernism, postpostmodernism , and its effects on American culture.  Here is a small snippet that I though