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Old 02-02-2013, 03:33 AM   #1
ChucklesMginty
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Becoming a composer vs. becoming a performing musician

Now I'd never seriously consider trying to become a composer, but this is something I'm curious about.

Becoming a professional musician (besides teaching) seems to be an incredibly elusive career, you have to be a top notch player with the right connections and be in the right place at the right time. Plus a shit ton of hard work, I mean based on the guys I've met. Their main income is from:

- Cover/function bands
- Playing live as a session musician for pop acts
- Teaching, of course. But this is how I met them all.
- The odd studio gig, which nowadays seems to consist of writing a 2 bar hook and having the producer sample it. Perhaps unless you're in Nashville.

So what about being a professional composer for TV, film or commercials? It doesn't seem like the kind of thing that would have a steady paycheck, composers also seem to be doing producing or recording themselves now. Rather than just writing the music.

What kind skills does it take?
Does it matter if you have qualifications?
Do you have to produce as well?
Is it harder than becoming a performing musician?

The music business is weird.
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Last edited by ChucklesMginty : 02-02-2013 at 03:35 AM.
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Old 02-02-2013, 03:52 AM   #2
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I would say it's harder, but I don't know much about the business side of composing. Ask Xiaoxi.
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Old 02-02-2013, 03:53 AM   #3
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Xiaoxi is surely getting sick of me asking him every little thing by now.
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Old 02-02-2013, 04:10 AM   #4
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No reason why you can't do both. Music is a business. Choosing exclusively to do one or the other means closing a revenue stream.
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Old 02-02-2013, 04:41 AM   #5
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No reason why you can't do both. Music is a business. Choosing exclusively to do one or the other means closing a revenue stream.


this.

at the end of the day, if you know people, and can do a job, you should do it. think of everybody you meet in the music realm as a potential employer or coworker, because at some point or another, they probably will be.

you should be learning to compose anyway as practice on a DAW - experimenting with midi/samples is best done, like most things in music, in context, so you want to constantly branch out and challenge yourself so you can widen your potential at getting a gig and one day quitting your shitty part-time job at that restaurant everybody hates.

promise some film students you know how to do a soundtrack and it won't suck. then hope you can figure out what you're doing and get it executed before whatever deadline they set - suddenly you have a credit, as well as some friends who might be able to give you better gigs down the line. say one of their friends is making a film and says "hey your film was great, who did the music for it?" - suddenly, another credit.

then that guy's friend needs somebody to produce his deathdoomgrindchaircore band's EP on the cheap. look at that, you're networking!

repeat until you move out of your parents' house

Last edited by Hail : 02-02-2013 at 04:42 AM.
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Old 02-02-2013, 05:25 AM   #6
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Originally Posted by ChucklesMginty
What kind skills does it take?
Does it matter if you have qualifications?
Do you have to produce as well?
Is it harder than becoming a performing musician?


Skills-wise you need to be able to read music. You need a solid theory. You need to be able to write for different instruments. You need to be good at digesting other people's music and using it for your own ends. And mainly you need to be inventive/creative.

If you want to be successful you need to have good people and communication skills.

If you want to be an academic then you'll tend to need qualifications, but you don't necessarily need them to get a commission.

You don't have to produce as well, but it wouldn't hurt to have a passing acquaintance with modern production techniques and to be able to find your way around a studio. Besides, learning production-related stuff is fun.

Being successful at anything is hard and being famous requires hard work and luck.
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Old 02-02-2013, 05:27 AM   #7
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repeat until you move out of your parents' house


Or they die and you inherit.
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oh shut up with that /mu/ bullshit. fidget house shouldn't even be a genre, why in the world would it deserve its own subgenres you twat
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Old 02-02-2013, 05:37 AM   #8
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@production: i'd say it's far more important in this day and age to be fluent in production if you want to compose. lower budgets restrict very much your abilities to use live instruments, unfortunately, in actual gigs.

unless you mean composing for live orchestras, in which case: lol, why?
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Old 02-02-2013, 05:42 AM   #9
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I've been thinking about this. I have yet to perform but I do find enjoyment in writing music, especially for others. I take their style into consideration and see what I could come up with. I feel that it helps me adapt and broaden my playability. That's just me. I still also want to be my own musician as well as being a well-rounded one.
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Old 02-02-2013, 07:08 AM   #10
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TS, the main problems you usually face as a composer is to write high quality music that satisfies your client, in addition to being well produced and on a deadline too. You might be up all night trying to meet a deadline. I don't think this gets easier as you do it more... but I'd say it gets easier to deal with the stress.
As for skill, a basic command of and the ability to write in variety of idioms is necessary to start off with. As for recording, the first time you do it is difficult. So have someone who knows how to use everything with you.
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Old 02-02-2013, 07:16 AM   #11
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I think being a composer would be harder due to having to have a sound knowledge of a lot of instruments along with high levels of theory. And you need people skills.
I'd get more out of performing though.
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Old 02-02-2013, 07:20 AM   #12
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Well, I just emailed my old piano teacher. Step one.

Anyway, as I said. Considering being a composer is a pretty ridiculous idea for me right now, but I've always wanted to do it recreationally. Even if it's just buying a bunch of orchestral plugins and messing round with that some day.
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Old 02-02-2013, 07:29 AM   #13
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I have a friend who is trying to become a composer of movie scores. He's fairly good at it as well, but it's hard to get started. It seems what you need is the same as in any other business: contacts and past projects that can catch the producers eyes. I don't see the point in choosing one path though. Why not tour and write scores when you're not on stage?
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Old 02-02-2013, 09:57 AM   #14
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you shouldn't think composition is at all limited to orchestral instruments. you could make a quality soundtrack using a fart sample to beef up the mix - and no one would ever know. you have a lot of power to make any sound you can possibly imagine possible, but it requires creative thinking beyond what you could possibly ever put on a score with a quill and ink.
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Old 02-02-2013, 11:14 AM   #15
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Most people I know who compose scores professionally (and I've met a few) have degrees specifically in that. I know USC has an MFA program in it, for example.
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Old 02-02-2013, 11:45 AM   #16
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Composition seems to usually be tied to some sort of university job. I've met many composers who maintain a tenure at a school so that they have the resources to perform their works. Composing will also probably take much higher education. It is true, though. I don't think I know any musicians who earn all of their income from one job.
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Old 02-02-2013, 11:56 AM   #17
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If you have the desire to do both, do both. It's extremely difficult to make enough money to support yourself doing music and the more you have to offer, the more potential income. Even then, you might not be able to sustain the amount of work needed to pay the bills. One of my non-university mentors right now is so incredibly busy with work (conducting, teaching, and other shit) and is "successful" but it's still not paying the bills. Luckily her husband is the first chair cello of the Symphony so it doesn't matter too much. Moral? Marry a rich guy.
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Old 02-02-2013, 01:12 PM   #18
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oh shut up with that /mu/ bullshit. fidget house shouldn't even be a genre, why in the world would it deserve its own subgenres you twat
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Old 02-02-2013, 01:31 PM   #19
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Pity.
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Old 02-02-2013, 02:52 PM   #20
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the steady paychecks are elusive in music; not living comfortably as a musician. you just need to do lots of stuff. basically, do both. or at least try. do a little teaching. do some gigging. do some writing.

honestly, writing is where the money is. a friend of a friend just had her song bought by somebody in nashville for $37,000. if that song ends up being a hit for miranda lambert or taylor swift or someone, she actually got a raw deal as the royalties would add up to much more than that and over a very long period of time.

that said, safer bet to just sell them the rights to the song. $37,000 is over double what i made this year at my office job.
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