For a while now, I have been trying to think of ways of learning musical ideas through composers I admire. Just like in visual arts, an artist would copy someone’s style or idea and then create their own renditions. I want to apply the same concept to composing music, but I don’t know how to go about doing it.

Any thoughts?

  • 1
    Do you want to compose directly or translate it through another medium first (draw or write and try to translate back to music after)
    – Emil
    Oct 30 '21 at 6:41
  • Compose directly
    – Jevil
    Oct 30 '21 at 9:20
  • Maybe it depends a little bit if you can play music yourself or rather use a computer program. Finding sheet music or analysing recordings should be possible. end of my knowledge
    – Emil
    Oct 30 '21 at 9:40
  • 1
    I see 4 close votes "needs more focus". The question is broad indeed, however it does not "include multiple questions in one". If you believe the question should be improved, could you suggest more specifically to the OP what changes are needed? Oct 30 '21 at 19:25
  • Hi Jevil. There are a lot of directions this question could go so I've closed it as too broad. There are many, many ways this can be done and I'd suggest focusing on a specific element of a composition first. If you don't know what the elements of a composition are that may also be another good question to ask on this site.
    – Dom
    Nov 2 '21 at 15:49

I think the key is in understanding what the composer did and why. To try to get into their shoes and follow their thinking path.

Depending on the composition, instrumentation and specific things you'd like to learn it make take different forms.

@ttw proposes copying scores, I'd suggest transcribing by ear and then comparing with a reference score. Yes, it takes lot's of time, but it's very engaging and forces you to think hard about what you hear rather than just follow mechanically.

Performing someone else's music is a simple way to internalize their style.

Copying various technical aspects, like specific instrumentation, use of specific instruments, giving certain roles to certain instruments, specific setup of instruments (e.g. tuning) is another way to get yourself an opportunity to think like the other composer.

Finally, analysis of every music element – from the overall form to motif structure. This allows you to isolate techniques used by the composer, so that you can try to apply them in the context of your own music.


Over the years, one of the exercises given to musicians was to just copy scores from famous composers. It's easier with computer notation programs. There are some free to expensive versions.

One learns a lot from just transcribing a music score (pdf, book, sheet music) into a music entry program. The mechanics of entry allow one to see details that may be missed when just listening.

One can also transcribe types of music for instruments that one cannot play. There are lots of free scores and arrangements on the internet from Todotango's tango collection to the Library of Congress collections to IMSLP (or similar) for classical. There are also fake-books for various genres.

With the fake-books and some others, one can even practice arranging music, especially if given only the melody and chord figures.

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