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I'm having trouble with composing music sometimes. The problem is that i very often feel that i'm copying someone, somebody's melody, harmony, rhythm, chord progression or arrpegio. I think many composers have this problem! When i start writing something and later have a listen to it, i notice that it resembles this and that or sometimes is almost 90% alike.

How bad is it? What to do? What may be the problem behind this?

I seldom listen to music these days.

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    "There's nothing new under the sun" If you look hard enough, you can find something old which seems to be similar to any new thing. – Carl Witthoft Dec 5 '16 at 13:40
  • @CarlWitthoft The main reason why I am askin' is whether it is bad or should I be so worried about it? – SovereignSun Dec 5 '16 at 13:43
  • "There's nothing new under the sun" - check this out: (warning, contains 4-letter word in the intro before the music starts). youtube.com/watch?v=5pidokakU4I – user19146 Dec 5 '16 at 20:21
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More practice. All music is derivative. Some study of composition is always helpful, especially in melody. It's not wrong to be similar to another work. Note that the first notes of "The Marines Hymn" are the same as those of "The Beautiful Blue Danube." The treatment is different.

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  • So if something is similar to something it isn't bad at all? But doesn't that make me a copycat? – SovereignSun Dec 5 '16 at 7:48
  • @SovereignSun It really depends on the degree of copying, and how you personally feel about it. One thing that you can try doing is to play it for someone and ask them what they think, and if it reminds them of anything. – mattliu Dec 5 '16 at 11:22
  • @mattliu I often do so. And most people say they heard something like this somewhere. Sometimes to refer to the melody, sometimes to the rhythm, sometimes to the harmony. – SovereignSun Dec 5 '16 at 12:01
  • When that's the case, I'll ask myself: "Does this piece have it's own merits outside of what it has in common with other pieces (or what it has in common with the style/genre in general)". It's a judgement call. There is so much "good" music that sounds like other music out there. – mattliu Dec 5 '16 at 12:07
  • So deja-vu-occurs is a normal way? – SovereignSun Dec 5 '16 at 13:44
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Just about everything you've ever heard will return as snippets in any subsequent writing. Could say it's like shingles - it's in there waiting for a trigger, and off it goes!

The trick is to use these bits of music but be very careful that they remain as only bits. I dare say that if you studied 100 pieces of music, there would be similarities of runs of maybe 3 or 4 notes in some, even down to the timing. It's only plagiarism when it's done on purpose (except in George Harrison's case!), and as long as you are aware it's happening, you can change things subtlely, but I bet that whatever it gets changed to will resemble something else. Something else that you may not even be aware of, or even aware that you've heard it before!

A change of rhythm or harmony in a tune will render it rather different, so there's something to experiment with, too. A little idea. Take someting like 'Three Blind Mice', or another well-known kids' song. Keep the same notes in the same order, just change the rhythm or timing of them. Voila, a different tune.

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  • That's what I mostly do. But I cannot be sure whether what I have changed it to isn't similar to something else. – SovereignSun Dec 5 '16 at 9:41
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    Of course you can't - unless you know every single piece that's ever been written.Whilst the number of keys and chords are finite, the combinations of notes to produce a melody are almost infinite, given the notes themselves and timing values - you're talking billions, I expect. You could even have exactly the same tune, but harmonised differently. Is that the same then? – Tim Dec 5 '16 at 9:51
  • I guess, yes! Two similar sounding melodies are definitely similar. – SovereignSun Dec 5 '16 at 9:53

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