I've been playing the piano for about 13 years, I play many different styles from classical to jazz to film music (never really attempted contemporary classical music unless that includes electronic music). In my repertoir I have Chopin, Rachmaninoff, Debussy, Gershwin, Liszt, Beethoven, Bach, Eroll Garner, Louis Armstrong, bossa nova/the girl from ipanema, Erik Satie, Paul McCartney, The Stranglers... And I've tried to compose a piece for piano but with zero success. When I get something good by pressing random keys (literally this is one of my best methods) I then simplify the chords and strip away all the complexity to end up with only major and minor chords (and sometimes major/minor 7). I have trouble choosing what to keep and what to throw away so there is never much structure.

How do I make my composition not look like a written down improvisation and how do I achieve something that is more complexe then just min/maj chords with a melody?

  • Take a composition class. – Carl Witthoft Mar 19 '18 at 12:52
  • I can’t, I study something completely different and it would take too much time, I was looking for some tips – John Cataldo Mar 19 '18 at 12:54
  • Well, there is no magic wand out there. Either you put in the time (class, or maybe reading the textbook on your own) or you don't learn properly. – Carl Witthoft Mar 19 '18 at 12:57
  • Taking a class will take "too much time"? What exactly are you expecting to happen? It will probably take you another 10 years to learn to compose, so a class seems like nothing from that perspective. – Todd Wilcox Mar 19 '18 at 14:59
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    @StanislasHildebrandt most compositions start off with improvisation, Bach was mainly an improviser. If you're primarily reading sheet music, switch to learning songs 'by ear'. I find reading music kills all creativity. Once you can play what your hear in your head you can more easily improvise and compose. I have alot of melodies buzzing in my head alot of the times, so it's just a matter of getting them out. I don't think a class will help you with this skill. Composing is being creative, the complete opposite of a classroom setting. – user34288 Mar 19 '18 at 20:22

Don't worry about sounding like improvisation. Improvisation is composition with about 2 seconds to work things out; composition allows unlimited time to work things out.

You might look at some of the books (many downloadable pdf) on composition. There are those discussing elementary harmony and those discussing composition of phrases, stringing phrases together, writing small scale melodies, etc. One I like is Goetschius' book, "Exercises in melody writing." He shows how to write melodies up to about 32 bars or the like. Schoenberg's "Fundamentals of Music Composition" is too. There are also several books on popular theory but I don't really know them. Preston Ware Orem has a book on composition that's pretty good although it's not online; my only complaint is that his harmony discussions is not in line with other theorists (he has augmented sixths as "dominant" chords instead of subdominant, but most writers have minor problems with their books.)

Also, just keep trying. Check some songs or classical pieces and try to see how phrases are ended. See how sections are ended. See what harmonic outlines are followed. Much of classical, jazz, pop, Spanish, etc. music goes through the sequence: exposition (play some themes), re-state the themes (play in another key), develop (play around with the themes), restate the themes again (play the themes). It's the common AABA format. Of course, each part will have inner structure and there are cadences marking off sections.

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