I'm a beginner to composing, and I don't know how to play any instruments.

I asked my parents to put me in lessons for years but they never did.

I just decided to start trying to compose. I've taken music theory classes and have a basic understanding. I've written a motif that is certainly pleasing to the ear.

I don't know where to go from there though. I accidentally wrote a cadence, and I don't know how to transition well to something else... are there any accessible books I can read?

I'm specifically inspired by the legend of Zelda soundtrack!

  • 2
    You are almost on a hiding to nothing with no instrument to play, although you may be using a computer. A keyboard will help you to understand the theory you have, and also be a useful instrument to play anyway. Recommendations for books, etc., are offside here.
    – Tim
    Nov 19, 2018 at 7:56
  • If not a duplicate, this will be helpful and relevant: music.stackexchange.com/questions/51633/… Nov 21, 2018 at 0:12

2 Answers 2


Schoenberg's Fundamentals of Music Composition offers an approach that goes from small units like motifs up to larger phrases show how to develop ideas.

But, about your comments...

 I don't know how to play any instruments

 I accidentally wrote a cadence

You should start to learn an instrument. Even if you plan to do all your music with electronic gear, you will probably use a keyboard to do input and it will be easier if you have basic keyboard skills.

Rather than say "I accidentally wrote a cadence" it's probably better to think you intuitively recognized a musical fundamental. That's good. There are many other fundamentals to learn. If you study theory and methods now, you will discover those fundamentals sooner!

Maybe an analogy will help. You could find your way around a dark room by tripping over the furniture, or you could turn on a light and see where everything is. Think of theory and performance study as turning on the musical lights.

On a personal level, around 20 years old I thought I would compose without knowing how to play anything and just use theory and a computer... It did not work. I now wish I had studied piano back then.


One resource i can recommend is hooktheory, it is about as expensive as a book, and they have some pop examples to not only understand harmony and melody but also chord progressions, and how often certain things are used. This takes you by the hand is a bit more direct then reading what a composer with 10+ years experience thinks you should do. It allows you to piece things together, and has a red thread going through, i doesnt jump around from topic to topic like many books do. Just decide if you want the app, or do it online, because they are sold separetely. I'm only advertising it, because i learned so much from it myself. I read 5-7 books on theory, but they never had that immediate impact.

As far as learning an instrument goes, do it anyway. If you can't or don't want to afford lessons, then teach it yourself. Easiest if you want to start if you want to write music is a piano/usb-keyboard in my opinion. You can get it quite cheap, you don't have to tune it, and it has a somehow intuitive representation of half-steps. You can write with a computer and just some vst. But if you want some real INSPIRATION, you quickly run into a brick wall, because a piano roll and shifting around notes is not a really direct way of making music.

There is so much to writing good music these days, so don't miss out on DAWs, mixing, mastering, there's so much to learn, the curve is steep, but it is so worth it.

  • No teacher or textbook that is any good will tell you what you should do. Good fundamental teaching will simply show what is common and standard terminology. Nov 19, 2018 at 15:15

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