Music Writing: Getting Started

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You have a passion for music and an interest in the industry. You want to write music professionally…but how?  Take it from a seasoned professional, it takes time, knowledge, and hustle, but it is possible.

Avenues are plentiful for writing music: film scoring, pre-recorded music for media, music libraries, and many more, but before you start writing, you must have a solid grounding in theory and orchestration.  Without this, you’ll be lost in an ocean of others who carry the same dream.  A working knowledge of Finale and/or Sibelius is also a must.  If you don’t know how to use one of these, how-to videos are easy to come by when searching the internet.

Finding a publisher can be a bit of a daunting task but not impossible.  Take time to look at a publisher’s website.  Learn about the type of music they publish and check out their writing requirements/limits.  Most publishers have a stable of writers they are able to call on who can provide clean and accurate scores and parts that are near ready.  However, this doesn’t mean that they aren’t looking for new talent.  If you feel you have a piece that would fit well into a publisher’s catalogue, submit it.  If you happen to have a personal connection that can vouch for you, use it!  The louder you bang that drum, the more likely you are to get the attention.

Consider building your own website where you can promote and sell you own music.  The advantage here is that you own your copyright and receive full price for your music rather than a percentage royalty.  The disadvantage to self-publishing is that you don’t have the weight of the music publisher, it’s resources and advertising, behind you.

Reach out to writers you admire.  See if they would be willing to help coach you into the industry.  You’ll need to be willing to take criticism and the red pen.  Don’t just reach out to one, get multiple inputs.  You’ll learn different techniques and get insider opinions that will be valuable as you grow in the music industry.  Not to mention, the ability to make new connections that you wouldn’t otherwise be able to do on your own.  Think crowdsourcing your career.

If you’ve been bitten by the music “bug”, go after it!  There’s nothing like hearing your music played live, there’s a human element there that is magical—something current scoring programs can’t provide.  Study, listen, find the best teachers and get your music played.

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Carl Strommen resides with his family on Long Island New York. He attended and graduated from Long Island University ( B.A. English Literature) and The City College of New York (M.A, Music) and studied orchestration with Manny Albam and Rayburn Wright and composition with Stefan Wolpe. He is an Adjunct Professor of orchestration/arranging and composition in the Graduate School at LIU Post. His compositions and arrangements are performed worldwide.