Composing Music

I have been doing some arranging and writing of songs lately for my children's chorus so I thought it would be a good time to write about that process. I think every composer has their own way of doing it. Some think of a melody first, then put chords to the melody. Other people, a student of mine in particular, always begins with lyrics then adds the chords and then the melody. So how do I work?

Well, I find that I always operate with the same process.

1) I begin with a certain rhythmic "feel" or style. Sometimes, I actually get ideas for this through the rhythm tracks on my electronic keyboard. Yes, that's right! I play with different rhythmic styles and this gets my juices flowing.

2) Next, I decide on a key that I feel like playing in. I ALWAYS compose right at the piano with pencil and staff paper. This probably sounds archaic to some of you, but I just feel more comfortable and natural at the keyboard, rather than composing at the computer. I know many composers do that but I need those piano keys in front of me.

3) The next step, and this is probably the most important one, is finding a chord progression that I love. This chord progression is usually only about 4 or 5 chords in length but it's gotta grab me. I keep playing around until I get "hooked" which means I keep repeating a progression over and over because it feels and sounds so good.

4) Almost simultaneously, (is that possible?) I am coming up with a melody now that goes with that chord progression. And this involves singing. I am a singer, so this isn't a stretch for me. I just find a melodic riff or line that goes with that chord progression. This generally makes up the CHORUS to my song. Sometimes it will be the verse or maybe it will be the introduction and ending and in-between riff that ties the whole song together.

5) Lastly, I put the words in. The words come from the mood that the song triggers for me. I never know what that is going to be.

So that's my process. What is your's? Why not give it a try? Writing songs is a tremendous creative outlet. If you need to learn more about chords before jumping into the creative process of writing, come to for more information. I'll try to get you started!

Debbie Gruber

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