From tapping out one-note melodies to becoming composer of the month in just four years, James Music shows how the most important thing in composing isn’t necessarily about the music, but rather the learning curve.
After starting out learning to play the viola and piano, James decided to try his hand at composing. With his love of classical music – he cites Shostakovich, Rachmaninoff, and Tchaikovsky as some favorites –, he didn’t want to just play around with digital mixes; he wanted to create his own sheet music.
“I was looking around for tools to help and found Flat. It’s just really easy-to-use, I use it with pretty much all of my compositions now…If I start going into all the ways it’s great I’m going to sound like a YouTube advertiser!”
Now an active Flat community member, of course James has his own favorites.
“I really like TVonScheemdt, Nerdy Melodies, Lightrift Studios… but there are so many great composers on Flat who should definitely be more well-known.”
Despite his long-standing love for music, taking the leap into composing wasn’t necessarily easy. As James notes, he wasn’t bursting with obvious ideas at the very beginning.
“I remember my first song so clearly, because it was so bad! Just one line over and over again… [taps on the piano; laughs] I have to say, I think I’ve improved a lot.”
Those improvements can be seen in some of his favorite compositions. He cites his 2nd piano concerto, which was written on a 4-day deadline, and one of his most recent compositions, Winter Storm, which he composed for his piano teacher but still hasn’t turned in!
Having a deadline puts something new into the mix, since creatively speaking, James tends to favor an improvisational start.
“I’ll start by messing around on the piano, choosing a chord or key signature and starting to improvise a melody. If I like it, I’ll write it down, maybe add a compliment, and keep going from there.”
Thinking about his process leads to a key piece of advice for anyone wanting to start out on their own composing journey.
“Learn some music theory! I didn’t have that at the beginning, I didn’t know what chords were, what key signatures were… I just knew you could put a note on a staff, that’s about it. And so at the beginning I kind of got caught in a loop, I didn’t know how to get out. So learn those basic building blocks, it really helps.”
He also encourages people to take part in various competitions, just for fun, since having an outside prompt or constraint can help to bring out fresh ideas.
“When Flat was starting the competition challenges, I think the first one I saw was for the planets. I created a few compositions for that, one for Earth, another for Pluto (because why not!). Having that kind of competition keeps things exciting, you never know where you’re going to go next with your composing.”
See you next time,