Composition Advice & Tips

Stuck coming up with an idea?

Watch the videos below

Includes how to record your idea on GarageBand, BandLab and Soundtrap

How to record your idea on GarageBand - iPhones and iPads


How to record your idea on BandLab - iPad and Android phones

BandLab Composing Idea 160920.MP4

How to record your idea on Soundtrap - Chrome and web browser

Soundtrap Composing an Idea Demo 160920.mp4

Perhaps the hardest part of composing music is coming up with an idea in the first place.

Really, most pieces start with an idea. This can be a four bar melodic phrase, a recurring chord sequence (Pachelbel's Canon), a vocal hook ('Stayin' Alive' by the Bee Gees) or even a rhythmic pattern (Bolero by Ravel)

So first you will need to create an idea - then you will need to record your idea.

Writing music is a different process for everyone. Some songs are created by accident; some songs are created from strange inspirations such as photos, pictures, other songs, a conversation, a riff or short melody...the list is endless!

Check out these examples below of creating songs from an idea:

Once you have your idea you need something to record it with...

The links to the software below will serve as sketchpads for your ideas.

Next is the composition handbook guidance...

The composition handbook takes you from the beginning with having an idea, to the very end where you start to add advanced features to do with dynamics, articulation and ornamentation.

Creating an idea is just the start. Once you have an idea then you need to, at the very least:

  • Decide on a tempo (speed)

  • Think about what instruments you wish to add, if you want more than one instrument. You can just compose for one instrument though...

  • Think about a structure - is your idea the introduction? The verse? The ending?

  • Think about other parts such as bass, or chords, or melody, or rhythm. Your composition booklet (linked above in the title) explains the three key components of almost all music

    • Rhythm

    • Accompaniment

    • Melody

There's much more to think about but these are some of the questions that most composers have to think about at the very early stages. It's very important that you READ the composition handbook very carefully to help guide you.

Composition Booklet complete.pdf

Loopy HD is an app for iPhones and iPads allowing you to record multiple loops at once. There's much more to it than just recording loops. Click here to see it in action.

Click here to purchase Loopy HD

GarageBand (for iOS)

The GarageBand app (not the desktop version for Apple Mac computers) is a very powerful and comprehensive personal studio. In theory you can record an entire song/piece using this app alone. It is available for iPhones and iPads only and is free. Here is a demonstration of GarageBand (iOS version)

Bandlab is very much like GarageBand but is not just limited to Apple devices. Bandlab is available as an internet program meaning you simply require a device (Mac, PC, tablet, phone) with access to the internet. Just like GarageBand, Bandlab allows you to record an entire piece with everything from drums to strings including your vocals and live instruments. It is also available as an app and is free.

Just like BandLab, Soundtrap is an online internet based program with the ability to add vocals, instruments and play parts into your arrangement.

Mainly for electronic music producers, Audiotool is just like BandLab and Soundtrap expect that you drag your instruments into a 'space' and control them directly, rather than entering notes or MIDI notes into a timeline. You can have tens of instruments all at once. Audiotool is 'loop based' software. You compose a 4, 8 or 16 beat loop and you then manipulate your loop by adding or subtracting parts and adding FX.

Make sure you watch the tutorial first after signing up - the tutorial can also be found here:

Musescore is a free notation application. You can use notation software to compose your piece and have the software play it back for you. Click the link above to download Musescore for FREE

Soundation is just like BandLab and Soundtrap, but again mainly for electronic music production. The features are much more limited though with 'free' option. There are lots more features with the paid options but for just creating ideas it might not be worth paying for those features.

Click below for more advanced information on how the core components of your composition are put together

Single note line that is most often the most memorable part of a song. Usually best described as the main 'tune' which you might hum, sing or whistle along to. Think of a band - the lead singer would provide the melody.

Click the header above for a basic video explanation


If the melody is the main tune then the accompaniment is everything that supports the melody. Thinking of a band again - the rest of the band other than the lead singer provide the accompaniment.

Accompaniment can be best thought of as being split into two components:

Harmony is the use of two or more notes in combination. This can involve just two notes, like two singers in harmony as we might hear with the piece 'I Got You Babe' performed by Sonny and Cher, or lots of notes like if you were to imagine a choir singing.

Many of you will automatically think of chords when you think of harmony. Chords are one type of harmony, or technically speaking one type of harmonic device. There are also other forms of harmony such as drones, arpeggios, modal harmony and more. However, in the simplest terms you will almost always base your use of harmony for your composition on chords.

Click the header above for a basic video explanation

Rhythm in its simple terms is 'the beat'. In its real technical sense rhythm is simply the combination of sounds and silences with different durations to create regular patterns. You are probably best off thinking of it as 'the beat'. This does NOT mean rhythm is played on a drum! Rappers create rhythms with their spoken words but they don't have drums for mouths!

Your heartbeat is a rhythm - a collection of sounds and silences, at regular spaces. That's a very simple rhythm. You may have seen the 'Cup Song', well that's a complicated rhythm. Still a collection of sounds and silences but with far more complex lengths, pauses and much more. Check it out here:

Here's an explanation of rhythm that you might find useful before checking out the one linked below:

Click on the 'rhythm' header above for a basic video explanation of how rhythm works in music