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10 Tips for Composing for Piano

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10 Tips for Composing for Piano

Posted on Jul 3, 2015 by Administrator

This article is in reaction to the many "stereotypical" piano pieces I see composed by students and beginning (and sometimes advanced) composers, and the presentation is sarcastic, so please forgive me:

1. Just because the left and right hand staves divide at middle C, it doesn't mean that the LH always has to play low, and the RH high.

2. Just because there are three pedals on the piano, it doesn't mean you have to use them.

3. Just because there are three pedals on the piano, it doesn't mean you have to use only the one you know, and ignore the other two.

4. Just because the LH can play octaves as bass notes, it doesn't mean the lower octave always have to be included.

5. Just because the LH can play chords and accompaniment patterns, it doesn't mean it always has to.

6. Just because the RH can play melodies, it doesn't mean it always has to.

7. Just because the LH is usually in Bass Clef, and the RH is in Treble Clef, it doesn't mean they always have to be.

8. Just because you can play 10 notes at a time, it doesn't mean you should.

9. Just because you can play chords on a piano, it doesn't mean is has to be used as a chordal instrument.

10. Just because there is a large body of Keyboard music by Bach, Beethoven, and Chopin, it doesn't mean other composers' works should be ignored.

And in a more positive translation:

1. Sometimes, it can be effective if you use only the low, or only the high register for both hands, rather than having them "split" at middle C.

2. Sometimes, the pedal is not needed.

3. Sometimes, the sostenuto and soft (una corda) pedals can be used to great effect, and the Damper pedal doens't have to be used all the time, but can be very effective nonetheless.

4. Sometimes, it can effective if the bass is low notes only, or even higher notes only, rather than constantly doubled in octaves.

5. Sometimes, it can be effective if the LH has a melody, or more important part than the RH, that's not simply an accompaniment pattern.

6. Sometimes, it can be effective if the RH has something other than the melody or most important part.

7. Sometimes, it can be effective for both parts to be in the higher register, lower register, or even split more widely than "usual". Sometimes even crossing the hands can be used effectively, instead of as a virtuosic trick.

8. OFTEN times, a single note, single-note line, 2 or 3 lines in counterpoint, in addition to 10 note chords, can be very effective.

9. Sometimes, it can be effective to use Piano as a percussive instrument, sometimes it can be effective to use the Piano as just a melody instrument, sometimes it can be effective to use Piano as just a harmony instrument, sometimes it can be effective to use Piano as just an accompaniment instrument. Sometimes, it can be effective not to use Piano at all.

10. Sometimes, it can be instructional to emulate the music of other keyboard composers, and not let yourself get caught in the "I have to compose like..." trap. If you are "searching for your own style", emulating the works of only a few composers (and stereotypical piano patterns) will give you less diversity and make you sound more like someone else, rather than yourself.

Some things to think about. And not necessarily only applicable to Piano and keyboard instruments!

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