As English composer and pianist Benjamin Britten said “Composing is like driving downa foggy road toward a house. Slowly you see more details of the house-the color of the slates andbricks, the shape of the windows. The notes are the bricks and the mortar of the house.” Afternow composing a song myself, I can verify that this is immeasurably true. A composer starts outwith a very vague idea of the song he desires, and by the end, the song has taken a mind of itsown and developed itself into a unique piece. I made the decision for my senior project toattempt to compose a Southern Gospel piece on the piano as this is the type of music I havealways preferred and played. My piece is called Trust and Believe. I completed my research paper on the steps to composing a song on the piano, focusingon what I did for my type of song. My research paper went hand in hand with my senior projecttopic and result. I delved deep into the complexities of composing major works that really helpedme understand a lot to accomplish my senior project. I realized that you really do have to seewhat your target audience is when you are composing a song and make sure it does fit with whoyou are attempting to compose it for. Also, one thing that I really witnessed firsthand was thefact that the lyrics are the base of the song and you have to have good and well organized lyricsto have a good song. The act of composing a song really is broken down into steps that cannot bemoved around, so while the creativity of creating a song is unharnessed, the method in whichyou compose the song is very methodical and important. When I was thinking about what I would do my senior project on, a lot of potential ideasran through my head, but after realizing how much time and effort would have to be allotted to it,and recognizing the potential reward it could yield I quickly decided I wanted it to be somethingto do with the piano. I have been playing the piano now for 13 years, so I decided that since I can
already play the notes learning a song would not cut it for my project. I felt that the next stepwould be delving into the inner workings of a song building one from the lyrics up. So, naturallyI wanted to compose a song that I would like myself and a genre I was comfortable with. For allthe 13 years I have played the piano, gospel music has been my main area of music, so I reallywanted to compose a song in that genre. I also wanted to be able to perform my song at mychurch and hopefully put some use to it. I wanted to complete my knowledge and skills on thepiano, or at least make them more dynamic. I wanted to know more about the piano and moreabout what goes in to all the songs that I sit down and learn, and now I appreciate each song Iplay much more because I know personally the work that goes in to a song. When I figured out what my senior project would be, my facilitator was decided with it. Ihave had the same piano teacher for all of my thirteen years playing piano. She is someone I amvery close to and was extremely excited to have her facilitate my project. Her name is LindaAutry and she has been teaching piano lessons for about forty years now, before teaching shetook piano lessons from teachers all over the southeast, at least with eight different teachers. Shecurrently teaches sixty students with a part time helper. She has never published a song of herown, but her understanding of the piano is immense, and she has composed songs for fun on herown. I used my weekly thirty minute lesson for about eleven months to complete my song withher guidance as well as countless hours at home. I did most of the work composing at home, thenbring in my week of work and let her check it and offer me her advice on my song. Without herguidance, I would not have been able to compose my song. She provided me with a properamount of assistance but independence to make this song truly my work. With anything as difficult as composing a song comes a large collection of challengesthat I had to overcome with the help of my facilitator. Multiple technical issues came up while
composing the song, from the verses not matching syllables to not being able to figure out howto do certain things on the computer program. My facilitator put in extra time for me and reallyhelped me through this large feat. On the outside, such a project may not seem all that difficult or time consuming; I suredidn’t think it would be; however, once I dove in to complete this task I learned quickly that thisis no simple feat. As I mentioned before, the base to composing a song is to come up with thelyrics. In this case, my song had three verses and a repeated chorus, so in one sitting I just pouredonto the paper everything I wanted and felt should be in the song. I arranged them the best that Icould trying to keep syllables even to make the song fit together better. Then, I had to come upwith a rough tune for the song in my head and decide what time signature I wanted. Some wordshad to be rearranged and even changed, but the meaning was kept. I started out with justmatching the lyrics with the melody note in the right hand, this took quite a while because wehad to fit each note to each word or syllable of a word, and all the verses had to match. I prefer toplay songs in octaves and chords, so I wanted to set this song up to be played with them. Octavesand chords basically replace the left hand notes with a much fuller set of notes and it allows youto improvise a lot more which I do later. So I went through the song and determined the octaveof each section and wrote it in on the top. This allowed anyone to simply sit and play it with theoctaves without having to figure them as they go which require extreme piano mastery. Now,once I had that fitting properly and determined my octaves I had to complete the four partharmony. Basically you had to take the three notes in the correct cord and rearrange them untilyou like the sound it made on the piano to form the four part harmony. Once I got the hang ofthis, I was able to complete it with relatively few errors. The base song was essentially completeat this point; however in gospel music a lot more can be done. After this stage I used a program
that my piano teacher uses to transcribe my hand written song onto the computer to be printedout and look more professional. I sent this in for the copyrighting as soon as I got it transcribedand printed. Now, after this is done I improvised on my song making it sound fuller and muchmore complex. Improvising changes from player to player, so my improvising may not be thesame improvising another piano player uses on my song. After I completed all of my song I sentit in for copyrighting digitally so that I can really make my possession of the song official. As ofright now, I have not heard what the status of my copyrighting is. I really enjoyed the composing process and I will likely attempt to compose onecompletely on my own without my facilitator’s guidance. However, seeing how much time goesin to composing one song, I would not choose this as a career. I am not passionate enough aboutit to try to make a living doing it, but it will certainly be a hobby of mine now. I learned to havebetter patience, concentration, and to stick to something even when it gets hard to see a trulybeautiful end result. My piano teacher and I got even closer than before after this experience, andI think I will be better as a piano player now that I have composed a song of my own. I feel likethis is the maturing point of the thirteen years of my piano playing, and a great prize for all thoseyears of hard work. I implore you to understand when you hear a song of any genre how muchwork and heart has to go into it. Music is a special thing, and should be appreciated. After thisproject, I sit at church looking through the hymnal and realize what a treasure I hold. So manypeople over so many years have poured their heart and soul into music, much like I did with mypiece. Thank you for your time, and I hope you enjoyed my song as much as I enjoyedcomposing it! Are there any questions?