What is a Composer in Music?
‘Composer’ or ‘Tunesmith’ are the terms used to describe an individual who writes music. A composer can also be an arranger, lyricist, producer, music director and songwriter although it usually applies to one who is musically qualified and composes original music.
Types of Music: A Broad Spectrum
The type and style of music are irrelevant, but the word composer has been associated with classical and orchestral music for centuries, which is why there is often some confusion about the type of music a composer creates.
In reality, many composers may never write an orchestration for a full orchestra, even when qualified to do so. The type of music that a composer creates is purely a matter of personal choice and can encompass all forms of music.
Specialisations in Composing
Some composers specialise in classics while others may compose modern music for film, television or other media. There are composers who also arrange music for all purposes and others who extend their services into production and musical direction.
Modern Tools for Composing
Writing music nowadays can be achieved by anyone using a computer loaded with a suitable software program. Whilst this can be a boon to the newcomer and professional alike, it takes expertise to achieve a natural-sounding score and cannot compete with the quality of sound and production achieved with real musicians.
The Skill Set of a Composer
Anyone who writes for a number of instruments needs to have a deep understanding of the instruments they are creating music for, which is why a composer is also a musician, sometimes capable of playing several instruments to professional standards.
The Composer vs. The Songwriter
Songwriters and composers share some similarities; both may write music and words to create a composition for the listener’s pleasure, but most composers (although not all) obtain music qualifications and concentrate on the musical aspect rather than word creation. They can also produce long, intricate scores based on a theme, whereas a songwriter may have no written qualifications and mainly concentrates on short tracks.
Collaborations in the Industry
There is a tremendous amount of crossover with major artists and songwriters composing scores for films. In some cases, the songwriter collaborates with a composer who is capable of relating the idea musically for orchestral instruments that the songwriter may not have considered. Producers and music directors of major television, film and recording studios also employ composers for a wide variety of projects, including arrangement, orchestration, music beds and song composition.
The Nuts and Bolts: Sheet Music and Scoring
When creating a piece of music, the composer writes the notes onto a piece of sheet music paper. Each instrument has its own musical part. The combination of parts for several instruments are known as an ‘Orchestration’ or ‘Score’. Unlike most songbooks, whose music is often presented in a shortened or easy-to-read format, a score shows each note, key and instructions for the musicians to read on sight.
Technology’s Role in Composing
Even the music creation process has changed over the years, with many composers using technology like computers and notation programs to write their music compositions or to alleviate the tedium of writing scores by hand.
Iconic Partnerships in Music History
Throughout history, there have been talented individuals who have a natural flair for music and its creation. This does not always mean they are comfortable or as creative when writing words or lyrics, therefore, some composers collaborate with others who specialise in the art, usually referred to as lyricists, wordsmiths or lyrics writers. One of the most successful collaborative combinations was Elton John (composer, singer, pianist) and Bernie Taupin (lyricist), who had several hit pop songs. Other great songwriting teams include Rodgers & Hart, Gilbert & Sullivan, Lerner & Lowe, Lennon & McCartney and Bert Bacharach with Hal David!
Composers want to have their compositions heard and will often advertise for singers and musicians to record or perform their music. There are also many deceased composers whose works are repeatedly used by a variety of orchestras and performers worldwide. Without the efforts of composers, songwriters and lyricists, the singer who is not also a creative writer would have nothing to sing!