Learning to Write Music Through Playing

I can now play all 5 movements of Philip Glass’ Metamorphosis Suite!

I started with the first movement back in May which I managed to learn in an hour. However, the latter movements proved a lot harder, particularly the 2nd and 4th as there are so many arpeggiated semiquavers that I just didn’t have the strength or stamina to play them. After 4 months of practicing technical exercises to build up my finger strength, I still struggle with these sections, but I have managed to successfully play them through a few times and have committed the whole suite to memory.

One of the most useful tools I’ve found with learning to play other peoples music on the piano, is that each piece is almost like a score study. I spend so long looking at the music and how the different parts work together and have noticed myself applying the techniques I am playing into the music I write.

I read an article that talked about how great composers learn and become great composers. One of the points was that they study other composers scores and learn from the greats that came before them. Well this is exactly what I feel I am doing when I learn a piece on the piano. Obviously the sheet music for a piano piece is far simpler in comparison to a full orchestral score (when comparing the same piece of music), but the piano is a great place to start, and learning to play it has taught me so much already about composing.

I’ve also been learning from Bear McCreary’s Battlestar Galactica Piano Book and have recently ordered John Powell’s piano book for X-Men III: The Last Stand. Powell and McCreary are two of my favourite composers, so it’s great to have the opportunity to learn from their music.

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