My thoughts and out loud thoughts on composition, performance, and many things musical.

How To Get Your Music Performed by Others

I asked this question: Who has advice on getting your pieces played? What worked for composers out who didn’t necessarily already have a foot in the door?

This online gentleman responded to my question on TalkClassical.com with great detail and thought:

I believe this is a very important question and I often pontificate about it. Making some effort here begins a snowball effect. But it takes effort.

* You will immediately become less mediocre if you challenge yourself to get your music played. In fact I believe you stop developing as a composer of instrumental music if you’re entirely uninvolved with performance.

This is because:

a) it is much less easy to make self justifications, when experienced players (often creative people) are involving themselves with your work.

b) You will begin to write more selflessly. It becomes less about “your” melodies, and “your” harmonies, and more about what works for a particular instrument and performer. You learn that a performer makes your music sound good, not solely your sage-like choice of notes. You learn how an audience responds to the movement and mannerisms of a performer. These are all extremely important and cannot be learned properly any other way.

* As your music improves with relation to those items above, more performers become interested – this is the snowball effect I mentioned. Performers aren’t simply interested in music which is supposedly good. They are also interested in music which works well for their instrument, which is performable, and which an audience responds well to.

* Many people call themselves composers but their work never sees the light of day. Unless your medium is in fact audio recordings or electronic music, then your work isn’t really done until your music is performed.

How to achieve this?

Get out of your comfort zone and expend effort. This is exactly what almost all on-line “composers” will not be willing to do. Sitting in front of a screen plugging notes into Sibelius is not all that difficult, and that’s why so many have fun with that. So, move away from your computer. Learn to play your own music, perhaps. Making an effort immediately distinguishes you from almost everyone else.

* Start small.

a) Don’t write a symphony unless you think you’ve at least some chance of at least part of it getting worked on, somehow. Simply put, it’s wasted effort. I wouldn’t claim this if it were not true that there are many alleged composers writing “symphonies” (etc) every day of the week, all of which will never be played by humans. You don’t want or need to be one of those.

b) Write for a performer. Make friends with somebody. Whatever they play, write for that. Play with them, if you play.

c) Secure a performance, no matter how small-scale. I cannot emphasize too strongly the value of this. Even your audience is your parents and your dog. It will grow.

* Performers aren’t that difficult to find. You must, however, do the work. They will work without payment if it is enjoyable for them, or promising. In fact, it’s better if you’re not paying them… it should be a mutual collaboration, with rewards that balance out for all involved parties. Find someone who likes you. Turn up to their place with music and coffee. Additionally, there are many contemporary groups who are constantly on the lookout for new music, who would be more than happy to collaborate with a composer (but a “real” one, meaning one who will do their part of the bargain). This implies that you need to write for instruments and performers, which as stated above is important, and you’ll learn very quickly when working with real people.

* In relation to the above: be willing to continually revise your work. Having an impending performance quickly points out what is flawed. The music isn’t finished until it has been performed (and not even then, if we go by historical examples).

You’ll soon realise the buck stops here. You’re no genius, and it’s about time you get cracking on making music which people actually want to play, and as a natural consequence of that, others will want to listen to.

(I’m using the words “you” and “your” in a general sense, not just directing at you OP, as I do not know your history).

Edit: For the record, I don’t think I have ever been given a definitive “no” to this question posed to a performer (and I have asked this question many times) :

“It is a joy watching you perform and I’m interested in making some music with you. Could we put aside a date to look at some new material?”

Sure, if you get to 2nd base and they decide they don’t like your stuff, then that’s different (though I suggest that doesn’t happen often either, because by that stage you’re really committed to doing something well). The onus is entirely on you.

Thanks “Tomposer” from Austraila.

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