Music Composer/Arranger  What They Do

Just the Facts

Music Composers and Arrangers Career Video

Insider Info

dotComposers create original music -- symphonies, operas, sonatas or popular songs. They transcribe ideas into musical notation using harmony, rhythm, melody and tonal structure.

Many songwriters now compose and edit music using computers. Some link a keyboard to a computer that compiles digital information into musical notation, or they may program the composition in musical notation and have the computer play back the piece.

dotThere are those who say that composing can't be taught, that the combination of skills, talent and inspiration required to create music is highly individual. It appears that genetics plays a strong part in musical ability -- musical people often come from musical families. There are many contradictions to this, however, and some authorities cite musical environment as being highly influential.

dotMusic composers may work in a variety of jobs. "Be exposed to all areas of the business," suggests John Albani, a composer. "It's a very difficult area to get into. You need an awful lot of patience. Adapt to change and leave doors open; you never know where they may lead."

dotThere is the typical composer that first comes to mind, one who creates music that will be presented in a concert setting or on a CD or cassette. The composer may work alone or as part of a symphony company. They may collaborate with other musicians, vocalists, songwriters, or lyricists.

Composers work with every musical genre and every musical instrument. You know that song that is being played over and over and over on your local radio station? A composer probably contributed at some stage of its creation.

dotComposers can also work in business, advertising, public relations or other fields. That music you hear before the news, the jingles on television commercials, and the tune that starts playing when you enter a corporate website were all created by music composers. Companies can either retain a composer as part of their permanent staff or contract out.

dotThe entertainment industry is a huge employer of composers. Movie scores and television theme songs are just a few examples of a composer leaving their mark.

For those interested in composing for films, composer Tony Randall has some advice. "Try to imagine how the movie would be with different music," he says.

"Not all good composers are good film composers, just as the person who writes a hit heavy metal tune may not be able to write a good country tune. Marrying music and images is very different than writing music without images and dialog."

dotAs each and every piano teacher has said at least once, "practice, practice, and more practice."

"Write, try to hear the piece performed, learn from the experience," advises music professor Dana Wilson. "And write again keeping in mind what you just learned. Toward that end, write for yourself or a friend to perform the work.

"Composition is a craft that requires constant watering and pruning and fertilizing and even transplanting -- sometimes even in miserable weather. But it is a wonderful way to experience life."

Just the Facts

Want a quick overview of what this career is about?Check out Just the Facts for simple lists of characteristics.

At a Glance

Creates original music such as symphonies, operas, sonatas or popular songs

  • It's a good idea to start your training at a young age
  • Talent doesn't necessarily equal success
  • The jobs are in a wide variety of fields, everything from advertising to film