I have very little training and no experience in composing (maybe a few months while I was taking piano lessons 15 years ago). I didn’t go to college for music, so I didn’t do any composing there. I have never really wanted to do any composing, as I was happy to simply play (and occasionally reinterpret) others’ work.
So why do I have this urge to start writing music?
This started the other day while I was looking for psalm settings to sing at Mass. This summer offers us a few toughies, such as Psalm 8 and Psalm 15, for which there are few unyucky — or available — settings. (At my main parish, we’re going to have to substitute.) As I hunted, unsuccessfully, for a usable setting, the refrains kept repeating in my brain, and I found myself putting melodies to them.
And I kind of liked what I was coming up with. I didn’t write it down or anything, but it seemed pretty good for what it was. And I thought to myself, sure, I could do it. But should I?
Reasons not to:
- I don’t have time. (You know, having two jobs and all.)
- Without any real training, I would most likely not be good at it.
- I don’t know anything about getting music published.
- I could use my main parish as a testing ground and get feedback from them and improve that way, and I could get feedback by posting my compositions online on, say, a personal blog such as this one.
- I know what I like and I don’t like.
- I’m used to reinterpreting others’ stuff or adjusting accompaniments to something I think is better. (Seriously, organ accompaniments need to have the melody if it’s a hymn.)
- Plenty of people didn’t have formal composing training but still came up with great stuff.
- I do have at least some time.
- I know people (such as the director at one of my churches) who have written church music. In fact, I’ve played some of that music.
- I could self-publish, especially if I don’t care about making any money.
- And if I care about making money, I could try to do so and the worst I could lose is time.
- And regardless of everything else, it would add a personal touch to my relationship with God, by writing music to praise Him. That kind of overrules everything else, though writing something that doesn’t suck would nonetheless be advisable.
Seems like we have a winner here. Luckily, the Church offers a few easy ways to ease into composition. With Psalms, there’s an approved text that we should use. And after Psalms, there are Mass parts, which have texts we must, period, exclamation mark, use. So for me, a person who’s unsure of how well I could write music, that would be a way to start, where I don’t have to think about choosing the right words.
So, when I have time (which isn’t now, but hopefully will be soon), it’ll be research time. What programs do I need? How much time might this take?
Who knows. I may not follow up with this. I may forget all about this next week. But if I try this and it pays off and I become a big fish in the Catholic music world, you can say you knew me when I first thought this might be something I could do.