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Your First Piano Composition: How to Compose a Song

By Jesse Preis
Compose your first song on the piano

How to compose a song on the piano for beginners

Anyone can compose music! You don’t have to wait until you have years of musical training. You can start writing your own songs now. 

Did you know that composing and improvising are closely related? If you have improvised before, you have already taken the first step in composing a song. In this article, we include a fun and simple project that will help you write your very first song. Read on to learn more!

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How are improving and composing related?

At Hoffman Academy, we start improvising in early lessons. When you improvise, you play combinations of notes that you haven’t necessarily heard or seen before. You’re just experimenting and having fun with the sounds you’re making. Most piano compositions begin as improvisations, so today we are going to expand that knowledge to compose our first song. 

What makes an improvisation become a composition? A composition is any improvisation that turns out so good, you decide you want to keep it. Then you either memorize it, make a recording, or write it down on paper. It becomes repeatable. Something to enjoy again and again. 

How to compose a song: Create your own musical haiku!

One way to make your piano composition easy to write and easy to remember is to add words. In this exercise, we are going to start by writing the words first.

Are you familiar with haikus? This is a type of poetry that originated in Japan. Haikus are normally three lines in length and follow a specific pattern of syllables. The first line includes five syllables, the second line includes seven syllables, and the final line is five syllables. Here is a simple example of a haiku:

I love piano

It is fun to play all day

I can play and sing.

Now, let’s write a haiku of your own and adapt it to music. In order to do this, follow our steps below:

  1. Start with some words. When creating a composition it helps to begin with some kind of framework, and for this project we’ll start by writing a simple poem called a haiku. A haiku has one line of five syllables, one line of seven syllables, and then ends with another line of five syllables. It’s short, simple, doesn’t need to rhyme, and it can be about anything you would like to write a song about. For example, you could write a haiku about your favorite game, activity, or holiday! Use the haiku above as an example to help you as you write your own.
  2. Find the rhythm. Once the haiku is written, chant the words out loud. Are there some syllables that want to go faster or slower than the others? Using note heads and stems, write out the rhythm that goes with the words (see Lesson 12 for rhythm composition hints). You may want to try two or three different rhythms and pick your favorite.
  3. Make a melody. Choose a hand position on the keyboard. Then you can start improvising, using the rhythm from step 2. Try three to five different melodies, then pick the one you like best!
  4. Add chords (optional). If you have completed all the lessons in Unit 1, I would encourage you to try adding chords to your melody. The chords don’t have to be complicated: they could be simple I chords or you could even add V7, IV, and/or suspension chords. If you are familiar with and comfortable with these chords, experiment to find what chords fit with the melody best.
  5. Record it. If possible, write out your composition, notes and rhythms, on some blank staff paper. While some really enjoy writing music down on paper, others might find it too difficult. If this is the case for you, you may want to make an audio or video recording of your piano composition instead. You could also take the rhythm you wrote in step 2 and write the letter names under each note.


Important Tip:

When you compose, there are no right or wrong notes. The only thing that determines if it is good enough is if you enjoy it. 

Share it online!

When you have finished your composition, please feel free to share it. Post a video of yourself playing your new piano composition to the Hoffman Academy Students and Parents page on Facebook so that other piano students can enjoy it too!

Save your ideas and keep composing!

This certainly isn’t the only way to compose a song. People have written music in all sorts of ways and different styles. As we said before, the most important thing is that you enjoy what you compose. 

Experiment at the piano and come up with some different sounds. Write down or record what you like so that you can keep a record of your cool musical ideas, even if they’re small and/or incomplete. Then you will always have a collection of your own musical thoughts when you want to write something new! 

At Hoffman Academy we wish you many days of fun and creativity at the piano!

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