A composing artist, also called a composer, writes and arranges original works of music. Some of them specialize in a specific style, genre or instrument, while others offer a full spectrum of composing services. Understanding what a composing artist does could help a person determine if that is the career path they would like to take with their music education degree or their talents in music and composition.
Write Original Music
One of the primary activities of a composing artist is to write original music. They might write music for a high school or college marching band or for a musical group. Many composers work directly with an orchestra or opera house in order to write original works that will be played to a live audience or recorded for release on an album. The artist may focus on one genre of music, such as classical or jazz, or they might offer a range of styles. Some of the composers write to a specific instrument, such as piano music.
Arrange or Update Existing Music
A composer may arrange a piece of existing music in order to update it. This might be a piece of their own music or someone else’s music. In some cases, the music may be an old piece that is in the public domain. In other situations, a musician or group might decide to work with the composer in order to update or arrange their music. Composers often work with musical artists in order to change the style of music. For example, the Elvis Presley song, “A Little Less Conversation” has been updated by several bands to a dance song. A composer might do this type of rearranging of music with the owner’s permission, by paying for access or by working directly with the original songwriter.
Write Lyrics or Work With a Lyricist
If a composing artist has created a piece of music that needs to be sung, they may also write the lyrics for it. If it is a privately commissioned composition, they might work with the client in order to determine the words, phrasing, mood and tone of the lyrics. They may instead work with a lyricist in order to set the lyrics for the music. The lyricist and composer would review the music together. Once in a while, a composer might be commissioned to write music based on a set of lyrics that already exists.
Meet With Potential Clients Who Want Commissioned Music
Some composing artists work on a freelance or gig basis. To this extent, they may spend a good portion of their time meeting with potential clients who want a piece of commissioned music. Some of the types of clients they meet with might be a movie producer, television show producer, politician, orchestra or musical group. They might also meet with a religious organization or nonprofit group that wants a commissioned piece of music. The artist might create a sample or get some specifications of what the client wants. Many meetings may be needed until the composer delivers the completed piece.
Study and Listen to Music
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, another job duty of a composing artist is to listen to and study music. A composer should be familiar with different styles of music so that they can differentiate between them. These artists should also be able to tell the composition of one artist from another and explain how they differ. When studying different types of music, the artist might borrow elements or get inspiration from them in order to create a new musical composition of their own creation. A composer who wants to use more than a couple of notes from a different work of original art might need to seek permission or explain the source if it is in the public domain.
Work With Musicians
A composing artist also works with musicians. Once the composer has finalized a musical composition, they may meet with the musicians who intend to play it. This is especially true for a privately commissioned composition. In some cases, the composer might help direct the musicians in order to achieve the desired mood in the music. The composer might attend the practice sessions, rehearsals or performances of the musicians in order to provide them with feedback. The musicians might have feedback to give to the composer, too. The artist usually attends recording sessions of musicians who are recording a privately commissioned work for use in a film, video, television show or album.
A composing artist may work independently or for a cultural institution, opera house or similar organization. The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that the number of jobs and wages of composing artists will remain steady between May 2018 and May 2028, and job competition will be high. Anyone who is interested in becoming a composing artist should understand what composing artists do so that they can decide if their skills and preferences mesh well with what is required for this type of job.