Deciding that you want to pursue music as a career can be both a terrifying and satisfying journey. But it doesn’t have to be a sudden one. For me it happened so gradually, I don’t really remember when I decided it.
Signs that I was going to be a musician were all over the place when I was a kid. My first time watching the original Star Wars trilogy was through VHS rentals from the library. My dad didn’t have the movies yet, but he had the soundtracks. And I remember saying that I didn’t need the movies because I could see them if I just listened to the soundtracks. At one point, I even made a fan soundtrack where I wrote a short little Star Wars story and selected tracks from A New Hope, The Empire Strikes Back, and Return of the Jedi to accompany them.
In the following years I was probably the only kid my age to want the Star Wars soundtracks instead of whatever music the kids were listening to. I’m not trying to be a snob about it either, I really didn’t have an interest in the music that was popular during my childhood. I blame that partly on my obsession with film and video game soundtracks. And you’d better believe that once YouTube came along I was always listening to video game music on there.
I’d say that I started finally composing music when I was about nine, but not composing in the traditional sense. This was the year I first picked up a trumpet, and a lot of my playing consisted of stuff that I would make up on the spot because I thought it sounded cool. My parents would ask me what I was playing, and I would just respond with “I don’t know, I made it up.” And that was my first experience with composing.
But my first experience with what I would call formal composing (writing down the music) would be when I was 11. There were two things that I absolutely loved to use. One was a cute little PC program called Mario Paint Composer. It was based on the music section of the game Mario Paint on SNES, and it allowed you to create some cool songs that sounded like they came straight from the 16-bit era.
The other one was a website called Notessimo. Notessimo gave you a lot of great instrument choices that Mario Paint Composer just couldn’t. Compared to my modern sample libraries, Notessimo doesn’t stand a chance, but for what it was and for the low price of free, it wasn’t bad. I was pretty proud of the stuff I created on there, and some of it is still there since the website actually still exists and is being used all these years later. There’s one theme I made on there ten years ago that I’m still trying to figure out how to rework into something else because I still like it.
Things took a turn for the worse in late 2009 when we got a new computer and I realized too late that my songs weren’t stored on the website but on the computer itself. Although a few were published, all the rest were works in progress and will forever remain lost. But it’s still really cool and I recommend checking it out, ESPECIALLY if you’re looking to get into composing for fun.
When I was 14 I decided to try out MuseScore, a free sheet music engraving software that many people I know adore. I absolutely hated the thing, and I didn’t mind upgrading. So that was the year I got Finale...Notepad that is. I was a teenager, I didn’t have the money to shell out for anything but the base version that allowed for no more than eight staves.
The following year I upgraded to Finale Printmusic 2011, allowing for a whopping 24 staves, and I absolutely thrived on that program. I kept everything from over the years and a bulk of my compositions and arrangements came from this program, mostly just arrangements for many years though. I don’t know what it was but at that age, I loved trying to recreate something on Finale. And I think it really helped me as time went on. The skills I gained from being able to listen intently to a piece of music and pick individual notes and instruments out of it would become invaluable to me in the future.
It was using Finale Printmusic 2011 that I wrote a bit of a fan-soundtrack to the Star Wars Novel Vector Prime. This was a huge turning point for me as I started to move away from arranging and started to write my own stuff, adapting music from a written story. I would later take this same approach with Robert Mullin’s Novel Bid The Gods Arise. This fan soundtrack impressed one of my professors, who suggested that I continue working on my compositions by declaring a minor in studio composition.
Fast forward a year and just as I start the minor, my computer really starts to fail me. Frustrated with HP, I decided to go for a different kind of laptop and splurged on a MacBook Pro. I quickly became acquainted with GarageBand and eventually, Logic Pro X, quite possibly my favorite DAW. I ended up getting Finale for this as well, the full version this time.
It was at this time when I realized that I could be a professional composer. I went to college as a trumpet player and I’ll be leaving as more of a composer than a trumpet player. Sometimes it takes a while for a person to realize what it is they want, even if it’s right in front of them.
Thanks for reading, and be on the lookout for my next post!