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(part 18 of 20)
The Great Wave off Kanagawa by Hokusai


There are general principles of beauty: proportion, grace, interest, etc. They can be subjective to a greater or lesser extent, based on personal taste and culture, but they can also be grounded more objectively in physics, nature, and our species’ evolution.

While composing, keep aesthetics at the forefront of your mind. Ask yourself:

“Why did I place this melody here? Would it be more interesting elsewhere? Is part of this passage awkward? Is the harmony inconsistent? Is any section too thin, too thick? Does any section lose momentum, or would any benefit from a rhythmic break? Is anything of a lower quality than the surrounding music? If so, why, and how might it be improved? Should it be cut completely? Does anything stand out as being especially good? If so, why, and could it serve as a model to improve other parts of the music?”

Also try to think objectively, from the perspective of someone listening to the music for the first time, and how they might perceive it and better absorb and enjoy it. Maintaining this frame of mind takes practice, but over time it will dramatically increase the quality of your music.