Menu Close


(part 19 of 20)
Meister Heinrich Frauenlob from the Codex Manesse

Writing for Other Instruments

Writing for multiple instruments becomes more complicated, so first gain significant experience composing for piano alone. Interestingly, those simple two-part pieces as described earlier can be played on a variety of instruments, often working very nicely. They could even be sung. Those simple pieces aren’t so much written for piano as they are written as pure music. As you advance and your music becomes more complex, it will likely also become more “pianistic.” Once you’ve reached that point and have plenty of finished compositions under your belt, you may be ready to try composing for other instruments. When you do, it’s very important to keep in mind that what’s easy on piano is not necessarily easy on another instrument.

You will need to learn the characteristics and idiosyncrasies of the instruments you compose for. You will need to study instrumentation and eventually orchestration (both massive topics). It’s also extremely valuable to learn to play other instruments, at least to basic proficiency. I would highly recommend learning the basics of violin, flute, trumpet, and snare drum (stick method). From there you can expand out, focusing on any instruments you are especially interested in. Used instruments can often be fairly inexpensive. They need not be of fine quality.

At first try arranging a piano composition for piano and a second instrument (let’s say violin). As an example, keep the left hand as written, but give most of the right hand to the violin. Then in the right hand (piano) add some chords, arpeggios, rhythmic textures, etc. The piano might periodically imitate the violin, or converse with it. Keep things simple at first.