Judith Weir CBE, Master of the King's Music
David Matthews

A Composing Beginner 

By Jonathan Cross

If, a few years ago, you’d told me that I would be a composer I’d have looked at you in utter bemusement. I’ve never composed any music.  I’m a mediocre violin player (I stopped playing for 20 years…).   I have limited knowledge of classical music and next to no knowledge of the piano. Yet here I am, an active member of The London Composers Forum with three pieces having been performed and two more coming this year.

So, this blog is for the novices out there.  A few thoughts:


  • Crikey, it’s intimidating isn’t it?  If you’re going to improve at all you’re going to write something (that isn’t exactly Mahler’s 5th) and share it with people who know a darn sight more than you do. What if you’re that person on Britain’s Got Talent who thinks they’re great but, well, they’re not.  Obviously you won’t know until you put yourself out there, but fear not.  From what I’ve seen, Simon Cowell couldn’t cut it in the friendly world of composing.  People are nice and love extending helpful advice.
  • You’re writing sheet music.  Even if it’s not Mahler’s 5th, you’re already a legend.
  • It’s a massively steep learning curve but you won’t improve unless you play your music to knowledgeable people.
  • I initially felt compelled to make my music unnecessarily complicated (it’s relative given how complex some music can get…).  I guess I was trying to hide my limitations.  As I’ve had thing played I’ve often had to pare things back.
  • At least to start with, write what you know.  I play the violin.  So I wrote for the violin.
  • Handing over your work to be played is incredibly rewarding.  It’s worth it.
  • Come to a London Composers Forum concert and speak to us!