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Hey all. I'm new to this forum, and to composing in general, my first and only completed piece so far I already shared. I actually finished that last May, close to a year now.

You might be wondering why i haven't finished something yet(it has been 8 months, after all), and that is a myriad of reasons. First, I am extremely OCD when it comes to composing. Everything has to be very satisfying for me, and second-guessing myself doesn't help.

This December, I started a piece. My last piece had just a piano and violin but i figured(very foolishly) that i could somehow handle writing for a full orchestra. I didn't get that much done on it through out that month, due to the holodays but also due to the fact that everything I wrote I ended up eventually throwing out. I'm kind of glad I did, as it wasn't all that great and didn't fit with my theme for the piece too well. But after going through the cycle of composing and trashing it and getting nowhere, I decided that I was going to finish it this month.

After I made that commitment and stuck with it, I started making a lot more progress, like magic. The piece is scheduled to be done in about a week and it is about 2/3rds written.

Now, I'm sure whoever stuck around this long is wondering where I am going. A valid question. The whole point of this post is to ask you how long it takes you to finish a composition on average, or if you are learning/trying new things while you compose.

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Without motivation (for example, a commission) - besides the root level motivation of wanting to write (desperately) -  I find it difficult to finish large projects. So, for the second time now (I did it in 2009-10) I have enrolled in an online composition school in the UK. Its level 3 advanced, which means you state at the outset what you intend to write. It has to be a major work. Then you have 12-15 months to finish it, with deadlines for assignments (an assignment is usually a movement), and a tutor assessing and criticising your progress.

My 2009 piece ran in at an hour, this one has an estimate of 30-40 minutes (chamber orchestra and two singers)

Having those deadlines is fantastic

Depends on how much time I have to put into it (which constantly varies with a house full of kids), the number of instruments I'm using, and, more than anything else, on whether or not I feel like the thematic material is worth trying to mine over a long(ish) period of time. For a full orchestra work that I can remain enthusiastic about, I'd say my personal average would have to be about a month for around 20 minutes of music, working on it a couple of hours most every day.

John, that sounds very interesting did you post those piece(s)? I would definitely like to hear them. And for me the month deadline is actually nice, in a way yeah. It helps me to make decisions more decisively and quickly. I think it was actually Rodney Money who said something like 'good composers make quick, decisive decisions and that is why some composers have few works and others have hundreds'. Thats actually what motivated me to start a deadline for myself. So thanks Rodney if you read this!

Bob, I compose for therapy also, but I'm goal driven so I figured being under the gun couldn't hurt.

Bob Porter said:

I write as therapy. Many things for orchestra that I post here are done in a few days. The last multi movement work I did took a few months. Many composers take years to write anything. The point being that unless you are under the gun, there may not be a timeframe.

One month for 20 mins seems crazy to me. A month and a half of work for me has/will equal 4ish minutes! But, then again I'm sure you have much more experience than me. I could only imagine what trying to compose with kids would be like. Must get crazy. How do you have a couple hours free every day with kids?

Paul Smith said:

Depends on how much time I have to put into it (which constantly varies with a house full of kids), the number of instruments I'm using, and, more than anything else, on whether or not I feel like the thematic material is worth trying to mine over a long(ish) period of time. For a full orchestra work that I can remain enthusiastic about, I'd say my personal average would have to be about a month for around 20 minutes of music, working on it a couple of hours most every day.

Well, I wouldn't really call it free, so much as stolen. My music room is in our attic, and I try not to have anyone bother me after about 7 or 8 in the evening, but I'm constantly having to pause everything and run downstairs for something or other. Oh, well, at least they're not toddlers anymore, thank goodness... You eventually just get used to working around it.  

Andrew LeFevre said:

One month for 20 mins seems crazy to me. A month and a half of work for me has/will equal 4ish minutes! But, then again I'm sure you have much more experience than me. I could only imagine what trying to compose with kids would be like. Must get crazy. How do you have a couple hours free every day with kids?

Paul Smith said:

Depends on how much time I have to put into it (which constantly varies with a house full of kids), the number of instruments I'm using, and, more than anything else, on whether or not I feel like the thematic material is worth trying to mine over a long(ish) period of time. For a full orchestra work that I can remain enthusiastic about, I'd say my personal average would have to be about a month for around 20 minutes of music, working on it a couple of hours most every day.

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