Music Composers Unite!
After so much good and sound advice and criticism that you have been offered so far in this thread from all composers I could hardly add anything.
I listen to 6-7 of your pieces and I found something good in all of them. Obviously I have my best like anyone else, it is "a healthy dose of paranoia". Usually a new comer to this forum does not get so much attention and advice as you do, so even that probably is good evidence that composers like you and want you to stay with them and develop your art further. In other words, if you did not take their hints, in the long run it would be a loss to music and to yourself.
I observed in all your pieces 3 main music elements: rhythm, melody, and harmony.
The 4th element is counterpoint, but no one would expect it from someone that has not study it formally.
There is good evidence that you can manipulate all three of them up to a certain point not by your knowledge of them but by inborn musicality. There are problems in every piece and some people have pointed to them, so I will not repeat them. To put it in a sentence, you know how to begin something and carry on up to a certain point with good results but later, not knowing enough about structuring and manipulating further, the piece either becomes repetitive or finishes.
Everyone has pointed you towards further study, and I am not going to be deferent, I will only give my own opinion. Any method of study may be valid for any individual, but it's sometimes a question of knowing these methods. A first university degree (at its best) is supposed (apart from formal course content) to teach you study skills, so that you can be an autodidact, or as Mike put it, up to 90% self-taught musician for the rest of your studying life.
I will state my personal experience/preference both as a student and as a teacher. All methods of teaching and musical subjects studied are worth, but I have found the Western European method of classical music studies the best as it is the richest in content and the quickest in results. (After all it developed through centuries, based on its own musical civilization-the top music civilization that can be observed historically).That may sound a bit stuffy, but to me it is the truth. There are a few relatively easy approaches:
Listening to a lot of music (a hell of a lot, I should say) is a good one. And coming back to what you listen and back again etc. etc. I remember once that I made a bet with myself that I could listen to all 52 Haydn piano sonatas without a break :-) well, I fell asleep exhausted at some points, but when I woke up I just carried on listening. What a stupid exercise eh? I did not see any benefit out of it, cause anyway I had listen to them before in a more human way, but I may add, I did not see any harm in it. For most of the time while the bet lasted the music was as enjoyable as ever. It only left me with the habit of repeating the exercise from time to time with all sorts of composers and repertoires. Through the years, by just listening alone, I've learnt a lot about music, and more importantly, about what to do with my music.
It is very essential to me, so, I would ask you: how much music are you listening, and what music?
Another way to study western music, perhaps not mentioned yet, apt to give quick and thrilling results, is to study it through a chosen instrument and trying to observe the theory that you already know been applied (or not applied) by the composer in the pieces you are trying to learn. This way is good for practical training, good aural training and good theory training, imp, and of course the best results come out of the study of an established classical instrument, whichever.
If you don’t play any, it is never late ta start studying on one and set to yourself goals, like for example, "I'm going to pass my violin (or whatever) grade 2 exam by the end of next summer, or something like that.
Well, I don’t want to carry on, any further, I believe that other contributors have covered some subjects better than me in the advice given. I leave you with a quote of a very wise man, Isidore (bishop) of Seville (c. 560-630 B.C.):
Study as if you were going to live for ever!
Good luck with it all.
sorry, demon of the printing press strikes again,
Isidore (bishop) of Seville (c. 560-630 A.D).
The "obvious" presumably being formal music education, and I'd assume that you being a teacher, or former teacher, presents a certain bias on the matter. Well, here's a few whys for you regarding education vs forums:
d) The worry and possibility you'll end up with tutors unsympathetic to your style and goals, stymieing your progress or enthusiasm (this definitely happens, in all circles of creative tutelage)
e) You simply don't want to get into, or back into, formal education
The "obvious" path of education can be broken down to: being told what you're doing wrong and how to improve by those with the experience and knowledge to back up such information. While a course or degree should guarantee some measure of that, it's not the only method by any means.
And Steve, those reasons regarding music theory are not uniformly bullshit.
Rowy van Hest said:
I still don't understand why some talented young composers prefer to hang around fora, instead of doing the obvious.
Steve Chandler said:
There are a number of reasons why people seem to think that learning music theory will do bad things to their creativity. They're all bull excrement.
IMO one of the best things you can do by yourself is find examples of the kind of music you like to write or hope to write, and break them down. I can't do this by ear but I'm still often pausing films or shows to work out chord progressions on guitar. Do this enough and you'll develop an understand of what progressions evoke what mood and serve what purpose. You'll find certain ones crop up a lot through the last few hundred years. Keep doing it and you'll have a bank of mental options when composing to draw on.
Music theory is often tied up with music trends, styles and eras. You will find some tutors dismissive of certain styles, and learning theory under those circumstances would probably be harmful. If you go down that route, research exhaustively.
I'd suggest spending some time learning how to play piano, if that's your main composing instrument - just basic chords even. It'll provide a solid framework you can use to improvise within.
And ask questions here - best that they're specific questions on small singular aspects rather than "how would I improve this piece" or something. Every question asked and answered is a little more gold mined into your composing foundry.
I especially like the Mindless Vapor song. You are very talented. Keep studying, practice, and listen to the genres of music you would like to make a lot (that is what I do...it helps so much!) Well done.