As the title states, I always seem to fall in with the routine of laying down an ostinato in every song as a means to convey it to the next phrase or as a static line to play around or as a way to show tension or building intensity.

While ok for a couple of pieces, I have developed a nasty habit of relying on them.. they are sort of a plan "B"  that has become a plan "A".

My question: can anyone suggest some other method for keeping a song moving or building excitement. Any rhythmic or melodic devices I should look into?

I really like Aaron Copland... All of his music has an fun and exciting quality.. that is the sort of sound/skill I would love to get to.

Well, I know the question is a bit vague, but It's hard to put into words. Any help would be appreciated!

Many thanks,

Jeremiah Edward

You need to be a member of Composers' Forum to add comments!

Join Composers' Forum

Email me when people reply –


  • Agreed, ostinatos are NOT bad.  The point of the thread, however, isn't to bash ostinatos, it is to discuss ways to stray away from them when you find yourself using them as a crutch.  Whenever I find myself developing tendencies, it helps to spend a while doing the exact opposite, even if just as practice.

    Rus White said:

    Ostinatos aren't really bad thing though as from them we get themes and variations! The whole idea that every single phrase has to be different (which isn't saying it's wrong to think that) is ridiculous though!
    Breaking the Ostinato habit- Help with compostitoin
    Hello, As the title states, I always seem to fall in with the routine of laying down an ostinato in every song as a means to convey it to the next ph…
  • This is a great idea! 

    As has been stated already in this thread, anything I can do to get into a different compositional frame of mind (such as picking up a different instrument I'm not familiar with, moving to a new notation/recording medium, deriving melodies from non-musical aspects of life, etc.) helps me get out of ruts.


    Also, Jeremiah, I know you said that you HAVE been having a lot of luck so far writing with pencil/paper away from the DAW, but one excercise that may help lift the "veil of mystery" off of hand-written music is to open back up your DAW and (without looking at your midi editor) transcribe by hand all of the parts you had recorded, esentially making a hand-written score for your computer-composed music.  Depending on the style and the type of sounds you use, you may have to get creative with some of the notation, but writing out guitar chords and drum parts and and organ melodies and everything into a score can really help bridge the mental gap between written/printed music and the sounds coming out of your DAW.

    Art Hughes said:

    Here is a technique I sometimes use with a DAW to break out of an ostinato rut... negative space. In the DAW, I will lay many random tracks of random lines in random meters on the score layout ( I use Fruity Loops, way fun, way easy). Then sit back, listen and move/remove parts until something starts to come through. No preconceived expectations. Some of it is good, some not so good, but it always gets me into a different space. Buildups can be overlapping parts or instrument effects.


    Breaking the Ostinato habit- Help with compostitoin
    Hello, As the title states, I always seem to fall in with the routine of laying down an ostinato in every song as a means to convey it to the next ph…
  • Great topic, Jeremiah, and it's admirable that you were able to pick out what it is you didn't like about your composing, as that is the first step towards improving it.  Along with the other advice given by other composers, I would emphasize listening to your favorite composers, and searching for ones you have not yet heard, because every melody, chord change, and other musical idea you hear enters your subconscious and affects your writing, just as every word you hear enters your subconscious.  No one ever learned to speak proper English unless they heard it first!  In fact I'll even make you some recommendations for composers that I think are not mentioned by many people into orchestral music and have excellent styles:  Check out the Morrowind and Oblivion soundtracks, as well as the Heroes of Might and Magic IV soundtrack.

    I have to second what Sylvester said as well....Don't be afraid to copy other composers' melodies!  I personally don't consciously copy things, but I'm working on a piece that contains a melody I subconsciously copied from my favorite composer (though I use it in a different time signature and with different note durations).  But there's nothing wrong with consciously taking a melody you like from another composer and putting your own twist on it or using it as a starting point for a piece that you intend to distinguish from the original.  Even practicing that with a melody YOU'VE written seems like a great composing exercise - try using the same melody and take the emotion in a different direction, change the time signature - change the note durations, etc....the possibilities are plenty.

    Another thing I recommend is picking up the book "Composing Music:  A New Approach," which helps give you some ideas for writing music based on tonal and numeric limitations, among other things.  It's a great book to help give you some ideas to experiment with while writing.

  • I love using ostinatos, and I find that a good way to get away from them is to design chordal melodies, a quick succession of chords that avoid repetition.

This reply was deleted.