Composers' Forum

Music Composers Unite!

Hi everyone. 

I'm new to this forum so I don't know wether this is the right place to ask this or not, but I think it is so I'll go ahead.

After I got myself familiar with the popular classical piano repertoire, I became more interested in composing. Mostly in the late classical style (late Haydn, early/middle Beethoven, etc.). This happened about two years ago. After having composed several pieces in simple A-B-A forms I wanted to go on to some larger scaled works like full scale sonata works. 

However, I got stuck right at the beginning. Whilst simple themes would do just perfectly for the simple pieces I composed before, they simple didn't sit right with me and so I went on analyzing how Beethoven's and Haydn's themes were constructed. What I noticed was that both of them created themes out of sometimes just one motif. I also noticed that this happened more in Beethoven's music than Haydn's. Nevertheless, it also looks like the themes for his earlier compositions are mostly constructed from rhythmic idea, and then those beats where filled in with chord tones of the particular key.

So, I followed this example. Composed several themes every day, but still, none of them were good enough for me, and I couldn't develop a lot out of them. So, I ask you fellow composers and brilliant minds (I hope): How to write themes like Haydn and Beethoven did? Is there any way how we can now?

Thanks in advance!

BW, Marijn

Views: 604

Reply to This

Replies to This Discussion

It is said that Haydn, Beethoven and Mozart all wrote out annotations to Fux's text, and did all the exercises, and so their ability to compose melodies (as well as harmonic and polyphonic content) owes a great deal to the study of Johann Joseph Fux.  I suppose that Schoenberg's text pays more attention to the specific problem of composing motives, phrases and melodies, than does Fux, probably.  Someone who knows a lot about Johann Fux may want to comment (I only have an abbreviated version of Fux).   

[Johann Joseph Fux:  Gradus ad Parnassum].

{Ascent to Mount Parnassus (the home of the Muses).}

Rodney Carlyle Money said:

Before I answer this, are you asking specifically how to write melodies like Beethoven and Hayden or are you asking how to write melodies or themes?

Hi Ondib,

Please send me a copy of our few deleted exchanges and thanks for offering. It may need 2-3 personal messages if they are too long but I do want them for my records as an illustrative example of what may be considered as "bickering", even if for nothing else. But mostly because I thing they contain a lot of our different views on a particular musical subject which is in my opinion indelectual property and should not be destroyed without our knowing. I don’t always keep records on my laptop as I thing the internet is safer to keep them. Thanks.


As for "Gradus ad Parnassum", stated to be written on the principles of compositional practice by Palestrina, as observed and extracted by Fux, I believe it is a very valuable book on composition in itself, but as far as its claim goes that it depicts correctly the "Palestrina" practice, there are many questions.

The central and biggest argument against this particular view is that Palestrina himself (not being a theorist, but a very busy full time Vatican composer),never suggested "Species" counterpoint as a method for teaching or composing and never composed anything in less than three voices. So his particular style of composing cannot be learned from "Gradus".

Having studied the original by Fux, and later on the much better exposition of these principles by Jeppesen (who sticks to the practice of species counterpoint for its didactic value only and not as a compositional approach), I have found that the melodic restrictions are much stricter even than the harmonic ones in both books, but the "melodic style" of Palestrina is much better explained by Jeppesen rather than Fux, by illustrative examples from actual compositions and by comparison with Fuxe's examples on melodic writing. In particular the melodic approach proposed by Fux is that of his day, ie the late 17th-early 18th century and not the actual restricted Palestrinian approach of the 16th century which in itself is an extra-musical "aesthetic" approach owing its appearance and existence to the counter-reformation Vatican ideas rather than to musical reasons as such.

The book by Jeppesen written in the early 20th century is most informative in all matters regarding melody writing-Palestrina style, and will benefit any student regardless of whether the aim of such study is or is not to practice and include 16th century approaches to composition in general.

On the other hand I find "Fundamentals of Music Composition" by Schoenberg one of the best ever written books on composition, based on sound logical principles of harmonic relationships, and addressing itself directly to the modern student with a lot of attention behind on developing a personal style, freer compositional thought and without much fuss.

So, to conclude, I would say, that Fux and Jeppesen address themselves to particular approaches of the study of 16th century polyphonic writing but Schoenberg's book is a wider approach to composition in general.


I attach PDFs for all three books which are readable but done in earlier formats of PDF protocol and they may need some editing for ease of use.

I still keep returning to all three books, practicing their valuable advice and still learning something that I did not know. Study of these matter can never finish in my opinion.

Sorry, PDFs are to lare for uploadingg but can be downloaded from these URLs







and a very Happy Easter to all!

Would you both (Socrates and O.O.) consider re-posting your posts here, although (of course) this time removing the objectionable bits?  I didn't have time to read the posts before they were removed, but I'm interested in the topic.  Others may be interested as well.

Reply to Discussion


Sign up info

Read before you sign up to find out what the requirements are!


© 2021   Created by Gav Brown.   Powered by

Badges  |  Report an Issue  |  Terms of Service