Well, that is a weird experience for me. I've must have sold thousands of piano compositions and theory courses over the years. Recently I started writing string quartets because I got a bit bored, but according to the stats hardly anyone is interested. There aren't less visitors, even more (thanks to Covid), so it must be the instruments.

I'm retired now so I don't need the money. The thing is, I plan on writing about 18 or more short string quartets within a year, but had I known this, I would have moved on to my next project, concertos for chamber orchestra. Or will that be a disaster as well? I hope not. There's not much I can do otherwise. I'm not really into bird watching, knitting or weaving baskets.

What are your experiences? Is piano the most popular instrument in this genre?

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  • I think the most marketable classical music today is for standard solo or small ensemble B clarinet.  This seems to be the most commonly studied instrument among young students.  There also is a good market for easy- to mid-level choir and band music.

  • Hi Rowy -  First of all I have no idea what the answer is to your question.  My approach to composing is quite different than yours.  I like being an amateur and not having to answer to anybody or worry about anybody's expectations of what my music should be. 

    But as a professional you are wisely researching the trends in your target market to aim your product at and that makes perfect sense. One suggestion would be to try appealing to your buyers by offering them something familiar.  Of course you prefer traditional composition techniques but you could easily use themes or melodies from popular music in your pieces to appeal to your buyers if you haven't done that already. You could go directly to the current best selling popular music but you should use material with lasting appeal from artists who have demonstrated staying power so that your pieces have a chance to endure on the market. This is certainly not a new idea but it is effective if done properly. 

    Otherwise try writing for a rock quartet, a lot of music education programs are offering classes for this and they certainly need material. Arrangements of popular classical works would be useful here too I think and you wouldn't have to deal with copyright issues as you would with my first suggestion.

    Just some thoughts.

    • Oh dear, writing for a rock quartet... Do you mean "rock" as in popular music? I can't do that. It would give me a heart attack.

      Being retired puts me in the position of an amateur. I can do whatever I want. I just don't want to be a brilliant composer on a deserted island :-)

      • Good suggestions here from Dane and Jon.  If I get married (again) and if I can afford it (not) there will definitely be a Bartok quartet at my wedding!

        Back on topic. No heart attacks, please!  What I meant in my suggestion was, write what you want, but for a different instrument, a rock ensemble.  You asked for different instrument suggestions, here's an example of what I mean:


        PS - Deserted islands can be very nice, and in times of pandemic quite safe.


  • I can add that I've also seen a lot of calls for scores for wind quintet, string orchestra, and art song.

    • I tried string orchestra already, even sold some music. Chamber orchestra, strings plus melody instruments, that might be a nice idea. But first those wretched string quartets.

  • I go along with Ingo here. String Quartets probably aren't the best bet unless you write popular easy-going stuff. Professional Quartets often commission works so I think you need to have a few examples in your portfolio. Otherwise, quartets are increasingly turning up at receptions, weddings and things, demanding happy, fairly easy pieces. You won't hear Bartok's Quartets at a wedding!!

    One possibility is an "album of quartets for receptions." That might be an eye-catcher. Or violin and piano, clarinet and piano, clarinet quintet, etc.

    From what I can see, the traditional route to publishing still applies. You need to get performances of your pieces - piano or whatever you compose for, record them if you can then present score and recording to the publisher.  Different publishers have different preferences. You may be able to self-publish on line and renderings can help.  There are people who can recreate a score in their minds but providing an audio makes it easier - as good an audio as possible. You'll already be aware of the need to register the copyright.

    Aside from a small amount of commercial work, I too am effectively an amateur working in orchestral / ensemble media. For me, it's trying to secure performances - and I fear these days 'performance' has to include virtual performance of a rendering.

    Good luck.

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