How to Write Music Like a Pro

Musicians express themselves in many wonderful, different ways, but with professional lessons, they can learn to speak any language, no matter what culture. The lessons become more complex, but it comes easier and more quickly than you might think when you know how to write music.

There are a number of approaches. A musician can pull a melody or words from their head, play the seedling piece by trial and error on an instrument, then add to it in order to manufacture a song. Or, a formal approach is to learn standard composition and write sheet music. This is a more professional approach and is what we will discuss here. Thanks to modern technology, it isn’t that difficult. This is especially true if you have already learned to read music.

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What You Will Need to Write Music

This begins with sheet music paper. If you have a local music store in your immediate area, you can pick up a supply there. You can expect to find truly professional staff paper there and personal, knowledgeable service to help you find exactly what you need. If that isn’t a viable option, you can easily find it online. Sheet music is designed for various purposes, including single instruments, choir, bass clef, and more.

Sheet Music Sources is one source with many downloadable and printable sheet music choices, plus they provide additional services such as instruction on how to write music. Blank Sheet Music is another providing these forms for any instrument. A third such company is Musicaneo. All of them allow the sheet music forms to be printed for free.

Technological Assists

Handwritten sheet music dates back to the Middle Ages. and the method has served composers beautifully all these hundreds of years. Now, though, the Information Age has brought us fantastic technology to make the process easier and more efficient. There are numerous applications and programs available to those who would explore how to write music like a pro. It can be done on practically any device as conveniently as could be imagined.

For example, there are free programs, such as GarageBand, MuseScore, and Music Composer that each has its own unique features, but they all help get the user started, teach them to make music notation easy without an eraser, and enable printing of the music.

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For professional composers, there are such tools as Finale and Sibelius. Although they run about $600 for the programs, Sibelius makes it possible for creating music for theater, film, and television and provides the means for promoting it swiftly. Finale enables its customers to exercise a high degree of flexibility and freedom in terms of getting the music on the sheet as compared to the free software. The exceptional quality of these two tools makes them worth the money for composers looking to make music their livelihood.

These are some well-known resources that will help a person learn how to write music. As mentioned, there are many others available, and it would be worthwhile checking for features that are particularly suited for your own needs.

Choosing a Composition/Transcribing Method

If you download your staff paper rather than buy it in person, you may have the opportunity to select a pre-filled key and clef notations that can then be printed with the staves. It will look professional and save you the time of having put them in yourself. If you are composing free-hand, we suggest using a pencil first, as plenty of revision is to be expected.

The Software Option

Using software for composition does open the door for speed and efficiency once learned. Dragging and dropping notes where you want them on the staff, allowing for quick revisions and other easily accessible tools, make this method pleasant to use. What’s more, if you have a MIDI keyboard you can input into the computer with a USB cable; this will enable you to play the melody directly onto the keyboard. In turn, the program will convert the notes onto the staff for you. You can even follow up with parts for other instruments or voices and build your composition.

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This is placing the notes, rests, dynamics, and other elements of the music onto the sheets. There may be only one chart, as in choral arrangements, or if you have only a couple of instruments. However, if there are more instruments involved, select those which can fit on one sheet and note which staff or staves are to be used for each instrument.


Whether it’s your own creation or a song you’d like to transcribe, it’s a tool a musician can use for various situations, such as trying to keep from forgetting parts of a song, noting down some music you want to share with other musicians, checking your understanding of a piece of music, or other possible reasons. In these types of scenarios, it isn’t vital for the transcription to be perfect. The idea is to put small or large elements of your musical creations into the material universe where you can see them instead of leaving them in your mind where they may become muddled.

The simple notation may be all that’s needed. Freehand writing would be fine. For more detailed or lengthy transcribing, you may want to use alternative methods, such as writing chords out as a guide or creating a code that acts as shorthand. The composer can even resort to transcription software, such as Transcribe! or Anytune. They are valuable in speeding up the learning process involved in transcription and helping break down music to be more easily understood as part of the creation process.

Words of Wisdom on How to Write Music Like a Pro

Before the composer can ever hope to write music, you must be able to read sheet music. It’s both the most wonderful and dynamic written language. That’s to say, it’s understood universally, most can’t read it, yet everyone understands when they hear it. Writing music is all about putting a thought or emotion on a page and getting someone else to translate it. That’s where the mechanics come in.

The Language of Sheet Music

Start with the clef symbols at the left edge of the staff lines. The treble clef is appropriate for a higher range of the musical scale from E up through the octave to E again. The bass clef is in a lower range and runs from G up through the octave to a higher G. Not so common is the tenor clef, which is used for choral music. The notes are the same as a treble clef, but they range an octave lower. The symbol is the same as the addition of a small eight underneath.

The time signature is written in next and is placed just to the right of the clef. For example, 4/4 is the most common, meaning there are four beats to a measure and a quarter note has one beat. The key is written to the right of the time signature. Symbols for flats and sharps determine the key. Flats taking the following notes a half step lower and sharps taking them a half step higher.

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The notes are entered next, with their lengths determined by the kind of note. Full note is four beats, a half note is two, a quarter note is one and the eighth note is a half-beat. A dot after a note indicates it is being extended half the time of the note length. Rests inform the musician of a pause in the music.

Use Your Instrument

It is not vital, but using your instrument to compose is a great help. Playing notes to hear how they sound in your composition provides a guide and sounding board to try out your ideas. Come up with a melody and incorporate it into your sheet music. As you continue through the composition, let the ideas flow with your imagination. It may take considerable trial and error, or it may just fall in place. However it works, enjoy the process and let it happen naturally. One interesting technique is to write in phrases, eventually piecing all the phrases together into a complete composition.

Once your melody is written for the length of the piece, you can write an accompaniment that gives depth to your main musical message. This can simply be a harmony, or it can be a counterpoint that enhances it.

Fleshing Out Musical Content

One of the most beautiful parts of sheet music is weaving in dynamics. For instance, adding a crescendo (building from soft to loud) adds drama, which, when well placed, can affect the listener emotionally. A composer can add drama and emotional resonance with this kind of musical tool.

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Learning how to write music like a pro is one of the most fulfilling experiences a person can have in the world of the arts. Creativity is excellent for mental health. With all the technology we have to write music at a professional level, we should be grateful and should take the opportunity to share our musical talents with the world.      

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