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Making and playing

Where to start? And how to make it seem simple…

Composition is about making. We all do it every day. Things like forming relationships, and having conversations are types of making. We make our life as we live it.

If we have a hobby, then the making is more obvious. Electronics projects, woodworking, rebuilding the engine of a car, etc. produce tangible results. We learn to do these things as we do them.

Music composition is no different. But it’s perceived as a calling rather than a hobby. That’s because of its history (all those dead composers we keep talking about), and its place in the art world. It can be intimidating.

And then there’s the part about doing it in public.

But like a hobby, it involves technique and craft that anyone can learn.

The first thing to do is just start playing with sounds. This is where apps come in.


These are made to be played with. They aren’t fake instruments; they’re apps that let you combine sounds. I’ll list some of the ones I have, and add others as I discover them. Send me suggestions for any that you discover.


Drop balls on a keyboard. This one is interesting because of the different cross-rhythms you can create. You can also sync multiple ball-drops to create chords.

Aural Flux

Drag elements onto the screen to create spacy textures. Adjust element positions once they’re on the screen. Choose between four moods as the texture plays.


Similar to Aural Flux, but more activity on the screen. Touch to place circles that grow until their edge touches another circle’s edge. As edges touch, delicate sounds emerge and the circles diminish to nothing before growing again. Add as many circles as you like.


The inspiration for Loop and Aural Flux. More spacy textures, but the most interesting one visually. Costs more, but still less than $5.


These are closer to improvisation than composition, but the two are related. Both are about putting sounds together in a search for something that sounds good. These apps don’t involve craft like composition does, but there are other apps that do. I’ll talk about those when they relate to other topics.

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