Musical Composition, Theory and Songwriting/Publish/Copyright?


Hey, My name is Zach, and I love music... I write piano solos, and I play by ear.
My family and friends, as well as a local musician that has been playing since he was three, have teld me that I have a lot of talent.
I also write lyrics to most of my songs.
How do I get recognized without having to travel or talk with an agent for rediculous hours?
I am seventeen, and I am worried about having my work reiterated and claimed as another's.
How can I be recognized and prevent being plaigerized at the same time?

         Thanks for your time,
         Zach B

Hello Zach,

If you're unknown as a composer no agent will waste five minutes on you - if you want your compositions to be performed you have to circulate them as widely as possible.  So start by buying a music notation software program such as Mozart Virtuoso, which is what I use ( and produce a portfolio of compositions.

As a matter of course you should write "(c)[Year] [Your Name]" on the manuscript every time you compose.  This was drummed into me when I was an 11-year-old student at the RAM - doesn't matter if you don't expect to make any money from it, it's your intellectual property so safeguard it.  The same goes for arrangements of other composers' work - they own the copyright of the original piece but it's your arrangement so "This arrangement (c)[Year] [Your Name]".

In Britain you then establish your copyright by posting a copy of the manuscript to yourself by registered post - ask the PO to ensure the postmark's clear.  Write your signature across the seal of the envelope and don't open it when it arrives (make a note of the title on the envelope) since it has to remain sealed to be valid evidence if there's ever a dispute.

There's a useful section on the Boosey & Hawkes website which should give you information about actually making money from your composition:

I'm not primarily a composer so am not trying to make my living from my compositions, which simplifies matters.  In the past I've written music on commission for specific performances put on by local theatre companies - my usual practice was to retain the copyright but (once they'd paid me!) give them performing rights, which means whenever they wished to show this production they could use my music provided I was acknowledged in the programme as the composer, and they didn't need to deal with the PRS.  I currently write simplified arrangements of TV themes, pop songs etc for my pupils, and also compose the examination dances for the two ballet schools where I work.  If my pupil plays my arrangement at a school concert or festival I want to be acknowledged but don't expect payment - similarly, my ballet dances belong to the schools as far as I'm concerned, and any of the other classes or pianists are welcome to use them, but my copyright's on the sheet music.

Print out a few copies of your compositions and give them to anyone who's interested - local music teachers or performers, schools/colleges, amateur music societies, anywhere.  At this stage you're not aiming to make money, you're aiming to get yourself known.

Hope this helps, and good luck.  

Musical Composition, Theory and Songwriting

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Clare Redfarn


All aspects of the academic/theoretical side of music, including harmony, counterpoint, elementary composition, history, harmonic analysis, aural training, sightreading - the lot! Please note I'm not primarily a composer so I can't help with composition beyond what's required for Grade 8 theory or A'level. And don't ask me about psychoacoustics or music psychology as I have no knowledge of, nor interest in, either subject.


58 years as pianist (soloist and accompanist); 43 years as harpsichordist (soloist and continuist); 10 years as violinist and 6 years as bassoonist (youth orchestras/chamber groups); 46 years as piano teacher, coach in performance/interpretation (all ages, instruments and levels) and private tutor (mainly the old O'level, Grade VI+ ABRSM theory/practical musicianship, A'level and undergraduates); 21 years as ballet pianist (Cecchetti syllabus).

Member of Musicians' Union in Britain 1978-1989 and 1991-2009.

I've been writing professionally since I was 20 - too many programme notes to count over the years and a number of articles. Additionally, from 1996-2000 I was a Music Assessor for London Arts and as such regularly wrote critiques of concerts given by recipients of Arts Council funding.

MA in European Cultural Policy & Administration (Warwick University, 1994)
B Mus with Honours (London University, 1977)
Postgraduate Diploma in Arts Administration (City University, 1982)
Licentiate of Royal Academy of Music in Piano Teaching (1976)
Licentiate of Royal Academy of Music in Harpsichord Teaching (1978)

Studied RAM Junior School (1966-74), then as full-time student (1974-78).

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