Beginner's Section Introduction

Congratulations on deciding to learn the theory behind composing music.

Although this is the beginner’s section, it’s assumed that you know how to read music and have a grasp of some essential musical theory. Many of the musical examples will require that you can read music. However, even if you don’t read music some of the compositional ideas are useful. A musical instrument is also useful in order to compose and play the examples.

The art of composing music requires a firm grasp of many concepts. The seven elements of music are:

  1. Melody

  1. Harmony

  1. Rhythm

  1. Texture

  1. Dynamics

  1. Timbre

  1. Form

The beginner’s section for composing music will only address melody, harmony, and rhythm. Brief descriptions of the three are given below.


In music, melody is the most important part of the composition. It is the part that the listeners will remember and think of when they recall your composition. The melody is also known as the tone, voice, or line, and is a series of notes in succession, which interest the listener. It is not just a bunch of random notes strung together, but rather an interesting change in pattern, accomplished by varying the pitch and duration of the notes. Visit Become a Melody Composer for additional information on creating an interesting melody.


Harmony is the accompaniment that compliments the melody. The harmony is the vertical aspect of music, while the melody is the horizontal aspect. When people speak of harmonizing the melody, they are generally referring to creating a base that will enhance the melody. A melody can have many different underlying harmonies which dramatically alter the mood of the composition. You can check out *How to Harmonize a Melody if you are interested in learning how to harmonize a melody.

The top notes are the melody of the piece and the bottom notes are the harmony of the piece. The harmony is usually comprised of chords or arpeggios. Arpeggios incorporate playing the notes of the chord in successions rather then simultaneously.

The Chord is on the left while the Arpeggio is on the right.

Chords can be converted into an arpeggio by playing the notes separately rather than together. Arpeggios allow for songs to have more of a flow, while the chord can be used to keep the beat of the song. Medley of Waterfalls is one of our compositions that incorporate both. Listen to the base, and notice how it begins as arpeggios, but the second section utilizes chords to create an interesting contrast.


Rhythm is the most fundamental element of music; drums were in use long before strings and other instruments. Even in speaking, people can use rhythms to make their speech more interesting to the listener. Correspondingly, rhythm can add interest to a composition. Indeed, many popular rap songs have an interesting base rhythm, which allow the monotonous melody to be more interesting to the listener. Rhythm is one of the easiest ways to capture an audience’s attention in a composition and to improve a composition.

Rhythm is defined as the pattern of musical movement through time. In other words, different notes will be held for different amounts of time. Interestingly, many musicians have a harder time reading rhythm than reading the notes. (With the exception of drummers.) Burning Embers is one of our compositions with an interesting base rhythm.

You can find additional information on how to use rhythm to improve a melody at *Use Rhythm to Enhance Your Melody.