May Composition Challenge - how to write music

May Composition Challenge: Scenery

Update: This challenge is now closed. Watch the results here.

New month new composition challenge!

For this month’s challenge, I’m inviting you to draw some inspiration from nature. Composers have done this for hundreds of years but for this challenge we’re doing it from a still image. I’ve chosen 3 scenic pictures from – your task is to express one of them in music.

As usual, this challenge is open to all levels (whether a complete beginner, a seasoned pro or anywhere in between) so in case you need a push in the right direction, I’ve provided some tips and examples that might help you get going. Feel free to ignore these suggestions if they’re not right for you. 

Scene 1:

The calm blue skies and water are dominant here but don’t ignore the clouds (perhaps they are indicative of an approaching storm or eventual rainfall? Or maybe the storm is over?) The reflections on the water are also worth considering – how do you express a reflection musically?

School of Composition - May Composition Challenge - how to write music

Musical suggestions:

  • Consider opening with high, light chords played softly (representing the sky) with a gentle melody coming in underneath (representing the landscape). The melody can be repeated, in full or in part, in the bass (representing the reflections). (Ps. You don’t have to use traditional harmony). 

Scene 2:

Apart from the land separated by the water, here we have a sunset over a calm landscape. BUT is the darkness that’s approaching scary or peaceful? That’s up to you!

School of Composition - May Composition Challenge - how to write music

Musical suggestions:

  • Consider writing a chord progression that slowly gets thicker, darker and more dissonant. At the same time, perhaps, the silence in between the chords can also get longer and longer (just like the sunset where the colors are slowly taken away from the scene until the darkness of the night settles in).

Scene 3:

In case you’d like to avoid the water, here’s a scene where it doesn’t dominate. Here every individual tree is its own entity but it also contributes to the overall picture. It’s the perfect metaphor for a contrapuntal texture, that is several different melodies playing together. Each melody follows its own line but it also forms part of the overall sound.

Perhaps the melodic phrases can be of different lengths too and this would represent the variety of the tree trunks: some are thick while others are thin, some are strong while others are fragile, some lean one way and others go another.

School of Composition - May Composition Challenge - how to write music

Musical suggestions:

  • Consider writing for a group of 4 or 5 instruments each one playing their own melody in its own range (without any other instrument crossing into another’s range). The melodies can be as similar or as unique from each other as you like.

How to Submit an Entry

To submit your music:

  1. Share it on our Facebook group here (link opens new tab)
  2. Or send links to mp3 and score (if available) by email on 

If you upload the music to YouTube, Soundcloud and/or any other platform please link back to this page in the description.

There are no regulations regarding length, instrumentation or style.

Deadline: 3rd of June, 2018

At the end of the challenge, I’ll produce a video where I’ll talk about all the interesting and exciting parts of your new compositions. This is a great opportunity for each of us to listen and learn from each other.

Good luck and have fun with it! As always, email me anytime with questions, feedback or anything else.

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