Piano 101: How To Compose Piano Music

Piano music is a really popular genre around the world right now, and one good reason for that is how it’s so easy to compose piano music without rules and boundaries.

So if you’ve been wondering what makes piano music such a hit with people all over the world? The short answer is music composition. Composition is seen as the height of music by many music enthusiasts around the world.

But what is Composition in itself? Composition is the art of creating a music piece. So, technically, the term is applied to both Composition and performance.

However, the kind of Composition you’ll be learning here will be more in line with composition technique and musicianship than songwriting or arranging. 

In this guide, we’ve included everything you need to know about the process of composing piano music, including some tips that can help make the process simple.

How To Compose a Good Piano Music: A Step-by-Step Guide 

1. Think up The Song Theme

Every song to ever exist has a theme, and that theme is usually made up of a few different elements. The composer must decide what these elements are before they start writing.

For example, let’s say you want to compose a song about your favorite food: pizza. You could say that your pizza song is about how much you love pizza and how it makes you feel. 

That would be one possible theme for your song; another might be a description of what your favorite kind of pizza looks like (maybe it has pepperoni and cheese on top) or something else entirely.

You can start your song with any theme you want. For example, you can write the song from a person’s point of view, from a place, or from an animal. If you don’t have an idea for the theme yet, just think about what you’re doing now.

2. Determine The Pattern and Tempo

The second step in composing piano music is determining the piece’s perfect pattern and tempo. The tempo is how fast or slow you want the song to be. The pattern is how many notes there will be in each measure.

You can measure the pattern in two ways: whole notes and half notes. Each note has an equal amount of time in between it, so a half note is twice as long as a whole note. The length of time between them varies depending on the piece you’re writing, but generally, whole notes are longer than half notes.

You’ll also want to decide whether you want your piece to be in 4/4 time (four beats per measure) or 3/4 time (three beats per measure). But, again, that will affect how many quarter notes there are per measure.

For example, if you’re writing something in 3/4 time and have four quarter notes per measure, you’ll have two fewer quarter notes than if you were writing something in 4/4 time with four quarters per measure.

In 4/4 time, there would be eight quarter notes total, whereas, in 3/4 time, there would only be six total quarters for every four measures of music played.

Know that you get to decide all these things, which will affect how people feel when they listen to your music—and that’s what we’re going for here, right? So before you start writing, ensure you clearly envision how you want listeners to feel.

3. Create An Intro

The intro is a very important part of piano music. It sets the tone for the rest of the song and can help you get into your creative flow.

Here are a few ways to create a good intro:

  1. Start with a simple chord progression that creates interest and builds to a crescendo as it goes on.
  2. Don’t start with too many chords; focus on one or two first and then add more as the song progresses.
  3. Use dynamics to make each chord feel different from its neighbors—a loud chord followed by a soft one will create much more excitement than two soft ones.

4. Create a Chord Progression

Now that you have your melody, it’s time to create the chord progression. A chord progression is simply a sequence of chords used throughout the song. It can be as easy as using three chords or as complex as using all twelve. 

You should note that this is not a sequence of notes you want to play on your piano but rather a sequence of chords in relation to each other.

To assist you, here are some common chord progressions:

  • I-IV-V (C-F-G)
  • I-VI-IV-V (Cmaj7-Am7b5-Fmaj7b5-Gmaj7b5)
  • I-III-VI-II-V (Cmaj7, Bmin7b5, Am7b5, Dmin6/9b5, Gmaj7)

5. Create a Melody

Congratulations! You’ve got the first four steps down, so now it’s time to put your melody together. 

The first major step in composing piano music is to create a melody.

You’ll want to create a melody with a lot of range so you can use your hands to play all over the keyboard. If you don’t have much range, it will be hard for you to play all over the keyboard, and your music will sound very boring and limited.

You can do this by using scales or patterns in your melody. These are both ways of going from one note to another without sounding too repetitive or boring.

If you find yourself in a block and can’t come up with an idea for a melody, you can take your chords and use them as inspiration for how to play your melody, or try playing random notes and scales on the piano until something sounds good.

6. Create The Body Of The Music

Now you have a concept of what you want your piece to sound like, and it’s time to put it on paper. This step involves creating a skeletal version of your song that represents the structure of its musical form and progression.

The body of a piece of music is the most important part. It’s where you get to show off your skills and express yourself as an artist.

The best way to think about composing a body is to imagine it as a story. You want the listener to be able to follow along with what you’re saying and be able to predict what’s going to happen next. You’ll also want them to feel something when they hear your piece, whether it’s excitement, sadness, or any other emotion.

To do this well, here are some steps you can take:

  1. Think about the key signature for each section of the piece. 
  2. If you want something sadder in one part, try using more flats or fewer sharps. 
  3. If you want something happier in another part, try using more sharps or fewer flats. That will help listeners know how they should feel while they’re listening
  4. Use dynamics. Dynamics are how loud or soft certain notes will sound—and they can make a difference in how much impact your piece has on listeners’ emotions. Try playing around with dynamics until you find something that sounds good.

7. Create An Outro

At this point, you’re finished with your piece of piano music, and it sounds amazing. It’s time to create the outro part of your Composition. The outro is a short section at the end that brings back some of the themes from earlier in the song and ties them together into one cohesive piece.

You can do this by bringing back some of the melodies you used earlier in your Composition or by using similar chord progressions. Or you could use both at once. You could also try playing with different instrumentation for this section—maybe add some strings or woodwinds? It’s up to you.

8. Write Down Ur Progression (or Record It)

Once you’re done with the body of your music, intro, outro, and melody, it’s time to write them down. It is the final step before you can record your song.

You’ll either want to write down the progression on paper or record it digitally. If you’re making electronic music, you may even be able to create your own “piano roll” of notes on your computer, allowing you to save and edit your progressions more easily as you work.

9. Write Some Lyrics (Optional)

If you want to write lyrics for your song, now is the time. We’ve already written out the melody line and figured out our chords, so it’s time to spice up the rest of the song with lyrics.

10. Polish Everything

The final step in the process of composing piano music is polishing everything. It is a crucial step, as it’s the last chance you’ll have to make sure that your song is just as good as it can be before sending it off to your publisher.

Your polished piano music could look like this:  

Intro – Melody – Chorus – Bridge – Melody – Chorus – Bridge – Chorus – Outro. 

Note that this is a sample, and your finished work could look different and even better from this after arranging it to your taste.

Tips For Composing Great Piano Music

If you’re a musician or composer, you’ve probably been asked to write music for piano. It’s a great instrument for many reasons—it’s portable, versatile, and easy to play. But composing for piano can be challenging.

If you need to compose great piano music, here are some tips that will help:

  • Always Have a Recording Device
  • Copy the Greats 
  • Don’t Be Afraid to Make Mistakes
  • Just Go With The Flow 
  • Always Build Slowly (Never Rush the Process)
  • Don’t Be Afraid of Change
  • Always Keep Things Simple 

Final Thoughts

Overall, piano music composition is a fulfilling pursuit that you can enjoy regardless of skill level. You don’t need to be a pro pianist or be fluent in music theory to compose piano music. 

However, you may recognize some value in learning the basics of music theory if you plan to compose your piece, which can help you get more out of your practice.

We hope you enjoy our guide and that you find yourself creating piano masterpieces in no time.

About the Author Linda Ritter

Linda Ritter is a passionate pianist and a songwriter for more than 7 years. With a Masters in Music, she has explored the world of music and has collaborated with several musicians and brands like Roland, Tune Core, and plenty of blogs.