Last night, my mind was slightly blown while listening to Beethoven’s “Tempest” Sonata.
The piece plainly exhibited example after example of the World Building and Sleight of Hand magic I teach in the Wizarding School. It was a masterclass in how to obtain musical excellence.
And here’s the best part . . .
Beethoven’s music wasn’t saying, “This level of achievement is only for ‘geniuses.’ Ordinary folk like you need not try.”
Quite the opposite.
It was saying, “Here are all my secrets! Please, have them! They’re yours for the taking—if you want them.”
Whether you just started composing during the pandemic . . . or you’ve been composing for decades, the fastest way to make your music more vivid and richly nuanced is score study.
Score study makes theory and musicianship skills concrete for those still starting out. It helps you see that theory is *not* a formula for how music works, but simply a vocabulary to describe what you hear with precision.
It further helps you see that these “what” and “when” labels are not an end in themselves, but the springboard for the far more revealing “why” and “how” questions.
As those skills become increasingly intuitive and invisible, score study remains eye-opening and enlightening.
It becomes a dialogue with other musicians. You begin to paraphrase and read between the lines of what they wrote or played. What you compose becomes a response to that insight.
Thomas Adès reflects this idea when he says, “You have to think of the great composers as your friends. They might be frightening friends, but still friends anyway.”
That’s why, even though I have a PhD from a top-tier university, I still watch scores on YouTube every day. Because, like getting married, receiving a music degree is just a waypoint, not a final destination.
So, whether you have many music degrees or none at all, how do you make score study a part of your routine?
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