career in music composition

Like Music? Learn About A Career in Music Composition.

If you have a passion for music and a talent for creating beautiful melodies, a career in music composition may be the perfect fit for you. This exciting field offers opportunities to work in a variety of industries, composing music for film, television, video games, and live performances. As a music composer, you can express your creativity and bring your artistic vision to life.

In this article, we’ll explore the skills needed for a successful career in music composition, educational pathways, building a portfolio, job opportunities, and the challenges and rewards of this dynamic industry. Whether you’re just starting or looking to advance your career, this guide will provide you with valuable insights and resources to help you achieve your goals.

Quick Answers:

  • Career in music composition provides opportunities to express creativity and bring artistic vision to life.
  • Job opportunities are available in various sectors such as film, television, video games, and live performances.
  • Essential skills for music composition include musical knowledge, creativity, technical proficiency, and the ability to work with various instruments and software.
  • Formal education in music theory, composition techniques, and music production is essential, but alternative paths are also available such as mentorship and self-study.
  • Building a strong portfolio showcasing diverse styles and genres is crucial for success.

What is Music Composition?

If you’re a music lover, you might have dreamed of creating your own music. That’s where music composition comes in. As a music composer, you’ll be responsible for creating original music that captures emotions and tells stories.

The music composition industry is vast and varied, offering opportunities for composers in film, television, video games, and live performances. Every music score you hear in a movie or a TV show? That’s the work of a music composer. The background music in video games? Composed by a music composer. The music that accompanies a dance performance? Also composed by a music composer.

As a music composer, you’ll have the creative freedom to explore different genres and styles, and bring your musical ideas to life.

Being a music composer is a fulfilling career that allows you to express your passion for music and touch the hearts of people through your compositions. But, to become a successful music composer, you need to have a certain set of skills and qualifications.

Skills Required for a Career in Music Composition

If you want to pursue a career in music composition, you need to have a set of skills that will help you stand out from the crowd. These skills will enable you to create music that resonates with audiences and captures their attention. Here are some of the essential music composition skills you should work on:

  • Musical Knowledge: A deep understanding of music theory, harmony, rhythm, and melody is fundamental to becoming a successful composer.
  • Creativity: The ability to generate fresh and original ideas is a crucial part of music composition. Creative thinking will enable you to explore different genres and styles and come up with unique compositions that appeal to a wide range of audiences.
  • Technical Proficiency: Familiarity with music software and digital audio workstations (DAWs) is a must-have skill for the modern music composer. You should know how to manipulate sound samples, create virtual instruments, and mix and master audio tracks.
  • Instrumental Skills: Having the ability to play a musical instrument or sing will give you an edge as a composer. The knowledge of instrument ranges, capabilities and limitations, and how they complement each other will help you create complex and layered compositions.

Developing these skills takes time and dedication. You can learn through formal education, attending music workshops and seminars, or practicing on your own. Taking the time to improve your skills will help you create high-quality compositions that stand out in the industry.

Working with Others

As a music composer, you’ll work with different people who play a vital role in bringing your compositions to life. Musicians, sound engineers, producers, and arrangers are just some of the professionals you’ll interact with. Therefore, having excellent communication skills and the ability to collaborate with others effectively is crucial. You should be able to convey your ideas clearly and take feedback constructively, incorporating it into your work.

Moreover, your ability to work on tight deadlines and under pressure is essential since music composition projects are often time-sensitive. Keeping to the deadline ensures that you deliver timely and high-quality compositions which is a significant skill in the industry.

With these skills, you will be prepared to embark on a journey of creating your unique compositions and collaborating with others to bring about world-class musical pieces.

Education and Training in Music Composition

To pursue a successful career in music composition, you need to have a strong foundation in music theory, composition techniques, and music production. While some composers are self-taught, formal education is highly recommended to enhance your skills and knowledge.

There are various educational pathways available for aspiring music composers. One option is to pursue a Bachelor of Music degree in composition, which typically includes coursework in music theory, orchestration, and electronic music. Another option is to enroll in a specialized music composition program, which focuses specifically on composition techniques and styles.

If you’re already proficient in music but lack formal education, you may consider taking online courses or workshops to enhance your skills and knowledge. There are several online platforms that offer music composition courses, such as Coursera, Berklee Online, and Udemy.

It’s also important to gain practical experience in music composition through internships, collaborations, and performances. Many music schools and colleges offer opportunities for students to gain hands-on experience in composition and production.

Music Composition Degree Programs – USA

Program Location Duration
Master of Music in Composition University of Southern California Thornton School of Music 2 years full-time
Bachelor of Music in Composition The Juilliard School 4 years full-time
Bachelor of Music in Composition Berklee College of Music 4 years full-time
Master of Music in Scoring for Film, Television, and Video Games University of Southern California Thornton School of Music 2 years full-time

Remember that education is not the only pathway to success in music composition. Workshops, mentorships, and self-study can also help you develop your skills and knowledge. The important thing is to never stop learning and refining your craft.

Building a Music Composition Portfolio

If you’re serious about pursuing a career in music composition, it’s essential to build a strong portfolio that showcases your skills and creativity. A music composition portfolio is a collection of your best works that demonstrates your range and versatility as a composer. Here are some tips on building a music composition portfolio that will impress potential clients and employers:

1. Showcase your diversity

Include pieces that showcase your ability to compose in different styles and genres. This will demonstrate your versatility as a composer and show that you’re capable of taking on a wide range of projects.

2. Provide samples of past compositions

Include examples of your best work, with each piece being a different style or genre. Be sure to provide clear titles and duration information for each composition.

Piece Title Genre Duration
Summer Breeze Pop 3:10
Midnight Reflection Classical 2:45
March of the Warrior Orchestral 2:30

3. Demonstrate your adaptability and versatility

Include examples of your work for different mediums, such as film, television, video games, and live performances. This will show you’re comfortable adapting to different contexts and can work with a variety of instruments and software.

4. Keep it up-to-date

Update your portfolio regularly with new pieces, as this will demonstrate your ongoing growth and fresh perspective. Remove older, less impressive pieces to keep your portfolio streamlined and exciting.

A strong music composition portfolio is essential to showcase your skills, experience, and versatility. Don’t be afraid to experiment with different styles, genres, and mediums to demonstrate your adaptability and creativity. Keep your portfolio up-to-date to show that you’re always pushing yourself to grow as a composer.

Job Opportunities in Music Composition

If you’re considering a career in music composition, you’ll be pleased to know that there are a wide range of job opportunities available in the industry. Depending on your interests and skills, you can choose to work in various sectors such as:

  • Film and TV: Compose soundtracks and scores for movies, television shows, and advertisements.
  • Video Games: Create music for video games that enhance the gaming experience.
  • Theater and Dance: Compose music for theatrical productions, dance performances, and operas.

In addition to these options, you can also explore freelance opportunities and collaborations with other musicians and artists to create unique and diverse musical works. With the rise of digital media and the increasing demand for original content, the music composition industry is continuously growing and offering new opportunities.

Whether you’re just starting out or have years of experience, there are plenty of music composition job openings to discover. Some of the most common roles include:

Job Title Description
Composer Create original music for various media such as film, TV, video games, and commercials.
Music Producer Oversee and manage the production of music recordings, often working with artists and engineers.
Arranger Adapt or arrange existing musical compositions to fit specific requirements, such as for a particular performance or ensemble.
Conductor Direct musical performances and lead orchestras, choirs, or other musical groups.

As you gain experience and build your portfolio, you may also have the opportunity to take on more senior roles such as music director or composer in residence. These roles often come with higher salaries and greater creative control over projects.

To find job opportunities in the music composition industry, you can start by searching online job boards, networking with other professionals, and joining industry organizations and associations. By staying in the loop and keeping your skills up to date, you’ll be well-positioned to take advantage of the many exciting music composition opportunities out there.

Salary and Earnings in Music Composition

If you’re considering a career in music composition, it’s important to have an understanding of the potential salary and earnings in this field. While the music industry can be highly competitive and unpredictable, there are still opportunities for composers to earn a comfortable living doing what they love.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual wage for music directors and composers was $51,670 in May 2020. However, this number can vary significantly depending on factors such as experience, reputation, and the type of projects you work on.

Type of Music Composition Job Median Annual Salary
Film score composer $60,000 – $2 million
Video game composer $40,000 – $75,000
Jingle writer $150 – $1,500 per jingle
Composer for theater and dance $40,000 – $60,000

It’s important to note that many music composers work on a freelance basis, which can impact their income stability. However, freelancing also offers the opportunity to work on a variety of projects and build a diverse portfolio.

To increase your earning potential as a music composer, it’s essential to diversify your income streams. This can include teaching music, licensing your compositions for use in film, television, or advertising, or collaborating with other musicians and artists on projects.

Challenges and Rewards of a Music Composition Career

A career in music composition can be both challenging and rewarding. As a composer, you’ll face stiff competition in the industry, and it may take time to establish yourself. However, if you’re passionate about music, the rewards of a music composition career can be unparalleled. Here are some of the challenges and rewards you can expect:


  • Competition: The music composition industry is highly competitive, and you’ll need to work hard to stand out.
  • Self-employment: Many music composers are self-employed, which means you’ll need to be disciplined and motivated to succeed. You’ll also need to handle the administrative aspects of running your own business.
  • Creative block: As a composer, you may occasionally experience creative blocks that can be frustrating and challenging to overcome.
  • Changing technology: The music composition industry is continually evolving as technology advances, and composers need to keep up-to-date with the latest software and equipment.


  • Working on passion projects: As a composer, you’ll have the opportunity to work on projects that align with your passions and interests, whether it’s writing a film score or composing music for a video game.
  • Collaboration: Collaboration with other musicians and artists can be incredibly rewarding and lead to some fantastic creative results.
  • Connecting with audiences: Seeing your music connect with audiences can be one of the most fulfilling aspects of a music composition career.
  • Flexibility: As a self-employed music composer, you’ll have the flexibility to set your own schedule and work from wherever you choose.

While a music composition career can be challenging, the rewards can be substantial. As long as you’re passionate, dedicated, and willing to put in the work, a career in music composition can provide a fulfilling and exciting way to make a living.

Networking and Collaboration in the Music Composition Industry

As an aspiring music composer, networking and collaboration are vital aspects of your career growth in the music composition industry. Building relationships with other musicians, producers, and industry professionals can help you find new opportunities and expand your creative network.

One effective way to network is by attending music industry events such as conferences, workshops, and showcases. These events provide an excellent opportunity to meet industry professionals and learn about the latest trends and advancements in music technology.

You can also network online through social media platforms such as LinkedIn and Twitter, which are great resources for connecting with industry professionals and potential collaborators.

Collaboration is also an essential component of a successful career in music composition. Collaborating with other musicians and artists can help you expand your creativity and explore different genres and styles of music.

Collaboration can take many forms, from working on a joint project to providing music for a film or video game. By collaborating with other professionals in the industry, you can gain valuable experience and build a diverse portfolio of work.

Benefits of Networking and Collaboration

Networking and collaboration can provide several benefits for those pursuing a career in music composition:

  • Increased exposure: Connecting with other professionals in the music composition industry can help you gain greater exposure for your work and reach a wider audience.
  • New opportunities: Networking and collaboration can lead to new job opportunities, such as composing music for a film or video game.
  • Professional growth: Collaborating with other musicians and artists can help you broaden your musical horizons and develop new skills.
  • Mentorship: Networking and collaborating with more experienced professionals can provide valuable mentorship and guidance as you work to establish your career in music composition.

Tips for Effective Networking and Collaboration

To make the most of networking and collaboration opportunities in the music composition industry, consider the following tips:

  • Be proactive: Take the initiative to introduce yourself and seek out new networking and collaboration opportunities.
  • Build genuine relationships: Focus on building genuine relationships with other professionals in the industry rather than solely promoting your work.
  • Stay in touch: Follow up with new contacts after initial meetings to maintain relationships and stay top of mind.
  • Be open-minded: When collaborating with other musicians and artists, be open to new ideas and approaches to music composition.
  • Communicate clearly: Effective communication is crucial in successful collaboration. Be clear about your goals and expectations and stay in regular contact with your collaborators.

Resources for Aspiring Music Composers

If you’re interested in pursuing a career in music composition, there are many resources available to help you learn and grow. Here are some options to consider:

Music Composition Courses

There are many online courses that can help you develop your skills as a music composer. Websites like Udemy, Coursera, and Skillshare offer a variety of courses in music theory, composition techniques, and music production. Some even offer courses specifically tailored to different sectors such as film and video game music composition.

Books on Music Composition

There are numerous books on music composition that can serve as valuable resources. Some popular titles include “The Study of Orchestration” by Samuel Adler, “Fundamentals of Musical Composition” by Arnold Schoenberg, and “The Techniques of Orchestration” by Kenneth C. Laudon.

Workshops and Masterclasses

Attending workshops and masterclasses can provide you with the opportunity to learn from experienced music composers and to network with other professionals in the industry. Many schools and conservatories offer workshops and masterclasses, and there are also independent organizations that host events like the BMI Film Scoring Workshop and the Sundance Music and Sound Design Lab.

Music Composition Organizations

Joining a music composition organization can connect you with other music composers and provide access to valuable resources. Some popular organizations include the Society of Composers and Lyricists, the American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers (ASCAP), and the Performing Rights Organizations (PROs).

Remember that education and training in music composition should be ongoing throughout your career. As technology and industry trends evolve, it’s important to stay up-to-date to stay competitive in the field. These resources can be a great starting point for your education and growth as a music composer.


Congratulations on taking the first step towards exploring a career in music composition. As you’ve learned from this article, the music composition industry offers a wide range of job opportunities for composers across film, television, video games, and live performances. Whether you prefer to work in-house or as a freelancer, there are plenty of options to consider.

As you embark on your music composition career journey, remember to continuously improve your skills, build a diverse portfolio, and network with other industry professionals. It’s also important to stay updated on industry trends and advancements in music technology.

Most importantly, don’t forget to enjoy the process of creating music that resonates with audiences. The rewards of a career in music composition can be great, from the satisfaction of seeing your work come to life on stage or screen to the potential for high earning potential based on your reputation and experience.

So, what are you waiting for? Start exploring the many opportunities available in the music composition industry and embark on a fulfilling career in music composition.

Your music composition career is waiting for you. Start pursuing it today!

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