What Does a Music Composer Do? Guide and Career Tips

By Indeed Editorial Team

Updated 11 August 2022

Published 30 August 2021

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Music composers compose and write original musical scores in various genres for vocal and instrumental performances. The purpose of the music is generally to convey an appropriate tone or mood for films, television shows, radio shows, dramas, advertisements, video games, songs and orchestras. By understanding the role and responsibilities of a music composer, you can decide about pursuing this career. In this article, we provide an answer to "What does a music composer do?" and explain more about the required skills and educational qualifications, the difference between a music producer and a composer and how to become a music composer.

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What Does A Music Composer Do?

What does a music composer do, can be explained as someone who writes original musical scores, compositions, ensembles and arrangements. When developing soundtracks, they follow the script and project specifications and try to tell a story through their music. Music composers may write the score by hand or use digital audio workstations (DAW) for music composition.

After figuring out what the music might sound like, they may create a mockup in the DAW, add new parts to it and refine it until they are satisfied with the final version. They may share the mockup or final version with other people involved in the project to get their suggestions or approval. They may write the music notation or send the DAW file to a music arranger to notate the music. That is a necessary step if the music is for a live vocal or instrumental performance.

What Is The Role Of A Music Composer?

A music composer has a creative role in music production. They collaborate with music directors or music producers to write, arrange and direct musical scores for audio and visual productions requiring accompanying and synchronised music. The soundtrack adds emotional depth to quiet, romantic, dramatic or action scenes.

Music composers are required to have an in-depth knowledge of music creation, musical instruments and music technicalities like melody, harmony, rhythm and tone. Their scores are required to be technically correct for performance by musicians and singers, and the musical presentation can be in various musical styles such as classical, traditional, folk, country, pop or jazz. While developing the music score, the composer may get directions, suggestions and ideas from the music director or producer. They may incorporate these in the score to improve it or make it more suited to the project requirements. Music scores undergo many revisions before receiving approval.

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What Skills Do You Require To Be A Composer?

To be a composer, you can benefit from:

  • Knowing basic and advanced music principles

  • Being aware of different music styles and genres

  • Having a well-developed talent for music-making

  • Possessing an ability to play one or more musical instruments

  • Being able to sing and carry a tune

  • Creative thinking and a willingness to experiment

  • An ability to take directions and collaborate

  • Being attentive to detail, flexible and adaptable

  • Being disciplined and dependable

  • Strong communication and interpersonal skills

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What Educational Qualifications Do You Require To Be A Composer?

Musical ability and a talent for music composition are more important than formal educational qualifications for a music composer in India. But, you may benefit from formal training. Many current and upcoming Indian music directors and composers have undergone years of traditional music training and may also have studied music at the college level. You can get a certificate, a diploma, a bachelor's degree, a master's degree and a doctorate in music.

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What Is The Difference Between A Music Producer And Composer?

The differences between a music producer and a composer are as follows:

  • The music composer creates music, and the music producer uses it for a variety of purposes.

  • The music producer may decide the musical concepts for films, TV shows, radio programs, advertisements and other projects. The music composer may take directions from the producer to compose and write the music.

  • The music composer needs to have an in-depth knowledge of musical theory and principles to compose technically correct music scores. The music producer is required to know the basic principles of music production to incorporate compositions into visual media and make them sound good.

  • Music composers may use musical instruments, synthesisers and DAW for music composition. Music producers may use DAW to record sounds, mix soundtracks, edit music and synchronise it to visual elements.

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Where Do Music Composers Work?

Music composers generally work from home or in a music studio. They undertake contractual projects for music companies, film studios, animation studios, advertisement companies, media houses, government departments and other clients. They may often require to travel to different locations to direct rehearsals and musical performances, participate in promotional activities and take up new projects. Their work can be demanding, and the work hours can be long and irregular.

How Much Money Does A Composer Make?

A composer or director may earn an average national salary of ₹9,88,696 per year. Music directors in India, especially a music director for movies, may have a much higher pay scale. The earnings of acclaimed Bollywood music directors can be lucrative.

What Does A Music Composer Require To Learn?

A music composer needs to learn music theory, the principles of music composition and how to read and write musical notation. They can benefit from learning to sing and to play one or more musical instruments. They also require mastering the use of a digital audio workstation and sample libraries for music creation. Additionally, it is important that they listen to and study old and new music scores and compositions. This can help them understand how to use voices, instruments, tone balances, harmonic structures, melodies, tempos and rhythms to achieve desired effects and moods.

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How To Become A Music Composer?

You can become a music composer by following these steps:

1. Take music lessons from an early age

You can take classes in traditional Indian music or Western music from an early age. Many of the leading Indian music directors and composers began studying music when they were five or six years old. The early start can provide you with a solid grounding in music theory and music performance. You can learn to sing or play instruments like the violin, the harmonium, the tabla, the flute and others. Traditional Indian music classes are generally for six years and offer certificate examinations.

2. Study music at the college level

After passing 10+2 with at least 50% marks from a recognised board, you can complete a one-year Diploma in Music, a three-year Bachelor of Arts (Music), a three-year Bachelor of Performing Arts (Music) or a four-year Bachelor of Fine Arts (Music). Some music colleges may require you to pass an entrance exam, an aptitude test or an audition as part of their admission process. The courses may cover voice instruction, music history, music and literature, music and fine arts, music classification, music theory, music notation, music composition and music interpretation.

3. Build a portfolio of compositions

It is a good idea to start composing music while still completing your education. You can benefit from experimenting with different music genres and styles and expanding your musical scope. It can also help to create music compositions to suit different moods and situations.

4. Upload music compositions online

You can upload audio and video versions of your music compositions online on your website or blog and various popular music-sharing sites. That can enable you to find an audience for your music and get an idea about current music trends and preferences. You can also discover, interact with and learn from other upcoming and established music composers in India and abroad.

5. Promote music on social media

Promoting your music compositions on social media can help you to reach more people. You may be able to build up a dedicated fan following for your music and profit from it by licensing the music for digital distribution via streaming platforms and music download sites and by selling beats and samples. Being an independent music maker with a large social media following can bring you to the attention of industry talent scouts, music directors and music producers. They might be more inclined to consider hiring you due to the demonstrated talent, initiative, ambition and promotional flair.

6. Find work in the industry

You can get your start in the music industry by auditioning for music composer or music arranger positions with production houses, film studios, advertising companies and music companies. You can also directly contact Bollywood music directors and producers and send them your cover letter, resume and music samples. It is essential to develop contacts with established industry figures and also with upcoming filmmakers, documentary makers, assistant directors, scriptwriters, actors and other creative people.

Relationships are important in the industry, and your contacts could inform you about or recommend you for available jobs not advertised on regular job boards. To be good at networking, it may help to improve your communication and interpersonal skills.

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Salary figures reflect data listed on Indeed Salaries at time of writing. Salaries may vary depending on the hiring organisation and a candidate's experience, academic background and location.

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