Writing for the voice is a different animal… it’s okay to fall at first!

We’re taught massive amounts of harmonic, melodic, structural/formal, conceptual, historical, and orchestrational material in any type of compositional training, whether it’s in lessons or on the whole in the conservatory.  Most of us play at least one instrument, and most of us understand music theory like it’s our native tongue.  But, we’re not confronted with the human voice nearly as often as the other instruments.  And, when we try to write for the voice at first, we most often fall flat on our faces.

Why is this?

  1. The vocal literature is often taught separate from the instrumental literature.
  2. Writing for the voice is often taught separate from normal instrumentation/orchestration classes.
  3. Many of us composers don’t have personal experience singing in choirs or in ensembles.

The reason for these three occurrences is that the voice is a different animal.  It’s a whole different world, and requires another volume of information and literature to annex to one’s musical brain.  Because it’s such a huge world, it’s okay for normal trial and error to happen; just as any new skill is learned through successes and mistakes (and generally more mistakes than successes for the advanced skills), vocal writing makes many of us (including yours truly) fall on our faces at first, only to pick ourselves up and climb out of our mud pit (sorry for the analogy).  Don’t get discouraged, and don’t get overwhelmed with the monolith because it’s possible to climb to the top of it through the normal learning process.

I hope this finds you all well, and keep composing!

Thanks for reading,


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