Focus on the Application, not Knowledge

This time I’d like to spend a few minutes to write an experience report. It’s about a pattern that I start seeing in the development of our composers in training (CITs).

When one starts with the M.I.T.A. composition course, very often the examples that are being sent in are complicated, very complex and totally overwritten. Early starters tend to put way too much information and too many musical ideas into their work. They usually get a bit too excited about testing out what they’ve just learned … but that all is part of the process and it’s good. Actually, I believe that this is even necessary in order to get closer to one’s own voice and develop taste. It’s really about how to apply new theories to your own work process of creating music. That’s the only way to evaluate whether or not a device or technique works for you. M.I.T.A. is not designed to change your taste or your musical goals, in fact, the materials are designed to help you reach the individual musical goal that you’ve set.
The deeper one gets into the composition course, the clearer their musical ideas become. Their music starts to become easier to follow, more simple, but not simple-minded. CITs learn how to get to the core idea quickly without dancing around giving unimportant details to the listener. That’s basically musical storytelling. Learn how to write and tell a good story and people will listen. Furthermore, the application of theory enables you to create 60 minutes of music out of 4 bars (we’ll go into this topic in a future article). At traditional educational institutions, the professors focus on technique and analysis a lot and that is helpful but it won’t teach you how to write a good story when sitting in front of the blank page – at least that is my own experience. I’m sure that some readers will disagree and are able to give counterexamples. In fact, I’d be interested in hearing those.

Actually, the application always has been the driving force to improve on M.I.T.A. materials. If a specific technique or device does not lead to good musical results, it didn’t appear in any M.I.T.A. materials. That has been the process between TC and me ever since but let’s come back to the CITs.
In the second half of the course, we advise all CITs to write bigger and longer pieces. Usually, that’s the beginning of reducing unnecessary complexity as the focus gets shifted more and more to the core idea. So, by writing longer pieces, the process gets easier and less frustrating. Interestingly enough, the CIT learns how to think emotionally when applying techniques. On the other hand, this doesn’t mean that the music has to be simple. The core ideas are simple but the music may appear wrapped in more complex structures (horizontally and vertically). The process of gathering material and sketching helps a lot to stay organized. That’s a guideline that helps you keep track when you solve big and small musical problems along the way. It helps you focus on the important things. The sketch from lesson 45 is equally simple compared to the sketch from lesson 3! But the musical end result is more structured, sophisticated and professional. The more you understand the application, the easier it gets to create more with less. From the outside, very often this looks like somebody simply has talent but the truth goes way deeper and that is passion, dedication and, consistency. To some extent, the application even pushes you forward and motivates you to dig deeper. Dry knowledge won’t push you in any direction and won’t even get you to any results.

Start your day today with the application! And in case you don’t know where to start, let me offer you the first lesson from the M.I.T.A. Basic Course as a starting point for inspiration.

Happy composing and have a great day! Best always,


About the Author

Frank Herrlinger

Frank Herrlinger

Frank is the co-founder of Music Interval Theory Academy (M.I.T.A.) and a professional composer working in the industry for over 10 years. He wrote music for numerous video games published for PlayStation, Xbox, and PC. His music is also constantly heard on German television (RTL, Pro7, VOX, etc.), in commercials, and trailers.

Furthermore, he gives live training sessions in composition and how to use interval theory inside the membership every month.

Recent Posts