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Music Inspiration: How to Compose Music Inspired by Art

Updated on May 2, 2015

Introduction - Drawing Music Inspiration From Visual Arts

There's so many ways we can get musical inspirations. Although today I'm going to show you how to compose music inspired by art, we can get an arsenal of inspiration from movies, TV shows, life experiences, other music, and of course visual arts such as drawings and paintings. Today I'm just going to be focusing on visual arts like paintings, pictures, and drawings. A lot of people think that it may be hard to convert one form of art to another, but that's further from the truth. Some of us love music and making music in general, but some of us actually take music inspiration and motivational to make music way differently than others. Here's a HUGE surprise by the way, it's VERY COMMON for some musicians to listen to music and get inspired but two things can happen.

# 1 The composer may end up composing a song that sounds too much like the song that inspired him/her, therefore lacking originality.

# 2 The composer might focus too much on Technicality and not actually get the composition done.

So sometimes listening to other music may not always be the best bet but I know that listening to music gets you motivated. Inspiration however gives you a reason and a feeling and music just sounds better when there's a meaning behind it. The great thing about composing music inspired by art is that you don't always have to draw from your own life and think too much about what you want to compose about (although your life experiences can bring about great inspiration) and when someone's artwork gets your attention, it definitely gives you some kind of feeling. So we're going to run through a few steps on how to analyze art and how to bring that picture to music. I'll also show you a few examples on how I got inspired to compose one of my compositions.


Watch a scene in a movie and listen to the background music to get an idea about the way the music supports the scene, but when you do this, pay attention to the colors. Observe the colors in the atmosphere, on the clothes the characters are wearing, which colors radiate the most, etc. By the colors, you can develop a solid idea about which scales and chords to use to support the story behind the picture with your music. There are many ways to go about this. Imagine you had a picture of a lake and in the background you saw hills and a bright sun, how would you translate the scene through your music? It would make sense to write a happy composition in major scales, but what if instead you composed the track with sus chords if give it a neutral feel. It wouldn't really make that much sense to compose minor chords if the sun is out, but then again who's stopping you?


Another way to compose music inspired by art is to pay attention to the shapes in the picture. So in our previous example when we mentioned there being hills in the background, how would you translate that into music? A good way would be to get your scale and play the note starting from the bottom and going up and then back down again to represent a hill being formed. Adding to the movement of the scale: you should also pay attention to the distance of the hills? If they're really in the background then maybe the instrument representing the hills should be lower than the instrument representing the lake. Once again, there's no real wrong way as long as we're getting your music inspiration juices flowing, right? One thing I do when I use this method is name each instrument track on my DAW by the name of the object on the picture that it is representing. So in order to represent the hills in the background I would actually name my instrument track "Hills" and that instrument will be something with a fast attack sound to best represent a melody on the scale that it is going up and down gradually.

Tons of Art for Musical Inspiration

Evoking the Feeling As If You Were There

I get lost when I'm looking at art a lot of the times, especially when it's a massive landscape that I feel I could see many hidden objects. i get so lost sometimes that I almost feel like I'm really in there. Sometimes that feeling in itself is the only inspiration I need in order to turn the picture to music. I think if you can do this one step in musical inspiration, then you may very well be able to skip the other steps in all honesty. Imagining that you're surrounded by in a dark alley that very well be accompanied by zombies. I'm sure you'd feel either pretty scared or just anxious to get out of there, well guess what? Now you have the soundtrack to an emotion brought to you by the emotion that picture made you feel in the first place. Isn't it a beautiful thing when art inspires another form of art? This step would be the most important step because it evokes the most important element to any kind of music... emotion.

Tell the Story

Going back to the dark alley and zombies example in the previous step, I would vouch that zombies wouldn't even really need to be in the picture in order for the emotion to spark up a vivid imagination about what could be happening in that picture that the picture is not telling us. That's the great thing about pictures, you can tell your own story with the music without the picture telling it all. Now you're just creating your own film in your own head and scoring your music to it. It's a beautiful thing when you can combine more forms of art in one only to super size your main form of art. This step could very well be a combination of all the steps. however, the previous steps would be a great guideline even at the very end of this one.

Conclusion: Example of Stars by Damian C.

Here I would like to show you an example of one of my own words. Basically if you take a look at the picture on this section you'll see a bunch of stars and a shooting star. Below the picture you see not so much emphasis on the land below but somehow you know it's pretty massive but it's only lit up by the stars making the land itself not too noticeable. So I basically I felt a desire to sit by that river or on the hill and just embracing the land around me, hanging out, and seeing stars. The harp on this composition represents the amount of stars in the sky and the glockenspiel represents each time an individual star would shine. The rest of the instruments represent the rest of the land and how I would feel if I were there sitting on that mountain. So basically I have almost all the steps there, but I chose to ignore the shooting star. The main point here is to get some music finished and letting the picture guide until you can take off on your own in creating beautiful music. I hope this lens helped you guys open yourselves to compose music inspired by art. Thank for you reading, if you liked this lens, please share it with your fellow musician friends.

Click Below to Listen to Stars by Damian C.

Damian C. - Stars by Damian C.

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