What Do Cooking and Composition Have in Common?
Have you ever tried to compose a piece of music or write a song? When you’re first starting out, it can feel unnatural, and you may feel like you don’t know what you’re doing. Music lessons can help a lot with that, but there’s also an everyday activity you perform that can prepare you to write music.
Did you know that when you’re cooking dinner at the end of the day, you’re actually closely following the process of composing a piece of music? There are many similarities between the process of preparing a meal and writing a song. The next time you cook a meal, think about each of these parts of cooking in terms of composing music.
Your Recipe Ingredients
Whether cooking or composing, you need some ingredients to create the finished product. When you’re cooking, these are the ingredients of your recipe. But when you’re composing, these are the elements that make up the musical piece – the key signature, time signature, melody, possibly lyrics, and more. It’s how you fit these elements together that makes the end product unique.
You can take the same ingredients, like chicken, pasta, and butter, and make up a dozen different dishes. The resulting dish will depend on how you combine those ingredients to bring out certain flavors in the palate of the meal.
The same is true of composing a piece. How you combine the musical ingredients will determine what the listener will hear more. Maybe you want to bring out a dramatic rhythm, or maybe your piece will rely on a subtle chord progression. A small change can dramatically alter the finished piece, and that is one of the most rewarding – and demanding – things about composing music.
The order that you put ingredients together defines the dish that you make, and that’s true of music, too. The order that you put notes together can change the finished song. Change up the order and you’ll have a completely different piece.
Ever try to make a meal only to discover you were out of important ingredients? You adjusted your plans and made a different dish, right?
Music works the same way. If you have limited instrumentation available, then you have to get a bit creative with your composition techniques.
And if you find that you’re running out of food ingredient, you can sometimes substitute in another ingredient to get a similar effect. For instance, you can substitute apple sauce in for oil in some dishes.
You can do the same with your songwriting or composition. If you can’t reach a certain note on a particular instrument, you can do a few different things, like using a note an octave lower or having another instrument play the original note to get the desired effect.
No recipe to guide you? You can still cook up a great dish by improvising. Just use the ingredients that you have and the knowledge you have about the properties of cooking and you’ll probably do just fine. And if the end product isn’t great? You can take what you learned and improve upon it next time.
Improvising abilities are so important in a composer or musician, too. Even when there’s no written music, you can rely on the notes you know how to play and your understanding of how to put those notes together. Improvising is a great way to develop your talents as a musician, and the more that you do it, the easier it will get.
If you want to become a great cook, you have to practice. You need to perfect basic recipes before moving on to more difficult recipes if you want them to come out well. As you practice cooking, you’ll develop your understanding of how the cooking process works so that you become a more successful cook.
Any musician also understands that practice is essential to developing your skills and becoming a better musician. The more you practice, the better you get, and that applies to composing and songwriting, too. As you write more and more music, you’ll learn more about how to use musical elements to create a great piece.
There are different styles of cooking that you can explore as you develop your own style. You’ll be influenced by where you learn and who you learn to cook from.
Music also has many different styles, and your own musical style will depend on where you live, the musicians you listen to, and your music teachers’ styles. You can take elements from all different styles as you learn what you really enjoy. Then, you can shape your own composition style.
But keep in mind, that sharing a meal is not just about you. It’s about your guests, too.
Your Dinner Guests
You might like chicken livers with blood sausage, habanero peppers and raw onions. But that doesn’t mean your guests are going to love it. Or that they are coming back for dinner at your house any time soon. As you compose, keep in mind that musical compositions can be written for different audiences just as different meals can be made for different guests.
You can write music for yourself alone and indulge all of your quirky musical ideas. Or you can write for an audience of other musicians and push boundaries. Or you can compose for the general public who might not be adventurous eaters. If you want to make your audience happy, don’t forget to ask them what they like to eat!
The next time you’re in the kitchen, take a moment to think about how closely the process mimics the act of composing music or writing a song. Then, get cooking!