Book Review – Composition for Computer Musicians

composition for computer musicians cover

Hello and welcome back!  I’ve got another book review for you today, Composition for Computer Musicians by Michael Hewitt.  Composition for Computer Musicians is the second in a series of three ‘theory’ based books proceeded by a book on music theory and followed by a book on harmony.  Interestingly enough this was one of the first books I read when I started down my path towards composer; I even read it before reading the earlier book in the series on music theory.



Music Composition by definition: “the process of creating a new piece of music.”  Michael Hewitt aims to teach the reader how to put all the pieces together in this book.  Starting with drums, he moves through percussion, bass, leads, pads, and includes writing parts for other kinds of instruments.  As the book progresses it dabbles into pulling everything together, with a light touch on the engineering side at the end.  While this book is hardly comprehensive on all things necessary to produce a track, it covers a lot of useful material on the musical front.  In addition, Composition for Computer Musicians is a fairly short and easy read.

Most importantly I think this book really does a good job at presenting the information for its intended audience.  Regularly throughout the book Hewitt presents topics within the context of computer based composition.  One great example of this is in the drum chapters.  Hewitt spends significant time laying out the fundamentals of drumming, but then dives into the myriad of techniques for achieving realism and humanity in drum programming.  It in fact gets better because he even spends some time getting into genres a bit (although this book is a little dated, don’t expect to find tutorials on glitching out your drums here).  In fact, on my second pass through the book (reviewing for this review) I managed to pick out some useful pieces of information, like programming for bongos and strings.

Like other books in the series this book features a CD with varied listening examples.  The sound bites are on par with most other books aimed toward music production.  Unlike Music Theory, Hewitt left out any sort of formal exercises.  Its up to the reader to try the examples in the book and work them out to their own satisfaction.  Given the subject matter, I think this makes sense (and given the quality of the exercises in previous books.. its probably better anyway).  Its important to note that, while reading it will be useful, you’ll definitely want to take time and practice those things that you find useful.  On the upside, many of the topics don’t need to be studied in any particular order, you can always revisit the topic of string programming when you are in a position of writing for strings.


I really think this is a great book, particularly for the budding producer.  This book covers a lot of topics that absolutely will help folks put together better songs.  In addition, Composition for Computer Musicians does an incredible job with providing the reader with exactly the information it advertises.  Interestingly enough, its even worth keeping around as a reference.  While refreshing myself for this review I actually learned some more tricks (not bad amirite?).  Although this book expects one to have read Music Theory first, I don’t actually think this is necessary and you can be successful in this book without much theory knowledge at all (be warned though, a little music theory will be helpful).  For more advanced producers this book is probably a bit too rudimentary but it is simple enough to read that it could provide a nice refresher while relaxing at home.  I would recommend this book to anyone trying to hone their compositional technique.

Rating: 9/10