How Do You Compose?

How Do You Compose?

It’s like asking a poet, “How do you write a poetry?” or asking a painter, “How do you paint?”, or asking a sculptor, “How do you sculpt?”

Like we all know, everybody has a vocabulary, words available with them, but not everyone can write a poetry! Same way, you might give colours to someone, but not everyone can paint! With a heap of mud and clay, not everyone will be able to make a master piece of art work outta it!

Being able to compose at a very young age, i have come across this question , end number of times by even very learned people who have been pursuing music professionally and successfully but have not been able to compose though. Finally at the last instant , when again i was asked the same question, It just inspired me to write about it.

Creativity is usually inspired or driven by emotions. When we talk of the “How” of music or compositions, I can easily categorize them in to two. The third one, am going to tell you later!

First One, where a composition is born merely coz its driven by money, that we call commercial work. Money is the drive. Where one is paid to compose, with a preset theme, mood, situation and sometimes even lyrics. Here a composer’s emotions are not kept in to account, but a composer has a limited freedom to go and express his creativity. A composer might be going through happiness, but is asked to write a sad melodramatic piece of music. So there is no correlation between his emotions and the work he is asked to produce. Mostly all commercial work happen this way. There is a scheduled time frame too, where in he has to complete his work and produce. There is no vacation, once work is taken it has to be completed no matter what. This kind of composing can be frustrating at times for true composers. There is not much of satisfaction derived from such work, neither enough of creative freedom given. This kind of work is actually “work” created to sell and make money, keeping in mind the audience’s likes and their choices. Replicas of work are made to earn more, once the formula works.

Which is why in India, shows like Mtv Unplugged have become a favorite platform for accomplished music composers and directors. These people have expressed their views, on how it has become so vital for them to have a creative freedom and the satisfaction they gain out of it, which they don’t derive usually by doing commercial work.

The second situation, where a composition is born out of emotions. Like i said earlier, it is usually a manifestation of some emotional turmoils, sometimes an expression of pent up emotions, sometimes an inspiration from a story, an episode or an experience, or sometimes inspired by nature.

And now the third one, which i find really amusing to write, where composing is done by the “so-called” inspiration. Where a tune or a piece of music is being picked up from someone else’s creation and is used in to clubbing other loops and samples to create a self proclaimed composition. I won’t like to mention names, but these kind of people are in the industry who merrily pick up tunes from famous, or old international hit music records, sometimes folk tunes, sometimes even local and regional ones and fuse those scores in to their own remakes, putting up hits, and then making headlines on the front page, when being discovered of their so-called sin. Finally fighting over copyright issues and then paying dues to the original composer settling down by stuffing money to them or by finally rewarding the name to the original composer.

So, by now am sure, it is clear to all, when it comes to “How do you compose?”

All true writers, poets, painters, art creators, can relate to what i said. There is no such one line  answer to it, though i tried simplifying it. Coz, composing is a quality. Creating is a quality. Apart from learning the fundamentals and the science of music, composing is more about art and creativity. A very good composer needs both, the knowledge and the applied art aspect of the fundamentals learnt. Only those who possess a trait of a creative person, can go and create something. I can just say, usually these people are imaginative, dreamers, thinkers, sensitive, emotional, human, simplistic, minimalist and are touched deeply by very small things in life. Just the fact that core is the same in all, but what medium they pick up to express, makes them one!-  Scores or notes for a Composer , Words for a Writer or a Poet and Colors for a Painter and so on.

But then “How do you Compose? ” 🙂 Ha Ha!

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AshesToDust_HipHop fused with Indian Classical Tarana

This is the Most Innovative Project From Pune Hip-Hop! Completely a Fresh Approach Towards Rap.

I composed , produced, arranged the music, and mixed this. So loved composing it, then arranging music, and then writing the tarana vocals, and then mixing the music . Listen to it and enjoy. Cheers. Am really happy for this endeavour. Feels really satisfied.

Music composed,directed,arranged and mixed-mastered by-Ratna Shah
Classical tarana lyrics written by-Ratna Shah
Rap Vocals and Lyrics written by- Ayush Joshi , Rahul Nair
Female singer for classical tarana- Gayatri Kota
Male Singer for classical tarana- Nikhil Joshi
Recorded at -Realizations Media Pvt. Ltd.
Recording Engineer- Zameer Tamboli


Lord Ganesha Procession_SoundTrack

This sound track is made specially for dancing to the Procession of Lord Ganesha, on Ganesh Chaturthi. It’s an original music by me. Listen to it and say “Ganpati Bappa Moriya” !!!

If you like percussions, i bet you will like this!!!

Music by Ratna Shah
CopyRights Reserved


HUM ZAMANE SE: This is my first Ghazal which I composed few months back.The tune came first and waited for few days or so for the lyrics to be completed. Finding the voice for it, and then finally completing the production, i have come a long way to compile this song. Listen to it and enjoy and do let me know how you like it!!! 🙂

Composition,Music orchestration and mixed mastered : Ratna Shah
Lyricist: Zainul Hassan Khan
Singer: Priyanka Barve
Recording Engineer: Swarup Joshi
Recorded at Swaradhish Recording Studio

Copyrights Reserved


हम ज़माने से, छुपी दास्ताँ, सुनाने आए,
चांदनी रात की वो, बरसात, भुलाने आए.

देखो ख़्वाबों के, महल थे, आँधियों में टूटे,
खोये टुकड़ों को (सूनी), गलियों से, उठाने आए.

लोग मशगूल हुए, हैं, कह रहे वक़्त कहाँ है,
वक़्त बे-वक़्त की ये …..दीवा…र गिराने आये.

ज़िन्दगी खुशनुमा रही तो खेल समझे हम,
आज बदली हैं लकीरें तो मिटाने आए.

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Origin of Sa Re Ga Ma Pa……!!!


Origin of Sa Re Ga Ma Pa……!!!


While there have been different approaches that explains the origin of Music(Sangeet) in indian history, few going by the mythology, few by the psychoanalytic approach of Sigmund Freud and James Long,  and much more written in epics as well.

But since there have been conflicts about declaring that one fact, all the stems have been accepted and not just one is universally declared to be the sole fact for the origin of music in India.

While I just came across one of my old book of theory of Music called Sangeet Visharad – by Vasant , I came across this amazing fact, that again becomes a part of those varied explanations for the Origin of Music.  And since its really really interesting,I thought of sharing it with you all.

  • While all of you must be very well versed with the names of seven notes(swara by indian terminology), the basic key elements of Indian Classical Music, Sa Re Ga Ma Pa Dha Ni Sa( I shall write the full names of these notes below), You will find it amazing to read one of those explanations that says, how these were found!
  • The Writer of “Sangeet Darpan” – Shri Damodar Pandit had an opinion, that Music was originated by Brahma, who created Vedas in India. He emphasized on “Margi Sangeet”, saying that, Bharat Muni experimented this form of Music in front of Lord Shiva(Mahadev),and that Margi Sangeet  frees one’s soul.
  • According to this analysis, many have supported this, as this was even discussed in other approaches as well, that discussed the origin of Music.  Taking this explanation further,  Shri Pandit, explained the origin of seven notes of Indian musical scale, from the animal kingdom. And believe me you will be surprised to read where they originated from.


Swar          Full Name                            Origin

Sa            Shadaj                                   Bird Peacock

Re           Rishabh                                Chatak (Indian name)Bird, Jacobin Cuckoo

Ga           Gandhar                               Animal Goat

Ma          Madhyam                            Bird Crow

Pa           Pancham                              koel (Indian name) Bird , again one of the

Asian cuckoos(cuculiformes)

Dha        Dhaivat                                Mendhak (Indian Name) Animal, Frog

Ni           Nishad                                   Hathi (Indian name)Animal, Elephant


So next time you see these animals, remember which Indian notes they produced!!! Interesting! One of those Amazing Facts that explains the origin of Indian Classical Music.  For further more information on this, there is loads of information on Google uploaded from the scriptures as well as the epics written on Origin Of Indian Classical Music.

SEVEN notes are same- but indian music reads SaReGa while western reads C D E -then where is the difference?

Indian Classical Music
Indian Classical Music

My last blog brought me to communicate with people all around the world on Linkedin specially, where the conductors expressed how they loved their own instrument and what made them stop by as they were touched to core. I wanted to share a jist of what i loved the most from what they shared and am sure most of you would love to know too.

  • All instruments are unique and they touch every one at different emotional levels.
  • Though an instument possess a beauty of its own, Its the skill of the person who plays the instrument or a singer ( coz even vocals are human instruments)  and what music he plays that pours the soul in to it.-Stephen Martorella
  • Being a composer all would love all of their instruments. Making a choice as to which is #1 would be like choosing who is your most favorite child of yours, or, your most favorite finger on your 2 hands. -Lauria Maria

So to Conclude:

As a musician , i might say, ” It is that one particular instrument i play,( for eg a guitar for a guitarist)  that is my favourite or another that would touch my soul”, but as a composer, arranger, conductor we land up on a wide horizon, where every instrument speaks for itself, stands for its unique sonal quality, emotionally touch us on different levels. And as a composer or a music producer, its really difficult to zero down on a choice to one music instrument in this approach approach conflict.

For today as i was wondering what i will write, coz nothing in peculiar inspired me to write todays blog, i knew this was coming one day in future while i will write.

INDIAN CLASSICAL MUSIC AND WESTERN MUSIC-Indian classical music simplified

I came across this very beautiful link and i would love to share it to all of you who are pursuing either of the music form,Indian classical music  and western classical music. It is specially for those who are in to Western music and want to know what indian music is all about. While we have seven notes all around the world, eight yet to be discovered, All seven notes when sung are interpreted in different languages like Sa Re Ga Ma Pa Dha Ni Sa in Indian Classical Music while C D E F G A B in western music.

Why is that so, that inspite of the same notes all around the world we use, music sounds different. Its interesting as i watched this video. Beautifully explained in nutshell. Its a must watch for all those who are intrigued by Indian Classical Music.

While i have completed my graduation in Indian classical music, (sangeet visharat), western music always intrigued me coz of the theory of harmony. While Indian classical music is a lot about melodies, ornamentation, which we find in light classical too like gazals and sugam sangeet, Western music has a unique aspect that we dont find in Indian classical music and that is the harmony and the chords. When we make music, we intend to fill up gaps in Indian classical music, it heavily relies on melodies. ON the other side, western music has harmonies. This is what makes Western Music set apart , very unique. While i was upgrading my knowledge on Western Music, from the Indian classical i understood, it was that “harmony” part which was always making me curious. Something that is really really beautiful about Western Music that is not in our Indian Classical Music is the Theory of Harmony.

Indian music is completely about creativity and composing if you see what theory they teach. The Bandish, the Alap tanas, and the Khayal is all about creating melodies within one avartan – the given measure. The only difference i found was about the theory of Harmony, which does not exist in our Indian music. And so our indian classical music has more ornamentation, else it would become monotonous since we wont have harmony.

Otherwise, its just a different language where basics remain the same. All seven notes remain the same. Formations will stay the same but the way to express each formation will vary along with modulations and this will make both music very very different from each other. Am sure you are here coz you want to know more about Indian classical music. So follow the link below to see the video. It wont disappoint you for sure.

Do share your say on this.  What do you like the most about Indian Classical Music. What do you think will differentiate the Indian classical Music from the Western Music. What do you like the most about the Western Music.

And last but not the least, Music is universal. It is truly Sa Re Ga on one hand while the same being read as C D E on the other!!!

Inspite of the differences,Music is more about expressions of emotions , than mere knowing the particular art form.  Seven Notes shall stay the same all around the world.

For those who are really curious about indian classical music here is the link by Dhanashree Pandit Rai video

” Favourite MUSIC INSTRUMENT?” -Which Magic touches your soul?


I shared about the core of producing music in the last blog. I was glad to know that, inspite of us living in different countries, All of us as a musician has a same core in us that drive us towards one simple thing “LIVING MUSIC OF OUR LIFE” and that is we all are born to create music, and it is an extension of ourselves.

I would like to talk about just not the instrument we have picked to take on our journey, but also That one magic (instrument) that touches our soul.

Talking about me myself, this might seem to come as a surprise! But i have Graduated in North Hindustani Classical Vocal Music. (Graduated – Sangeet Visharat ) I began learning at a very young age. And MUSIC entered my life.

The first instrument i earned in my life was harmonium. It was an ancestral property of my grand father which was inherited by me. Because I was the only one in my whole family to get this far in music. This instrument would be more than 200 years old. And i have still kept it. Post that i began learning and came across my life long companion you see in the pic- Tanpura. I was sooooo happy, the day i got this back home. My sir, Guruji Shri Divyang Bhai Thakore taught me to tune all the four strings, and even get that resonance by adjusting the string “jwari”. I began replacing my strings on my own and cant explain the trance, while i use to play and rehearse. Next i remember about instruments was the tabla, that i learnt a bit as it was one of my paper in my class as we had to choose one instrument to learn apart from vocals. Next was the keyboard – YAMAHA PSR I425 .

So i did come across just a few of those indian instruments. Yes i did know about the “manjiras” percussion -metal ,tabla dholak, mrudung, that we use to play during bhajan kirtan , when i was a kid.

And after that i came across, guitars, piano,drums, octapads, sitar, flutes, violin, mandolin,tabla , dholak, and various other percussions during music performances.

If i have to choose one of that music instrument , it could be so so difficult. Am a composer, arranger, and a song writer, and that also i produce music by midi and almost all instruments play a fair role in my compositions and arrangements, coz i am not a pianist, or a guitarist whose music shall be influenced by that instrument they play. So fair! If i have to choose which instrument would touch my soul?, I think i shall say guitars. Acoustic guitars touches my soul. As a kid i was fond of sitar,But then i like piano too. And then i like flute too. My sir use to play flute. And he had a varied collection of flutes with him.

Its difficult to say about my favourite one! I have an arrangement where i have programmed sitar in music. I do have an arrangement where i have flute. Guitars. I do have one piece, that is close to my heart , i got the sound i wanted for it. So i wonder seriously which one could be my favourite. Am not a musician who picks up one instrument and plays. So its difficult to choose one. I have loved piano too.

I think in general string instruments touches my soul a lot. It could be coz of the frequencies produced by them, that make me connect back to my Tanpura ( four string instrument) which i use to play while rehearsing. But acoustic guitar touches my soul and so does a flute. I have this difficulty choosing between the guitar, flute and piano. I do love my synthesiser a lot, but then still an acoustic sound touches my soul more than a synthesised sound, which is why i say guitar or piano.

Have always been fond of the unique sonal quality of every instrument. I have explored a new world with them. And i love to be there.

The instrument that would touch my soul would be a piano or an acoustic guitar.

So which is your favourite instrument? Which was the first instrument you picked up? How? Which is the magic(instrument) you think touches your soul?