What Does A Music Composer and Arranger Do (including Their Typical Day at Work)

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Salary, Job Description, How To Become One, and Quiz

Music Composers and Arrangers

Music Composers and Arrangers write and transcribe musical scores.

Salary
$65720
Becoming One
Medium
Education
Associate's degree
Job Satisfaction
Job Growth

Personality
Interest Match





Find a job you love and you will never work a day in your life.Confucius

What they do

Music Composers and Arrangers write and transcribe musical scores.

  • Apply elements of music theory to create musical and tonal structures, including harmonies and melodies.
  • Use computers and synthesizers to compose, orchestrate, and arrange music.
  • Determine voices, instruments, harmonic structures, rhythms, tempos, and tone balances required to achieve the effects desired in a musical composition.
  • Experiment with different sounds, and types, and pieces of music, using synthesizers and computers as necessary to test and evaluate ideas.

Typical day

On a daily basis, Music Composers and Arrangers determine voices, instruments, harmonic structures, rhythms, tempos, and tone balances required to achieve the effects desired in a musical composition. They use computers and synthesizers to compose, orchestrate, and arrange music.

A typical day for a Music Composer and Arranger will also include:

  • Experiment with different sounds, and types, and pieces of music, using synthesizers and computers as necessary to test and evaluate ideas.
  • Explore and develop musical ideas based on sources such as imagination or sounds in the environment.
  • Apply elements of music theory to create musical and tonal structures, including harmonies and melodies.
  • Transcribe ideas for musical compositions into musical notation, using instruments, pen, and paper or computers.
  • Score compositions so that they are consistent with instrumental and vocal capabilities such as ranges and keys, using knowledge of music theory.

Other responsibilities

Besides their typical day, Music Composers and Arrangers also accept commissions to create music for special occasions. They may also transpose music from one voice or instrument to another to accommodate particular musicians.

On a weekly to monthly basis, Music Composers and Arrangers guide musicians during rehearsals, performances, or recording sessions. They might also fill in details of orchestral sketches, such as adding vocal parts to scores.

In addition, they study original pieces of music to become familiar with them prior to making any changes.

Although specific duties may vary, many of them write changes directly into compositions or use computer software to make changes.

To some Music Composers and Arrangers, it is also their responsibility to study films or scripts to determine how musical scores can be used to create desired effects or moods.

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What is the job like

Job satisfaction

Very High

Is this job meaningful

Very High

80% said they were satisfied with their job and 88% said they found their job meaningful.


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Pros

Suitable for people who like to work with designs.

Suitable for people who value achievements and are results-oriented.

This career is perfect for people who love to work indoors.

It is not too difficult to get into this career. Previous work-related skill, knowledge, or experience is required for this career.

Demand for this career is growing.

Cons

Not suitable for people who like to help and teach others.

Long working hours (More than 40 hours per week).

How much do they make

Average salary

$65720 per year

Average hourly wage

$32 per hour

Entry-level Music Composers and Arrangers with little to no experience can expect to make anywhere between $23,890 to $33,990 per year or $11 to $16 per hour.

Salary by experience Annual Hourly
Highest (Top 10%) $124,390 $60
Senior (Top 25%) $76,000 $37
Median $52,250 $25
Junior (Bottom 25%) $33,990 $16
No experience (Bottom 10%) $23,890 $11

This table shows the top 10 highest paying industries for Music Composers and Arrangers based on their average annual salary.

Salary by industry Annual Hourly
Promoters of Performing Arts, Sports, and Similar Events $87390 $42.01
Junior Colleges $83960 $40.36
Independent Artists, Writers, and Performers $73850 $35.50
Colleges, Universities, and Professional Schools $69410 $33.37
Performing Arts Companies $68240 $32.81
Sound Recording Industries $63090 $30.33
Social Advocacy Organizations $62800 $30.19
Religious Organizations $60860 $29.26
Elementary and Secondary Schools $59340 $28.53
Other Schools and Instruction $58360 $28.06

View more salary by industries here.

Where can they work

Where can Music Composers and Arrangers work? Here is a table showing the top 10 largest employers of Music Composers and Arrangers including the average salary in that industry.

Employers Total Employed Annual Salary Hourly Wages
Religious Organizations 3690 $60860 $29.26
Performing Arts Companies 2360 $68240 $32.81
Elementary and Secondary Schools 1390 $59340 $28.53
Colleges, Universities, and Professional Schools 510 $69410 $33.37
Independent Artists, Writers, and Performers 230 $73850 $35.50
Other Schools and Instruction 170 $58360 $28.06
Sound Recording Industries 130 $63090 $30.33
Promoters of Performing Arts, Sports, and Similar Events 90 $87390 $42.01
Junior Colleges 60 $83960 $40.36
Civic and Social Organizations 50 $48020 $23.09

What is the work day like

Working hours

Less than 40 hours
35%

40 hours
18%

More than 40 hours
47%

Working schedule

31%

59%

10%

Email

How often do you use email in this job?

Once a week
21%

Every day
77%

Telephone

How often do you have telephone conversations in this job?

Once a week
19%

Every day
60%

Group discussions

How often do you have group discussions in this job?

Once a week
35%

Every day
26%

Public speaking

How often does this job require you to do public speaking?

Never
15%

Once a year
65%

Once a month
14%

Once a week
6%

Every day
0%

Level of competition

How much competitive pressure is in this job?

Not competitive at all
2%

Slightly competitive
0%

Moderately competitive
0%

Highly competitive
42%

Extremely competitive
57%

What is the work environment like

Office-style environment

Indoors in an environmentally controlled condition

Never
17%

Once a year or more
0%

Once a month or more
0%

Once a week or more
12%

Every day
71%

Warehouse-style environment

Indoors in a non-controlled environmental condition such as a warehouse

Never
80%

Once a year or more
14%

Once a month or more
3%

Once a week or more
0%

Every day
3%

Outdoors

Outdoors exposed to all weather conditions

Never
85%

Once a year or more
12%

Once a month or more
3%

Once a week or more
0%

Every day
0%

Outdoors – Under Cover

Outdoors but under cover (e.g. structure with roof but no walls)

Never
82%

Once a year or more
15%

Once a month or more
3%

Once a week or more
0%

Every day
0%

How to become one

Difficulty to become one

Medium
You will need previous work-related skill, knowledge, or experience. Most careers in this difficulty category require training in vocational schools, related on-the-job experience, or an Associate’s degree, and one or two years of on-the-job training. Similar careers include Travel Agents, Agricultural Technicians, Court Reports, and Medical Assistants.

Required level of education

What level of education do you need to perform the job?

Less than a High School Diploma
16%

High School Diploma or equivalent
8%

Post-Secondary Certificate
0%

Some College Courses
26%

Associate’s Degree or similar
11%

Bachelor’s Degree
22%

Post-Baccalaureate Certificate
2%

Master’s Degree
4%

Post-Master’s Certificate
11%

First Professional Degree
0%

Doctoral Degree
0%

Post-Doctoral Training
0%

Relevant majors

No majors found

Relevant work experience

How much related work experience do you need to get hired for the job?

None
2%

1 month
0%

1 to 3 months
0%

3 to 6 months
0%

6 months to 1 year
12%

1 to 2 years
26%

2 to 4 years
6%

4 to 6 years
21%

6 to 8 years
18%

8 to 10 years
7%

Over 10 years
9%

On The Job Training

How much on the job training do you need to perform the job?

None or short demonstration
20%

1 month
41%

1 to 3 months
7%

3 to 6 months
9%

6 months to 1 year
16%

1 to 2 years
7%

2 to 4 years
0%

4 to 10 years
0%

Over 10 years
0%

Should you become one

Best personality type for this career

The Artist

People with this personality likes to work with designs and patterns. They prefer activities that require self-expression and prefer work that can be done without following a clear set of rules.

The Builder
33%

People with The Builder personality type likes practical and hands-on work. They prefer working with plants, animals, and real-world materials like wood, tools, and machinery.


The Thinker
29%

People with The Thinker personality likes to work with ideas that require an extensive amount of thinking. They prefer work that requires them to solve problems mentally.


The Artist
95%

People with The Artist personality likes to work with designs and patterns. They prefer activities that require self-expression and prefer work that can be done without following a clear set of rules.


The Helper
29%

People with The Helper personality type likes to work with people and in teams. They prefer work that allows them to build relationships with others.


The Leader
52%

People with The Leader personality likes to start and work on projects. They also like leading people and making many decisions.


The Organizer
38%

People with The Organizer personality type likes to follow set procedures and routines. They prefer working with data and details more than with ideas.


You can read more about these career personality types here.

People who are suitable for this job tend to like working with forms, designs, and patterns. They often require self-expression and the work can be done without following a clear set of rules.

They also like starting up and carrying out projects. They like leading people and making many decisions. Sometimes they require risk-taking and often deal with business.

Take this quiz to see if this is the right career for you.

Work Values

Which values are the most important to a person’s satisfaction for this job?

Achievement
95%

You are someone who is results oriented. You prefer work that allows you to utilize your skills and abilities while at the same time giving you a sense of accomplishment.

Working Conditions
64%

You are someone who values job security, steady employment, and good working conditions. You also prefer work that keeps you busy all the time with something different to do every day.

Recognition
81%

You are someone who values job advancement and leadership roles. You prefer work that receives recognition for the work you do and jobs that are looked up to by others in the company and your community.

Relationships
52%

You are someone who likes to provide a service to others. You prefer a work environment where you can work with your co-workers in a friendly non-competitive environment.

Support
43%

You are someone who values a company that stands behind their employees. You prefer a work environment where everyone is treated fairly and is being supported by the company.

Independence
81%

You are someone who likes to work on your own and make your own decisions. You prefer work that requires little supervision and are allowed to try out your own ideas.

FAQ

How do Music Composers make money?

Music composers generate revenue through direct sales, indirect sales, distribution, and intellectual property. Direct sales Direct sales can be contracts (Film, gigs, speaking functions) and also leases, where the buyer is legally bound to abide by certain regulations of usage. Indirect sales Indirect sales can be royalties for placements on distribution platforms like TuneCore, SoundCloud, … Read More

Answered by:
Orville Wright
Music Composer


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