top of page

Classical composers and Pop songwriters - what is the difference?

Updated: Jan 29, 2023

For the general public, music genres may just be a matter of preference. But, for composers, arrangers, performers and music producers, the musical making process of each style can be very different.

Do you know, for example, what is the main difference between concert music and popular music? Do you you that composers of different styles can have very different creative processes?

Knowing the nuances and differences in style is extremely important for those who want to venture into the universe of music creation. The creative processes of each genre have a direct influence on the final result of the work.

Classical and popular music may be similar in many aspects, such as theme construction. Still, they tend to follow very different compositional and musical development processes.

The complete composer

From a broader point of view, when we talk about concert music, the composer generally performs a series of functions. He is the complete creator of the work. He not only creates a theme and chord accompaniment but is “responsible” for everything on the score. He becomes the composer, arranger, and orchestrator.

Collaborative process

In pop and folk music, the figure of the composer who fulfills all these functions is rare. On the contrary, songwriters generally focus only on melodic construction with simple chordal accompaniment (and possibly lyrics). Other professionals often perform the rest of the development process, including the arrangement.

Music form

Another big difference between classical and popular music is the form: the structure of the piece. Pop and folk styles of music have a much more fixed form than the free and elongated structure of many concert compositions, including orchestral jazz. Concert music tends to be longer, with more complex forms and significant development of ideas thru time. Its counterpart - especially if we think of a song structure - is shorter, simpler, and tends to be more repetitive, based on a verses/chorus structure.

Each composer is unique

Furthermore, it is essential to mention that each composer, whether classical, jazz, pop, or any other style, has their unique way of writing, further expanding the creative possibilities and variety of musical results.

Grades orquestrais do maestro - Rafael Piccolotto de Lima

In the end, each composer has the potential to be a musical universe in itself, beyond genres and classifications. My doctoral essay, for example, discusses precisely that: the fluidity of musical genres and the infinite possibilities of the creative process.


Did you like this article?

Ask me questions and post suggestions for future blogs in the comments! Be sure to visit my Instagram, Facebook and YouTube channel for full videos!

Also, check out my online courses: “Creative Processes” and “Fundamentals of Audio and Video Production for Musicians”.


Rafael Piccolotto de Lima - Compositor, arranjador, diretor musical, produtor musical e educador
About the author

Rafael Piccolotto de Lima has been nominated for a Latin Grammy as the best classical composer. He holds a doctorate in jazz composition from the University of Miami and has multiple awards as an arranger, musical director, producer, and educator.

His works have been premiered and/or recorded by jazz legends such as Terence Blanchard, Chick Corea, and Brad Mehldau, renowned Brazilian artists such as Ivan Lins, Romero Lubambo, and Proveta, and orchestras such as the Brazilian Jazz Symphony, the Americas Symphony Orchestra, and the Metropole Orkest (Netherlands).

Rafael Piccolotto de Lima (social media):
24 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page