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Music Composition For Dummies

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  • Edition: 2nd
  • Format: Paperback
  • Copyright: 2021-01-27
  • Publisher: For Dummies

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Supplemental Materials

What is included with this book?


You can hum it, but can you write it down?

When most people think of a composer, they picture a bewigged genius like Mozart or Beethoven frenetically directing mighty orchestras in the ornate palaces of Vienna. While that may have been the case once upon a time, modern composers make themselves heard far beyond the classical conservatoire and concert hall. These days, soundtracks are in high demand in industries such as TV, film, advertising, and even gaming to help create immersive and exciting experiences. Whatever your musical ambitions—composing a dark requiem in a beautiful Viennese apartment or producing the next great Star Wars-like movie theme in LA—the fully updated Music Composition For Dummies hits all the right notes to help you become confident in the theory and practice of composition.

To help you translate your musical ideas from fleeting tunes in your head to playable bars and notation on paper, professional composer and instructor Scott Jarrett and music journalist Holly Day take you on a friendly step-by-step journey through the process of musical creation, including choosing the right rhythms and tempos, creating melodies and chord progressions, and working with instruments and voices. You’ll learn how to match keys and chords to mood, use form to enhance your creativity, and write in different styles from pop to classical—and you'll even learn how to keep hammering away when inspiration eludes you.

  • Organize and preserve your musical ideas
  • Formalize your knowledge with professional vocabulary
  • Get familiar with composition apps and software
  • Make a demo and market on social media

Filled with musical exercises to help you acquire the discipline you need for success, Music Composition For Dummies has everything you need to turn your inner soundtrack into a tuneful reality!

Author Biography

Scott Jarrett (Santa Fe, NM) has taught recording labs, voice, guitar, mandolin, recording arts, music theory, composition, and production. He has been Music Director for many live theatrical productions including the Broadway production of The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas. He has worked with a broad range of artists from Willie Nelson to legendary film composer Dave Grusin. He has released three albums of his original songs and has written music for many commercials for clients including Buick. He is the founder of Monkey House Recording Studio in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

Holly Day's (Minneapolis, MN) work has appeared in more than 3,000 print and electronic publications internationally, including Guitar One Magazine, Music Alive!, culturefront Magazine, and Brutarian Magazine.

Table of Contents

Introduction 1

About This Book 1

Foolish Assumptions 2

Icons Used in This Book 3

Beyond the Book 3

Where to Go from Here 3

Part 1: Basics and Rhythm 5

Chapter 1: Thinking Like a Composer 7

Limitations as Freedom 7

Composing as an Extension of Listening 8

Rules as Inspiration 9

You as Your Own Teacher 10

Know what your options are 10

Know the rules 10

Pick up more instruments 10

Understand when to put something aside 11

Get something from nothing 11

Trust your own taste 12

Chapter 2: Tools of the Trade 13

Composing with Pencil and Paper or a Tablet 13

Performance Skills 14

Composition Software 15

Finale 16

Sibelius 16

Logic Pro X 17

Cubase 17

Ableton 17

Pro Tools 18

A Pair of Moderately Well-Trained Ears 18

Knowledge of Music Theory 19

Space, Time, and Ideas 19

A Pack Rat Mentality 20

Chapter 3: Musical Scrapbooks: Writing on Paper and Screen 21

Writing It Down 22

Using Software 22

Computer versus Paper and Pencil 23

File Management 24

Chapter 4: Rhythm and Mood 27

Sculpting Time into Music 28

The Feel of Different Rhythms 28

Speed Bumps and Rhythmic Phrases 31

Mixing It Up: Back Phrasing, Front Phrasing, and Syncopation 33

Back phrasing 33

Front phrasing 33

Syncopation 34

Finding Your Own Rhythmic Phrases 35

Rhythm and Mood Exercises 36

Part 2: Melody and Development 39

Chapter 5: Finding Melodies Where You Least Expect Them 41

What is a Musical Framework? 42

Finding Melody in Language 42

Let’s Eat(,) Grandma! 44

Finding Melody in the World Around You 45

Helping Your Muse Help You 47

Finding Melody in Your Instrument 49

Using scales in composition 49

Using music theory in composition 50

Using musical gestures as compositional tools 50

Exercises 51

Chapter 6: Scales and Modes, Moods and Melodies 53

Major and Minor Modes and the Circle of Fifths 54

Getting Moody 56

Moods à la Modes 58

Ionian (major scale) 58

Dorian 59

Phrygian 59

Lydian 59

Mixolydian 60

Aeolian (natural minor) 60

Locrian 61

The Pentatonic Scale 62

Harmonic and Melodic Minor 62

Exercises 63

Chapter 7: Building Melodies Using Motifs and Phrases 65

The Long and Short of Musical Themes: Motifs and Phrases 66

Building a Melodic Phrase 68

Spicing It Up by Varying the Phrase 70

Rhythmic displacement 70

Truncation 71

Expansion 71

Tonal displacement 72

Exercises 73

Chapter 8: Developing Your Melodies 75

Structural Tones 75

Step-wise and Skip-wise Motion 76

Passing Tones 77

Neighboring Tones and Appoggiatura 78

Other Melodic Techniques 79

Escape tones 79

Suspension 80

Retardation 80

Anticipation 80

Pedal point 81

Exercises 82

Part 3: Harmony and Structure 85

Chapter 9: Harmonizing with Melodies 87

Harmonizing Using Consonance and Dissonance 88

Tritone: The devil’s interval 89

Conflict and resolution 90

Harmonizing Using the Circle of Fifths 92

Harmonizing Using Pivot Notes 94

Exercises 95

Chapter 10: Composing with Chords 97

Chords and Their Moods 98

Major 99

Minor 99

Major seventh 99

Minor seventh 100

Dominant seventh 100

Major sixth 101

Minor sixth 101

Suspended fourth 102

Ninth 102

Minor ninth 102

Diminished 103

Augmented 103

Minor 7, flat 5 / half-diminished 104

Putting Chords Together 105

Rhythmic Movement 106

Chord Progressions 107

“Rules” for major chord progressions 107

“Rules” for minor chord progressions 107

Coming Home with Cadences 108

Authentic cadences 109

Plagal cadences 109

Deceptive or interrupted cadences 110

Half-cadences 110

Fitting Chords and Melodies Together 112

Extracting harmony from melody 112

Using chord changes 113

Exercises 116

Chapter 11: Composing from the Void 119

Composing Using the Movement Around You 120

Composing Using Musical Gestures: “Gestural Space” 121

Introducing Effort Shapes 122

Weight: heavy versus light 123

Time: Sustained and staccato 123

Flow: Bound and free-flowing 124

Space: Direct and indirect 124

Composing Using Effort Shapes 125

Dab 125

Flick 125

Glide 126

Press 126

Float 126

Punch 126

Slash 127

Wring 127

Shaping story and mood by combining effort shapes 127

Exercises 130

Chapter 12: Beginnings, Middles, and Endings 131

A Word About Form 132

Beginnings: Intro and letter “A” 133

The power of titling 133

Starting a piece 134

Chord progressions 134

Middles: Letter “B” 135

Endings: Return of the Chorus or Refrain 136

Exercises 137

Chapter 13: Musical Forms 139

Combining Parts into Forms 139

One-part form: A 140

Binary form: AB 140

Song form: ABA 140

Arch form: ABCBA 142

Classical Forms 142

The sonata 142

The rondo 143

Concerto 144

Symphony 144

Fugue 144

Divertimento 145

Minimalism 145

Through-composed 145

Popular Forms 145

The blues 146

32-bar blues and country 147

Rock 148

Jazz 149

Atonal Music 150

Atonality and form 150

Atonality and instrument realities 151

Atonal Music and You 152

Listening for atonality 153

Exercises 154

Part 4: Orchestration and Arrangement 157

Chapter 14: Composing for the Standard Orchestra 159

Concert Pitch and Transposition 160

Pitch Ranges of Transposing Instruments 161

Alto flute 162

B flat trumpet 163

B flat clarinet 164

B flat bass clarinet 166

E flat clarinet 166

English horn/cor anglais 167

Flugelhorn 168

French horn 169

Piccolo trumpet 171

Non-Transposing Instruments 172

Concert flute 172

Bass flute 173

Bassoon 173

Double bass/contrabass 174

Oboe 174

Orchestral harp 175

Tenor slide trombone 176

Viola 176

Violin 177

Cello 177

Where they all are on the piano 178

Getting the Sounds You Want 179

Stringed instruments 180

Brass and woodwind instruments 182

Chapter 15: Composing for Rhythm Sections and Small Ensembles 185

The Drums 186

The Bass 187

Upright bass 187

Electric bass guitar 188

Acoustic bass guitar 188

The Guitar 189

Acoustic guitar 189

Electric guitar 190

Twelve-string guitar 190

Steel guitar 191

Free Reed Instruments 192

The harmonica 192

The accordion 193

The concertina 193

Chapter 16: Composing for Multiple Voices 195

Story Lines and Instrumentation 195

Writing Multiple Harmony Lines 196

Independent Voices 198

Counterpoint 200

The Five Elements of a Musical Tone 202

Pitch 202

Duration 202

Intensity 203

Timbre 203

Sonance 203

Some Do’s and Don’ts 204

Don’t write more than three independent melodies at one time 204

Don’t cross melody lines over each other 204

Do be deliberate in the use of octaves and unisons 205

Do consider tessitura 205

Exercises 205

Chapter 17: Composing Commercial Music and Songs 207

Composing for Film 208

Working with time code 210

Working with proxy movies 211

Composing for Video Games 211

Composing for TV and Radio 212

Composing for the Orchestra 214

Composing for Yourself 215

Composing Teams 216

Helpful Organizations and Web Sites 217

Film Connection 218

American Composers Forum 218

American Composers Forum, Los Angeles Chapter 218

Film Music Network 218

Music Licensing Companies 219

Musicbed 219

Jingle Punks 219

Marmoset 219

Taximusic 220

Working with Agents 220

Songwriting 221

Deciding on lyrics and tempo 222

Building rhythm 223

Choosing your form 224

In the beginning 225

Making your song moody 226

The hook 227

Making a Great Demo 228

Keep it short 229

Only include the best stuff 229

Organize it 229

Have more ready to go 230

Identify yourself 230

Invest in quality 230

Copyright it 230

Chapter 18: Composing Electronic Music 231

Software and Hardware for Composition 231

Sequencers and digital audio workstations 232

Music notation software: scorewriters 232

Repetition and the computer 234

Sound libraries 234

Composing on Computers 235

Thinking in sections 236

Linear composition 236

Loop composing 236

Computer as recorder: musical scrapbooking 239

The bad news 239

Saving and backing up 240

Chapter 19: Composing for Other Musicians 241

Composing with Lead Sheets 241

Composing with Guitar Tablature 243

The Score 246

Writing for Ensembles 247

Working with Foreign Scores and Ensembles 249

Working with Drums 250

Part 5: The Part of Tens 253

Chapter 20: Ten Career Opportunities for Composers 255

School Bands and Choirs 256

Incidental Television Music 257

Musical Theater 257

Concert Composition and Performances 259

Producer/Arranger 259

Industrial Music and Advertising 260

Business conventions 261

Music libraries 261

Film Scoring 261

Video Game Scoring 262

Songwriting 262

Teaching 262

Chapter 21: Ten Recommended Books for Composers 265

Songwriter’s Market 265

The Shaping of Musical Elements, Vol II 266

The Norton Scores, Vols 1 and 2, 10th Edition 267

How to Grow as a Musician 267

Analysis of Tonal Music: A Schenkerian Approach 268

The Music Lesson: A Spiritual Search for Growth Through Music 268

American Mavericks 269

RE/Search #14 & #15: Incredibly Strange Music, Vols I and II 269

Silence 270

Chapter 22: Ten Platforms for Promoting Your Music 271

YouTube 271

Bandcamp 272

Show.co 273

CD Baby 273

Distrokid 273

ReverbNation 274

TuneCore 274

Spinnup 274

Amuse 275

Ditto 275

Part 6: Appendixes 277

Appendix A: Modes and Chords Reference 279

Appendix B: Glossary 299

Index 305

Supplemental Materials

What is included with this book?

The New copy of this book will include any supplemental materials advertised. Please check the title of the book to determine if it should include any access cards, study guides, lab manuals, CDs, etc.

The Used, Rental and eBook copies of this book are not guaranteed to include any supplemental materials. Typically, only the book itself is included. This is true even if the title states it includes any access cards, study guides, lab manuals, CDs, etc.

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