Thursday, July 05, 2007

To Compose Your Own Music ... Think in Sections!

This New Age pianist has been playing piano for over 15 years now, and while I'm constantly learning new things, the one thing that's helped me out - as far as composing goes - is looking at music as sections.

I'm always telling my students to work within an 8-bar framework. Why 8-bars? Because it's a nice, neat time space to work in. And, more importantly, it doesn't overwhelm beginning students who feel they must come up with 100 bars at their first attempt.

The beauty of working within this framework is that it teaches you about phrases. Music has been compared to writing in the sense that it's made up of small phrases (like sentences) bigger sections.. periods of music (like paragraphs) and finally, complete movements (chapters).

Composers always think in sections because they know this is how music is constructed. - at least 99% of the music in the western world.

When you master the 8-bar phrase, you learn how to complete a section of music. And you learn that the art of composition has everything to do with repetition and contrast.

There's only so many times you can repeat an 8-bar phrase before it gets stagnant. Here is where we introduce new material - a contrasting section. Perhaps another 8-bars or so.

Another thing I have my students do is learn how to create a complete ABA form.

This musical form is the most common one used and it's also quite easy to create. Once the first 8-bar phrase is complete (the A section) it's time for some contrast. Maybe 4-bars… perhaps 8 or more will do the trick here.

Finally, the first A section is repeated (with some variation) and that's that - a small ABA form is finished. It's a good idea to master these small sections of music before delving into 400 bar compositions

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