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Creating New Stuff
Creative Composition for every Music Classroom
Digital Edition - Student

The Composition Process


Fun with Composition


Using Bass Lines

Evaluation Time

Published by Noteable Music
© Noteable Music, Melbourne, 2013




The Composition


The Process
Often the hardest part of writing a composition is working
out where to start. This process is different for everybody
but here are some basic steps you will need to go through
to create a piece.

Check Your Task.
This could be: write a jingle, or a love song,
or music for a specific purpose. Make a list of all
the musical elements to create the correct mood
using instrumentation, melody, style, dynamics,
harmony rhythm and form.


Mess Around!
This is the most important bit. Start playing
or writing, whichever is your chosen creative
mode. Come up with ideas.
Record or write them down
Don’t discard anything.

Your ideas need to be sorted into sections. See
if some go together and can combine. It may need
some transposition or some working around.
Start thinking about your form.


Really work on your melody. Make sure it has
enough repetition and intensity. Take some of
your ideas and develop them. Take small sections
and move them up and down to create a
Put your piece together. This is where you add
your introduction and sort out how you are going
to end. Make sure your form is clear and have a
proper climax and shape
to your piece.
Play Your Piece

You have created your very own
masterpiece - well done!

By now you have probably lost a bit of
perspective. So play your piece to someone musical
you trust. Get their feedback. Also record your
piece and try to listen back critically. Rework
your piece.

The ingredients we use will determine the type of cake we make. or for us. like bake it in the oven. Hip Hop. experiment and practise until it is ready for consumption. sponge etc Style Composition Baking Ingredients Type Cake Record. The author is a music teacher not a cook. Jazz. fruit cake. marble. In music the ‘ingredients’ are called the ‘elements’ of music and changing the elements will change the style of the music. listen.4 Baking your Composition If you want to bake a cake there are standard ‘ingredients’ you will need. Country. Classical. banana. Baroque. The basic ingredients: • Flour • Eggs • Sugar • Butter • Baking powder • Milk Pop. Romantic etc The basic elements: • Instruments • Time signature • Harmony . Changing the ingredients will change the flavour of the cake. Add a splash of dynamics to taste. the style of music we are composing. When writing a composition there are ‘ingredients’ that we need to use just like when we bake a cake. Mix together with the form. There are things you will have to do to it as well. Put in oven until you can’t stand it any longer and have to get it out and eat it! Record The special ingredients depending on the style of music: • Type of Rhythm • Type of Timbre/Instrumentation • Tempo • Dynamics • Texture Method Then special ingredients depending on your type • Chocolate • Vanilla essence • Food colouring • Fruit • The icing on the cake! Elements Chocolate. Warning!! Please do not try to make this cake at home.Chord changes • Melody • Form Cream butter and sugar Sift flour and baking powder Add all the other stuff Make icing for later Method Develop your ideas into strong melodies. . Rock. Allocate appropriate ideas to instruments and layer to create texture.

one that you can add to and change as you go along.5 My Composition Plan Thinking about your composition is one of the best things you can do to ensure you create a quality product. Composition name or your task: ___________________________________________ Form: Style: ______________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________ Instrumentation: Write some ideas for how your piece is going to create the following: Mood Climax Unity Impact . This is a useful plan.

Theme: Rivers Titles and associated words: Running river. titles or topics can often lead to great compositions and help tie your piece together while creating a sense of unity for both you and your listeners. There are very few rules to this and your ideas need to be highly varied. You will see that the elements of music are used to create the specific effects that are needed for this theme. Constantly moving melody – never stops. Vibraphone. Rainmaker. On the river. Example: Here is an example of how you can turn your theme ideas into music. repeated bass note to drive the feel. Now select your best two themes (your favourites) to use. from space travel to pets. River deep. Once you have produced your original concepts try and work with a few of them to come up with musical ideas that might fit with each one. Waters flow. Use a brainstorming or graphic organisation tool that will work best for this form of brainstorming. 2. Scales. changing. Vocals. Motion. Mood: Calm yet energetic? Fast but relaxing – Humm? Varied depending on place in the river . Clarinet. 4. Brushes on drums. Harp Effects: Arpeggios. ABACA like the turns of the river. ideas. Themes. Trickle. Swirl. develop ideas. Tempo changes for swirls. You would never use all of the ideas from your brainstorm so just go ahead and be free to write down anything that comes to mind. Structure: Through form? Keep momentum. 3. Splash.6 Working with Themes Brain storming is a great way to start any creative adventure. Possible instrumentation: Piano. Brainstorm some themes that you could use to create a piece of music. Stuff to do: 1. Wet. Other Ideas: Maybe draw the river first with what is happening along it to give shape to the composition? . Guitar. It needs to have mind mapping ability with ideas coming from other ideas. River flow. You can have anything from emotions to nature.

7 Now it is your turn. Write down any ideas the titles give that could help you develop that theme. Think about the instruments that would best represent your theme and also what those instruments play to create a ‘sound picture’. You can complete this below or on a separate program. Theme 1: Theme 2: Titles and associated words: Titles and associated words: Instruments: Instruments: Effects: Effects: Structure: Structure: Mood: Mood: Other Ideas: Other Ideas: . Select your two best ideas as a basis for your composition.

Some contrast and some are very similar .. • Discuss the differences between the two in how they would sound.. The hardest part of writing music is being able to represent an idea or emotion in the music. • How would you achieve this? Space and Underwater Vegetables and Salad Wind and Rain Peaceful and Upset Sweet and Sour Orange and Blue Happy and Dancing Autumn and Summer Angry and Storm The future and The past .. For example what does ‘love’ sound like? Or ‘hurt’? Or ‘broccoli’? Stuff to do: Here are some sets of topics or ideas for music.. We can start composing by being given a theme or an idea. This could be from a teacher or an employer.‘sound wise’.8 The Difference Between.

is not. Firstly create a 2 bar riff or motif that will form the basis for your repetition and sequence. Repetition is easy . These two development strategies are used in almost every piece of music ever written. But how do we know when enough is enough? Where is the line? Repeating material so that the listener recognizes the tune creates unity and familiarity so is always good. use your motif to create a piece using as much repetition and sequence as you can. This will be the most effective piece of music that still uses these techniques. People screaming at you saying ‘I have already heard that! .wins! 3.just repeat your idea or part of the idea. 2. Now.9 How Much is Too Much? Two of the best development techniques you can use in a composition are repetition and sequence. If necessary you may need to have a count of how often they have used each technique! . The person who uses it the most without it driving listeners nuts . repeated Sequence is when you move your idea up or down sequence (up a step) A sequence using a fragment of the basic idea may look something like this: This exercise is about pushing the boundaries to find out how much you can get away with. Whether you succeed or not will be voted on by your classmates! Stuff to do: 1. At the end have the class vote for the winner. You can use other material but remember the aim is to use repetition and sequence.

The cat is trying very hard to catch the bird and taking itself very seriously. Lastly: The producer says “Now that you have a good feel for the film. You sent in your composition portfolio which got you the interview. Remember it is an interview so you have to think fast and creatively. It is a big film and will require you to write atmospheric music. Good luck! .10 The Job Interview You are applying for a job to write the sound track for a new film. Scene Three: A man with a knife is chasing another younger man around a sofa. but the bird is playing and manages to get away every time making a fool of the cat. effects etc to create the music for the scenes they give you. You will need to discuss how you will use instrumentation. Scene One: A woman is sitting reading a book under a tree and gradually puts the book down and stares out into the distance. She tilts her head gently to the side Scene Two: A cat is stalking a bird in a comical way. as well as some big theme songs to help sell the movie. describe the style of theme music you think would be appropriate”. melody. style. One is trying to stab while the other is trying to get away and escape. The creative process for this film will be very fast moving so the producer and director want to see if you can think on your feet. It is very scary.

11 Fun with Composition .

You will be paid very well for a great jingle! Job Specifications: • Must be twenty seconds in length – exactly • Should have a short section that can be used separately as well as in the major commercial About 4-7 seconds. • Must have words.12 The Cheese Commercial You have been hired by the ‘Chuckles Cheese Company’ to compose a piece of music to advertise their new product line called “Chirpy Cheese”. • Must be completely original (copyright issues) • Must be cheesy! Words: Make sure you perform your piece to the class! . They have said you can use whichever computer program you like or perform the jingle live. • Must be catchy and very memorable. The company has put major resources into the development of this new product and have a large advertising budget.

As composers we need to be able to express emotion and moods within our pieces. You may like to research some tunes that are based on the moods below and see how other composers have depicted mood in their compositions. Ideas Brainstorm: Make sure you perform your piece to the class! . Choose a mood from the following selection and create a composition that conveys that mood to your listeners.13 Mood Music Music is very good at portraying moods and feelings. Happy Sad Confused Lost Manic Lonely Depressed Bored Dreamy Job Specifications: • Brainstorm some ideas of how to create your mood • Must not have words • Must be at least 30 seconds long • Must use appropriate instrumentation • Must not have a title • Your audience should be able to guess the mood.

The competition is called “All My Dreams Come True” (Yuk). do some research and listen to some other great love songs. Before you start. The competition has created quite a stir with the winning song being recorded by a huge star and commercially released on the Sony Music label. What musical similarities do they have? Apart from the words.14 The Love Song You have entered a competition to compose a love song for Valentines Day. what makes them romantic? Job Specifications: • Must be at least 1 minute long • Must have words • Must be memorable • Must be completely original (copyright issues) • Must be very gooey and romantic Words: .

Your mission is to write a piece of music using the notes from the scale below.15 Pentatonic Pop A pentatonic scale only uses 5 notes and is an easy way to start composing. Job Specifications: • Must be at least 1 minute long • Use only the five notes of the pentatonic scale • Must be memorable • Must have an original title C D E • Must be a pop tune G A • Must be completely original (copyright issues) The Scale: C D E G A Title: ____________________________ C . there are many pieces in the world that have the pentatonic scale as their basis. These notes can be used in any order or any octave. You can either use an acoustic instrument or a computer program/ website to create your composition. This is not just an exercise.

paying tribute to those who are leaving school and heading for the world beyond. Job Specifications: • A formal march will be slower than normal . • It needs to be quite repetitive as it will have to keep going until the last member of the procession is in place • Must not have words • Must be formal and stately • Must be completely original .about 90 bpm • Needs to be in 2/4 time • This task should be completed using a program that allows you to compose using appropriate instruments. It is a march for the teachers and graduates to process into the auditorium as the formal part of the graduation begins. This is a very formal occasion for the school.16 The Graduation March You have been asked by your music teacher to compose the music for this year’s school graduation march.

Most of the time you will be using tempo (speed). dynamics (volume). timbre (sounds) and notes moving up by step to create scary effects but you will find there are lots of ways to make music frightening! Job Specifications: • You can only use any keyboards to complete this composition • Choose an appropriate timbre (instrument sound) for your composition • You can use sound effects (squeaky doors etc) but only if they are part of the music • Use the record button to record your piece • It should be about 1 minute long • Choose from the following titles: Cat and Mouse Killer in the Choir Death on the Doorstep Vigilante Vampires The Haunting Your own: ___________________________________ Murder in Maths Class . It is for a keyboard composition competition to create ‘The scariest music in the world’! You will need to think about the elements of music and how you are going to use them to make the music sound scary.17 Scary Keyboard Composition You are to create a composition that builds a feeling of fear in your listeners.

• Choose the movement you would like to compose. Before you start: • Research the dance suite and the various dances it includes. • Explain some of the characteristics and how you intend to use them. Strings and Continuo. • Try and make your composition as authentic as possible.18 Baroque Suite You are going to compose a movement of a baroque dance suite for Flute. • Research the Baroque period and ensure you utilise these characteristics as well. The characteristics of the Baroque period: Your chosen movement: ______________________________ The characteristics of this movement: .

Your Instrument: ______________________________ List things your instrument does well.Rock Do you want or need to have an accompaniment to go with your piece? Yes No Possibly Come up with some ideas for a title and/or theme that would suit your instrument. List special things specific to your instrument.19 Writing for your Own Instrument This exercise is a form of individual brainstorm before you start writing a composition specifically for your own instrument. Example: a flute plays fast notes well. List the styles of music your instrument often plays well. The titles are designed to kick start ideas and give you a place to begin when faced with writing a composition for your own performance instrument. Example: The Guitar . . Example: Trombone plays glissandos.

20 C Major Melodies Use the rhythms provided to compose your own short melody using the C major scale. • Use the notes from the C major scale • Make sure you play each one and that you like them! • Follow the SMS rule for Melody writing. Memorable. (Simple. Rules: • Start on a C and end on a C • Use the rhythms provided • You will need to use a notation program or pencil and manuscript as the notes need to be annotated correctly. Singable) .

In small groups come up with 6 ways that you can use to build tension and suspense in a composition. __________________________________________ 5. Stuff to do: 1. a)_________________________________________________________ b)_________________________________________________________ c)_________________________________________________________ d)_________________________________________________________ e)_________________________________________________________ f)_________________________________________________________ 2. One of the most successful pieces of all time to build tension is the theme from ‘Jaws’ by John Williams. suspense or drama. 3. Create of a suitable title for a piece of music that could use the ideas you have come up with.21 Antici-pation Music has an amazing ability to build tension. Compose and perform this piece to your class. Have a proper listen to this piece and work out why you think it was so successful. Choose two of the best ideas from above and explain why you think they would be the most effective at creating the feeling of anticipation. That is why it is used with good effect in so many horror and drama movies. There are certain compositional techniques that will help to create this feeling in your piece. In your group. . 4. practise and demonstrate your best 2 ideas to the class.

Which ones best describe what your animal composition should sound like based on the animal you have chosen? Make a list of the ones you think would best suit your animal and come up with another four words of your own. Low. a) ________________________________________________________ b) ________________________________________________________ c) ________________________________________________________ 4. Stuff to do: 1. Long notes. Smooth. Name 3 features about that animal that you will need to include in your composition. Below are a list of words. Cheeky. Medium tempo. For example . Drawn out. Fast. Slow. High.the elephant would need to be slow and solid. Off beats. Spikey. . Gaps between notes. Big intervals. Which animal would you like your piece to be about? ________________________________________________________ 2. Soft. Loud. On the beat. Dotted rhythms. Changeable. Quick. It will need to capture the children’s imagination as well as the characteristics of the animal you choose. Step by step. Changing volumes. Stops and starts.22 Animal Crackers Your task is to write a piece of music based on an animal. It is to be played to small children. Why did you choose that animal? ________________________________________________________ 3.

Spend some time coming up with the type of game it would be for and some of the important features you would like to have in your piece. Create your own piece of game music. Listen to at least 3 different game theme tunes on You Tube. it has become a fast and lucrative market for young composers. some of which have become quite famous in their own right. so that they play more. As every game comes with its own theme tune. • It also needs to be catchy as the aim is to add to the players gaming experience. a) Piece: __________________________________________________ b) Piece: ___________________________________________________ 2. Choose two and explain why you think that each is a successful gaming piece and any compositional features you noticed. . Features: • The music is usually fairly repetitive so that it doesn’t matter where you get to in the game. • It needs to be memorable without driving everybody nuts! Some games fail at this! Stuff to do: 1. you can always start again without noticing the change in music.23 Gaming Music Gaming continues to grow with games now being marketed to young and old.

but a slightly dopey sheriff who did his best and solved most cases with Jessica’s help. Listen to it on You Tube. Jessica Fletcher was a nice woman who lived in a sleepy little town called Cabot Cove. Coincidently. It had a very nice theme tune. You Wrote “Murder She Wrote” was a 1980’s murder show about a nice old lady author who wrote murders.except for all those unfortunate murders.24 Murder. So you get the picture . It was also for prime time television so was watched by a large. she often found herself involved in real life murders and of course turned out to be very good at solving them. mostly older female audience. Stuff to do: Your theme needs to reflect the ‘niceness’ of the place while still remembering the murder was nice . to be played at the start and the end of the show. which was always reassuring. There was nothing very scary but Jessica always solved the crime. Maine in America. The Show: So. They had a nice. . Your job is to come up with your own theme tune for the show.

Use this motif as the basis for your own tango. Write down your postcode. In rest of the bar the notes tend to be short. spikey and on the beat. It tends to be very hot and steamy and is often quite a dramatic dance between the dancers. ___ ___ ___ ___ 2. 5. write a quaver that is a half step below your first note on beat 4 1/2 of the bar and repeat the motif.25 The Postcode Tango A tango is a South American ballroom dance. Work out what your postcode sounds like 1 C 2 D 3 Eb 4 E 5 F 6 G 7 A 8 Bb 9 B 3. In order to make it more authentic. The tango has a very strong emphasis on the fourth beat or on beat 4 1/2 leading into the next bar (often by a half step). Watch some people dancing the tango to get a feeling for the music and the dance. You will need to be clever about how you use it as there will be many students who have the same postcode. . Work out your postcode motif and write the letter names below ___ ___ ___ ___ 4. Stuff to do: 1. It is very rhythmic and should go at about 120 bpm.

• Must be recorded. Before you start you will need to think through a few things first. Who is the target market for this shop? Age. .26 The Local Jingle Choose a local shop or business that you go into regularly. What image are they trying to send? _________________________________________________________ 5. What important information must be in your advertisement? Like the Address? Phone? Website? Prices? Gimmick? What they offer? Job Specifications: • Write a jingle with words and music that will be used for radio advertising. culture etc. You are going to write a jingle for it that will be used on the radio. Before you start: 1. What message is the shop/business trying to give? _________________________________________________________ 4. • Must be between 28 . gender.not a nation wide chain. _________________________________________________________ 2. Choose a small one that you have never heard do much advertising . What type of music do you think they like? _________________________________________________________ 3.30 seconds long • Must be catchy and easy to remember • Must include all the important information (from above) as well as the main message.

27 Using Bass Lines .

play the melody. Below are 3 examples of Ostinato for you to play and create melodies over. Ostinato 1: Ostinato 2: Ostinato 3: .28 Ostinato An ostinato is a repeated phrase that is played over and over again throughout a piece of music. Stuff to do: • Create your own melody to go over each ostinato • Get into pairs so one can play the ostinato and one can play the melody • Create your own ostinato! • Swap over and play each others melodies • A great way to use ostinatos is to: A . with the ostinato going throughout. You will need to repeat them several times. It comes from the Italian term for ‘Stubborn’. B -take a small solo (make it up) A -play the original melody again.

. • Work out which notes are in them • Write them out or enter them. Stuff to do: • Choose 3 chords. the guitarist picks out each note in order bottom to top . As that is exactly what they are. One bar each and return to your first chord for the last bar.29 Using Arpeggios Arpeggios are sometimes called ‘broken chords’. • Learn to play your notes or play them back so you can hear them. If you play a C major chord on the piano it is normally played together like this: If it is played as an arpeggio or broken chord then it is played like this: Arpeggios are really handy for creating a composition as you can string them together to create the underlying pattern for your piece. • Compose your melody to go over your arpeggio bass line. If you imagine a guitar and instead of strumming a chord. then repeat.and/or down again. You can use any rhythm that you like but it should probably be fairly consistent.

You will need to start with one of you playing the bass line and the other improvising over the top. Stuff to do: 1. Remember that you eventually do need to create a melody not just a solo.probably 2 bars long. The rest of us mortals will need to have one person playing the bass line while the other composes the melody and then swap over. You will need to work in pairs on this exercise unless you are a pianist who can happily use two hands independently. First create your descending bass line . The next step is to create a piece using your bass line as your repeated pattern (ostinato) underneath. 2. Between 8 -16 bars would be great. Even better is if one of you plays a bass instrument and can play the line on that.30 The Descending Bass Line Using a descending bass line that repeats can be a great way to get started with composition and an excellent skill that can create some interesting harmonic points of tension and release. If you are having trouble the easiest one is: 3. .

Write your own Rock ‘n’ Roll piece to go with the chord changes above. Record or perform your piece. You may even like to get three people involved. The chords that are often used are I VI IV V7 . In this exercise there is a basic piano riff for one person to play and you will need to compose a melody over the top of it. One to play the chords. Alternatively you can play the chords on the guitar or have a singer working on the melody. Give your piece a truly Rock ‘n’ Roll title . 4. Rock ‘n’ Roll Riff C Am F G7 Stuff to do: 1. Learn to play or record the riff above.31 Rock and Roll for 2! Many styles have a group of chords that are often associated with them. 2. 3. one to play the bass line and one to write the melody. You might like to work together so one person can play the changes while you compose. Rock ‘n’ Roll does.

Try to be creative here and not simply use I IV V chords . The next step is for you to write a composition using only your three notes in the bass. . You can however repeat notes as often as you like. They can be any notes but you need to use them in the same order each time. but only 3 notes. The aim is to make fabulous music. that you will use as your bass line. not something that sounds weird. You can use any notes in the treble.32 Over 3 In this exercise you get to choose any 3 notes. Remember you can repeat your notes as much as you like and you can even use them to make chords if you are being very adventurous. Good Luck!! NB . Once you have chosen your 3 bass notes write their names in the order you want to use them here.

33 Evaluation Time .

34 Evaluation Sheet Self Evaluation Title: Composer: Task/Topic: Start: Best bit: What I would do differently: Shape: Best bit: What I would do differently: Variety: Best bit: What I would do differently: Melody: Best bit: What I would do differently: Mood and character: Best bit: What I would do differently: Climax: Best bit: What I would do differently: Overall: Best bit: What I would do differently: Write a reflection about your work on this composition: .

35 Evaluation Sheet Peer Evaluation Title: Composer: Task/Topic: Initial Reaction: Great Frightening Interesting OK Awesome Different Rocks Boring Fits title Weird Good in parts Suggestions: Tune/Melody Catchy Bizarre Wasn’t one Dull Good Unique Hard to remember Suggestions: Shape Form: Weak build up Good use of shape Great build up No shape Sections didn’t go Unusual/ Different Sort of there All worked well together Suggestions: Overall Reaction: Great Liked it Awesome Wish I had written it Not enough repetition Best Bits: To be improved Still needs work Weird Doesn’t fit title Could be great Heard it before .

36 Reflection Activity a) Outline the process you used to create your composition: b) How would you improve this process in the future? c) Where did you go/could you go for assistance when you got stuck? d) What were the hardest bits? e) What did you enjoy most about the process? f) How happy are you with your final result? What grade would you give yourself? ___________________________ .