Models for beginners in composition

Posted by: Galois

Models for beginners in composition - 09/25/05 02:37 AM

Well, I've heard there's a book by Shoenberg with that name. Given than my favorite book on composition is, so far, "Fundamentals of Music Composition", also by Schoenberg, this is one of the books I'm looking forward to get. Unfortunately, is very hard to find it: it has been out of print for a long time.

So, while I try to get this book, if you have read it: Could you tell me what it says? Is it helpful? And if you haven't, what do you think these "models" could be? Practice forms like the minuet, scherzo, simple ternary, etc? Templates? And regarding Harmony or Orchestration, what things could serve as Models?

Any thoughts are welcome.
Posted by: Linda in PA

Re: Models for beginners in composition - 09/25/05 11:38 AM

If you have $225 to spend, you can purchase the book here:

Models for beginners in composition

. . . Linda
Posted by: Galois

Re: Models for beginners in composition - 09/27/05 02:36 PM

OMG... U$S 225 is like 6 weeks rent in my city.
Posted by: pianojerome

Re: Models for beginners in composition - 09/27/05 06:44 PM

Or here for $10...

http://shop.vendio.com/seanmusic/item/716418766/?s=1127643237


I don't know how reputable this source is...
Posted by: Steve Chandler

Re: Models for beginners in composition - 10/04/05 02:57 PM

I'm sure Schoenberg wrote a great book, but I firmly believe you can't teach composition. You can teach techniques of modern harmony, you can teach rhythm and melody, you can teach form and orchestration, but every composer finds his or her own voice. So by all means learn the tools of the trade, read books on these aspects of composing, read books about composers. Ultimately, you learn by doing and like many musicians we're always learning. I like to think of composing as exploring realms of musical expression.

Good luck.
Posted by: SteveY

Re: Models for beginners in composition - 10/04/05 06:58 PM

 Quote:
I'm sure Schoenberg wrote a great book, but I firmly believe you can't teach composition
So are you saying that those of us with composition degrees wasted our money? ;\)

Seriously, I see your point about getting out of the books and just making music. But I can tell you that studying composition made me a significantly better musician. I wouldn't have a career if it weren't for the many great teachers that invested their knowledge & experience in me.
Posted by: Steve Chandler

Re: Models for beginners in composition - 10/05/05 04:57 PM

 Quote:
Originally posted by SteveY:
So are you saying that those of us with composition degrees wasted our money? ;\)

Seriously, I see your point about getting out of the books and just making music. But I can tell you that studying composition made me a significantly better musician. I wouldn't have a career if it weren't for the many great teachers that invested their knowledge & experience in me. [/QB]
Hi Steve,

No if anything I was trying to get Galois to invest in lessons. Studying a book in a vacuum seems very much the long road. The short cut is to work with a knowledgable professional and get nearly immediate feedback. So we agree lessons make you a better musician and will help avoid obvious mistakes like having low range flute play an important part during a loud section or writing quiet horn parts above the treble staff.

But Galois was asking about models and/or templates. This is very beginning stage composition. What worked for me was giving a simple idea as a composition challenge. One that I recall from my composition class days was write a 4 bar phrase then add to it (either vertically or horizontally), do this to your initial phrase 3 or 4 times. But this was a class assignment so we played our pieces and got feedback the next week. That's the real value of taking lessons (that and the prerequisite of finishing 2 years of theory so 4 part harmonization and form skills had already been perfected).
Posted by: brynbstn7

Re: Models for beginners in composition - 10/28/05 12:50 PM

I need a formal way to study composition too. But I am not a kid, and have been an amateur pianist for a long time. If I want, I can sit down at the piano and musical ideas just come to me. I'm not saying they're good, however. I need to learn to harness this... to actually write something down, to learn techniques, methods. A book might work, or a teacher. I live in the Boston area. Oh yeh, I do not want to learn from a pop or jazz source, strictly "classical".
Posted by: signa

Re: Models for beginners in composition - 10/28/05 10:31 PM

the formal way of studying composition is to go through books about these:

- harmony (theory)
- counterpoint
- music forms, structure or styles
- orchestration

(btw, i wish i would have known all these!)
Posted by: virtuosic1

Re: Models for beginners in composition - 10/31/05 03:35 AM

 Quote:
Originally posted by signa:
the formal way of studying composition is to go through books about these:

- harmony (theory)
- counterpoint
- music forms, structure or styles
- orchestration

(btw, i wish i would have known all these!) [/b]
Bela Bartok was a master composer. In my opinion, the most thoroughly organized and carefully controlled piece of music ever written (the end result sounding like music) is the Andante tranquillo (fugue) mvmt. from Music for Strings, Percussion, and Celeste:

http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/detail/-/B000003FEJ/104-2182659-8359136?v=glance

see #6

The entire 89 bars are a Fibonacci series (the Golden Mean) outgrowth of the initial 5 note motivic cell alone, and nothing more. The movement is a compositional tour de force virtually unequaled in control and permutation of the opening cell, which is what composition is all about. Control. Beyond the theory and technical expertise, a good composition teacher can guide a student toward creativity by teaching means of controlling and organizing his musical thoughts, motivic outgrowth and expansion of germinal ideas being the main impetus behind the process. This can be taught. I've been doing that for years. Composition is nothing more than highly organized improvisation. The best type of improvisation possible being "instant composition".
Posted by: Steve Chandler

Re: Models for beginners in composition - 11/02/05 03:30 PM

Hey virtuosic1.

I agree with you about the Bartok. I also agree that control is a good thing in composition and the MSPC is a great example of that. I'm not sure I agree with you about the Fibonacci Series, it seems to me that determining where to put a climax based on a "golden mean" is very contrived. While composition itself is an exercise in contrivance the most effective pieces have a strong emotional impact and I'm not convinced that that is an aspect that lends itself well to a fomulaic approach.

In any case the original post was about an aspect of composition that is far more basic. I stand by my original suggestion, find a teacher, learn theory, start composing, get feedback on compositions.
Posted by: virtuosic1

Re: Models for beginners in composition - 11/04/05 10:04 PM

 Quote:
Originally posted by Steve Chandler:


Steve Chandler
composer/amateur pianist
http://www.audiostreet.net/stevechandler
http://www.soundclick.com/stevechandler

[/b]
Excellent work, Steve! Very well crafted, yet with an element of spontaneity. Although not listed as influences, I hear the orchestrative touch of Honegger and the antiphonal counterpoint of Ives in your music. For a composer that is not a percussionist (I'm assuming you're primary instrument is piano), you have a deep, extremely musical understanding in the use of percussion, which is also evident in your well conceived rhythmic expansions and development of your carefully chosen motifs and thematic material!
Posted by: Galois

Re: Models for beginners in composition - 11/05/05 04:47 PM

 Quote:
Originally posted by Steve Chandler:

...
In any case the original post was about an aspect of composition that is far more basic. I stand by my original suggestion, find a teacher, learn theory, start composing, get feedback on compositions. [/b]
Thanks for your suggestion, Steve. I study piano in a Conservatory, so I'm already studying theory, and, more importantly, ear-training. I'm composing too and I get feedback from my classmates. But I don't have a composition teacher, and I'm not interested in getting one for the moment, as I work too slowly.

My style is also far from what I want, so, at this point, if I study with somebody else it will be with a folk musician (I love my country's music and mine sounds nothing like it).

So for the moment I'll be playing some Zambas, Milongas, etc, and writing some short experiments.

And, by the way, I asked about possible models because I want to get more things done, and maybe acquire some skill.
Posted by: Steve Chandler

Re: Models for beginners in composition - 11/07/05 03:15 PM

Hi All,

First I'f like to thank virtuosic1 for the kind words. Yes, piano is my primary instrument, but I also play guitar (electric, I can rock too) and flute. It's always nice when your work is appreciated. Thank you.

To Galois, if you're in a conservatory you're in the process of learning theory. My theory education included some very basic composition, but only as regards 4 part harmonization. I've often wondered why learning theory didn't include more composing. It sounds like you're composing may be in the 19th century tonal realm. Unfortunately, most teachers of composition will not support your work in this area. Learning composition will undoubtedly include 20th (and 21rst) century techniques and some of those may not prove to be your cup of tea. I believe it's important for composers to be exposed to the nuts and bolts of these techniques, but ultimately each composer finds his own voice. I have used 12 tone techniques, but they are not something I find particularly enjoyable to use in my own work.

One last suggestion is an idea I got at a summer music camp. Take a piece that you like, it could be Mozart or Chopin or whatever and keep the rhythm, but change the notes. You'll be taking advantage of a master's rhythm and formal structure, but the melody and harmony will be yours. Good luck.
Posted by: tunesmith

Re: Models for beginners in composition - 11/12/05 02:07 AM

Wow, I don't know. There's a big difference between teaching techniques of composition (counterpoint, harmony, etc), and methods of composition (how to manage your creative process).

It is true that no one can teach you what your compositional voice is. But you can be taught creative methods to help you find your compositional voice.

And I've had a few composition teachers when I was in college, and they were really not very good at helping with that side of the process. They knew harmony and they could make comments, but were not helpful with the creative process.

I think that for many students, receiving help with managing the creative process is a *necessary* (but not sufficient) step towards become a composer.

Years after college, I recently studied with a hollywood film scorer. He was extremely good at teaching creative methods - ways to help yourself brainstorm, manage your workflow, develop your material. They have to be good at that to write 3-5 minutes of full orchestral music a day. Believe it or not, none of my previous composition teachers had ever taken me to task for trying to start my compositional work with Bar 1.

While film music doesn't follow the same musical rules as classical composition, many of these compositional and creative workflow management methods will prove immeasurably helpful to me as I work on composing more standalone works.