It’s Time You Learnt The Guitar

I was at a house party last month where a circle formed and my friend brought out his guitar. He played us a few songs and did some showing off and we all loved it. Then we started passing the guitar around the circle. The girl next to him wasn’t quite as good in her playing skill, but she played us a song which still sounded beautiful. Then the next person had a go and they played a nice cover song they’d been practicing. Then it was my turn…

I can’t play the guitar. Trumpet? Yes. Accordion? Yes. Piano? …I’m getting there! Guitar? No! Nevertheless I didn’t want to break the circle so did my best and tried to bosh together something in the way of a melody by sliding my finger up one of the strings and pausing where it sounded nice. It sounded rubbish, so I passed it to the next person who sung another great cover.

The guitar seems to be one of those instruments that everyone can play. Obviously some people are amazing at guitar, but all you need to sing a simple song is to know a few chords and be able to strum along.

Coursera is hosting a new course from Berklee College Of Music called Introduction To Guitar, therefore I’m going to follow the course and learn the basics over the duration of the 6 weeks of the course.

I’ve managed to borrow my sisters guitar, which is pretty small but will do for now, therefore if you’ve ever wanted to learn guitar then I urge you to borrow one from a friend and learn with me and the next time someone passes you a guitar you can at least play a simple chord loop before passing it on.

Introduction To Guitar –

A Lesson In Jazz Improv

If you are at all interested in Jazz Improv the you definitely need to take this course.

This is the course which I have probably learnt the least from, but that is just because the level of my accordion playing isn’t yet at the recommended level to take part in the course. Nevertheless it was not time wasted by any means. I did learn about some of the basics of Jazz Improvising and what potential it has to create amazing music. It also introduced me to the different modes and listed them from brightest sounding to darkest sounding, so this is something that I can play around with when composing on the piano. It’s also taught me the importance of learning scales.

If you’re really good on your instrument and have even the slightest interest in Jazz Improv then I would definitely recommend this course. The videos lessons don’t take up much time and are packed full of useful information. This is one course which I might consider taking again in the future when I’m a bit more versed on my instrument.

The next session starts on 28th April 2014, so go ahead and sign up. It’s free!
Jazz Improv –

Developing Your Musicianship

A lot of my compositional ideas start out with me exploring different melodies, rhythms and harmonies on my accordion or piano. I always try and improvise for a little bit every time I practice as it allows me to basically compose whilst I play and hear things in real time which I like and might want to focus in on or expand upon. Often when I go from the accordion to writing down my ideas, I end up writing beyond my playing skill, so it becomes difficult to hear a nice finished piece as a real person would play it and instead I have to settle for the computer playing it back with it’s rubbishy sounds.

But as I improve I should be able to play these back as well as be able to play more complex things, which will enable me to hear new melodies, rhythms and harmonies and repeat the process. I’ve even gone back to some of my accordion pieces and started to elaborate on the rhythms of the melody, now that the coordination between both my hands is getting a lot better. But anyway, I’ve noticed a direct correlation between my playing improvements and my compositional improvements which is a great encourager to practice lots.

The next online course I want to take is Developing Your Musicianship and is similar to the Jazz Improvisation course, which I previously did, in that it is designed to help you as a musician and not a composer. However, for me the two are quite intertwined, so whatever I learn here I’m sure will translate over at some point to my composing.

Exploring Beethoven’s Piano Sonatas

On the “Introduction to Classical Music Composition” course, which I finished earlier this month, I looked at Rounded Binary Form, which is a type of structure the music has. For example, it will have an A section and a B section which will both sound different and the piece of music will move from A to B and back to A again.

One of the many things I didn’t look at was the Sonata Form, but Coursera (which has basically become my own personal university) is now running a course called “Exploring Beethoven’s Piano Sonatas“. However, this course is not about composition like the “Write Like Mozart” course I took. I’m sure though that there is much I can learn from exploring this new form and hope I can apply what I learn to my own music.

My First Piece

So I’ve finally finished the Write Like Mozart: An Introduction To Classical Music Composition course and have learnt a lot over the 6 weeks. At the end of each week I had to complete part of a composition. Each one had some big restrictions as I was already give the chord sequence and the melody or bass line, however, the assignment for the final week was actually a proper composition as I had no starting point, just a few things that needed to be included. Here is the brief:

Compose a work in rounded binary form.

• The work can be in 3/4, 4/4, or 6/8 time.

• It should last between 20-30 bars.

• It should be scored for piano with a solo instrument, which can be concert flute, C trumpet, oboe, or violin.

• The following must be included:

1. One deceptive cadence, half cadence, and perfect authentic cadence;

2. At least two different texture types – homorhythmic homophony, melody and accompaniment, polyphony, or monophony;

3. One sequential progression;

4. One basic progression that has been elaborated with diatonic substitution, chromatic substitution, and/or secondary dominants/leading tone chords.

I must admit though that I failed at the second point, as my piece is 36 bars. I thought about cutting it down by removing some sections but then it would be missing the other requirements. The first 8 bars contains a half cadence and uses polyphony, the second 8 have a secondary dominant, the next section has a sequential progression and uses a different texture type, and then we’re back to the A section which we had at the beginning but which ends with a deceptive cadence, leading onto a perfect authentic cadence. Therefore, I decided I was happy with it being too long, since this is what I’d call my first proper composition where I actually understood what I was doing. Plus I managed to put into practice a lot of what I’d learnt, which was why I wrote the composition in the first place.

I felt like a proper composer writing this piece as I was sat in front of my desk with my accordion strapped to my chest, a notepad in front of me for working out chords and chord sequences and my iPad which I was using to notate the score.

So here’s the piece that I wrote for piano and violin. The sounds used are the synths from the score writing software I was using, so you have to use your imagination a bit to make it not sound like a robot is playing it! But I’m thinking about adapting it for accordion at some point, when my playing skill is good enough to do those scale runs, and then I might upload a recording.

Classical Composition 1 (Part 1)


Classical Composition 1 (Part 2)

Classical Composition 1 (Part 3)

Let me know what you think as I’d appreciate any thoughts/feedback.