Composition Lessons

Composition Lessons

Everyone has a song to share with the world! I can help you refine your ideas, learn to write them down, and share them! Composing is a craft that through hard work, curiosity, and persistence can be learned by anyone.


My music is melodic, triadic, and informed by techniques developed and perfected in the last five hundred years. I teach species counterpoint, written cantus firmus harmony exercises, keyboard harmony and partimento, analysis and score study, and text setting. I teach using written and keyboard exercises that lead to model compositions.

Keyboard Harmony

Partimenti, Accompangement

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Keyboard Harmony, Accompangemnt and Partimento has been lost in the vicissitudes of the twentieth century. It is an extremely potent and powerful method of studying harmony from a given melody or baseline. It was the primary method of teaching in the Italian (partimento) and French (accompaniment) conservatories from the 17th through late 19th century. I was lucky to study this method through the teaching of pupils of Nadia Boulanger at the European American Musical Alliance in Paris, France and since then have done a substantial amount of research and self study. 

Through rigorous exercises the student trains their inner ear through realizing – singing and playing – exercises at the keyboard. 

Model compositions, though perhaps never writing them down, might include figuration preludes or a decorated melody with accompaniment. 

Counterpoint

Counterpoint is the rigorous study of complementary melodies. The study of counterpoint begins with writing a note against note (or first species) counterpoint above or below a fixed melody. We will methodically work up to four notes against one note (third species), suspensions (fourth speices), and florid counterpoint (fifth species) in two, then then three, then four voices. 

Model compositions might include a free two voiced piece for keyboard or two instruments, short two part invention or a simple fugue exposition. 

Harmony

Harmonizing down from a fixed melody or up from a figured bass line are both valuable skills. Harmony begins with the idea of chordal succession, prolongation, sequence, and cadence. We will systematically build a vocabulary of harmonic functions in the home key, diatonic keys, and keys of primary and secondary mixture. In addition we will study common chromatic chords (fully diminished chords, augmented sixth chords, and common-tone diminished chords).

Model compositions might include writing a minuet and trio, a Bach choral, or a short romantic character piece. 

Text

Setting text to music has its own unique challenges, and poetics has its own forms, rules, and divergent schools. We will study effective tools to help understand a text on a technical level and  set text the text to music.

Analysis and Score Study

Studying the music of other composers is extremely important for various reasons. Using the tools we have developed in counterpoint, harmony, and text setting we can now begin to see how other composers have used, developed, and extended the techniques we have explored. 


Theories useful to the composer will be explored, such as William Caplain’s ideas on classical form, various of Heinrich Schenker’s theories, and Philip Lasser’s theory of contrapuntal voices.