When most people think of a composer, they imagine someone sitting in a dusty attic with a grand piano, big white wig, and the year is 1800. That might have been accurate back then, but the modern composer is just like you and me. In fact, I am one.
In this course I’ll show you techniques I use for writing music in a variety of styles and situations. I’ve worked with major american orchestras, film studios, and video game designers, so I’ve got more than a little experience. I’m also a PhD in music composition and a university professor (of music composition).
Recently I was named as a semi-finalist for the Grammy Foundation’s Music Educator of the Year award because of my in-person university classes. Now I’m taking those classes to Udemy in an online format in order to reach more students, and give them the joy of Music Theory.
I’m planning on making several “sections” of this class, and this is only part 1. As the class grows, we will go deeper and deeper into my techniques. This class is focused on the beginning: Generating ideas and getting started.
What will I learn in this Course?
- My background, and listen to some of my music
- The different between music theory and music composition (highly opinionated!)
- Tools of the trade: Software
- Tools of the trade: Pencils and fine paper
- How do you start?
- The process
- Program music and metaphors
- Character sketches
- Writing through canon
- Binary, Ternary, and Rondo forms
- Starting with a plan
- Graphic form representations
- Triads, and basic rules of harmony
- Chord progressions
- Song analysis
- Melody writing
- Any much, much, more!
About the Instructor
J. Anthony Allen is an Ableton Certified Trainer, and a PhD in Music Composition and master of Electronic Sounds. His music has been heard internationally in film, radio, video games, and industrial sound, as well as the concert hall and theater.
He currently is an adjunct professor of composition at the University of St. Thomas, and is the CEO and co-founder of Slam Academy in Minneapolis.
Praise for classes by J. Anthony Allen
“Without a doubt the best explanation and east of use that one can get. It leaves you enough room to go explore. The classes go by quick, so you can be on your way at being proficient. What are you wait for!”
“Amazing – Seriously Loved It! I took all his courses and have to say I’m so happy! Learnt loads! Jason is an awesome teacher!”
“I have never had any formal training in music at all. Trying to learn all the notes and how everything translated was a serious challenge. After going through this class, Dr. J has totally brought down the barriers. The content was very useful and was easy to grasp for me.”
“I like these courses because you can get up and running quickly without having to spend hours of time wading through TMI (too much information!). Jason hits the high points but shows you what you need to know. Thanks!”
“I’ve watched many other videos on scales and chords before, however, this one has been the best. I now understand minor scales and chords and even how to analyze songs. It really gave me the confidence to start producing music because I feel like I have some structure and guidelines to follow. AWESOME!”
“Clear and Informative – Jason has a clear uncluttered style (with the important dashes of humor) of presentation that is focused on the important key aspects of this course. Recommended for those starting out!”
“Dr. Allen does it again with his music theory series. This course really opened up everything I learned from the 1st section, and now I understand more about the composition side of things for music. I highly highly recommend this course to anyone!!! Really opened my eyes to many things I wasn’t aware of.”
“The Best Teacher Ever, who makes you understand the ins & outs of Music Theory by all means without giving what you don’t want to know.”
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Welcome & Introduction
Let’s get started with a quick introduction to what we will cover in this class.
What is the Difference Between Music Theory and Music Composition?
A see a lot of students stumped at this when they start writing music. Let’s discuss.
Tools and Methods
To Sit with an Instrument or not to Sit with an Instrument?
The obvious thing to do is have your instrument handy while you are writing. Or is it?
Download: Symphony Fantastique
Here is the program note for the piece I talked about in the previous lecture.
One of my personal favorite devices to use when writing a piece is a character sketch.
“Good Composers Borrow…”
Let’s talk about one of the most famous quotes about writing music to have ever existed.
Different form “Templates”
There are a lot of different places to begin with form. Let’s look at 4 to get started.
Starting with a Plan
Form impacts us as composers because we need to know the shape of what we are writing before we start.
Graphic Form Representations
This is a trick I do to help me visualize an entire piece before I’ve written any notes at all.
Harmony (A Quick Lesson)
Diatonic Chord Progressions
When we put all the triads available in a key, we have the diatonic chord progression.
Triads by themselves don’t sound all that interesting. But if we add some inversions, it starts to get interesting.
Writing Chord Progressions
Using the Circle of Fifths for Composition
Now that we know how this works, lets use it for writing music.
Song Analysis No. 3
Now we will look at another piece of music and pick it apart, using what we’ve learned.
Writing Melodies Alone
In can be very difficult to just pop off a melody. But there are some tricks to coming up with a good one.
Antecedent and Consequent
This is a technique that is hundreds of years old that usually produces a good, memorable melody.
Writing Melodies with Harmony
If you already have a harmony and are adding a melody, things before a little easier.