Sunday, March 24, 2013

The Twos and Threes of Music

A wonderful way to create a cue or piece of music is to base your compositional starting point on a rhythmic pulse.   


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Essentially all music can be broken down into divisions of two's and three's... so by taking a rather larger number such as the twelve beat cycle shown above you can then subdivide it into numerous combinations of two's and three's to create your starting rhythmic pulse. (i.e., 123/12/123/12/12) 

There are always multiple combinations within your larger number, so try them all to find the one or ones that please you the most.  


Thursday, March 14, 2013

Mediant Modulation

Mediant Modulation is a common harmonic concept used by many composers... especially film composers! The principal simply means to move chord strutures of any denomination to and from each other in intervals of major or minor thirds. 

One of the greatest attributes of this approach is that a progression can come to rest on virtually any chord at anytime...  which is why film composers employ it to great extent since cues are often edited extensively in post-production.

Also if a progression is built in consecutive thirds, even when repeating itself... the composer can actually derive multiple progressions from the original one as demonstrated below. There is also always a wonderful amount of common tones and chromatic connections available for background and melodic development.

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Saturday, March 2, 2013


This Blog demonstrates a fun combination of both the Lydian and Aeolian modes and shows how their characteristic notes can be emphasized within a Harmonic context to great effect. 
This example is using the C Lydian and B Aeolian modes.  

ANALYSIS: The Piano staff shows the basic voicings with the middle voices F# (#11 of C Lydian) and 
G (b6 of B Aeolian) serving as the link to and from the chords while creating a nice 1/2 step tension rub. 
In a strict sense the (b6 of Aeolian) would be considered an avoid note in a vertical context, however in a linear setting and by using instruments with lighter timbral characteristics it yields beautiful results.

Great for creating other worldly and dreamy effects.                       

Ironically the b6 of Aeolian is actually the note that provides Aeolian's color and mood as does the #11 to Lydian. I have applied this approach to all traditional scales and their individual modes. 

Through the process I have discovered numerous chromatic movements and guide-tone connections that allow for smoother transitions to and from chord structures. I encourage others to do the same for the results are well worth the effort.

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Subliminal Listening & Analysis

The majority of us composers and musicians generally feel that there are never enough hours
in our days for practice, analysis, composition and basic life. So for several decades now I have
found it extremely beneficial to take advantage of my down time, even if only on a subliminal level.

During my music school days at Berklee and N.E.C. I was always transcribing complex solos
by the likes of Michael Brecker, Allan Holdsworth, Pat Martino and other gifted soloists in
addition to studying the classical masters compositions and orchestrations.

I found that by playing the musical area of interest in my headphones on a continuous loop
as I slept that I was able to transcribe, analyze and dictate the music in a much clearer frame
of mind at a later date.

It is also beneficial to conceive, visualize and create various concepts during the moments
prior to going to sleep and even waking from a musical dream to write down whatever has 
occurred, even if it is only an abstract thought to be flushed out later in a more conscious

I always have a binder of notation and notebook paper handy as well as a small digital recorder
so that the very next day or even in the middle of the night I can transfer whatever I am
hearing or thinking of as it occurs.

Even if only on a purely basic entertainment level I sure would rather go to sleep listening
to Brahms than hearing chaotic Los Angeles outside my domicile.