Saturday, June 29, 2013

Theoretical Sketching - Part 3 (Musical Palette)

My first step for this particular sketch was to create a synthetic scale or pitch set through which I can then find my melodic and harmonic material to compose with.

I enjoy using these synthetic scales quite a bit for they always yield many wonderful unique tonal and modal possibilities.
These scales generally contain and are not limited to a unique collection of chords and chord types that are ideal for creating a cue or piece of music.

I have chosen at random to use a minor and major triad separated by a whole step… please refer to my previous blog regarding synthetic scales ( if any further information is required. 

The two triads I chose were D minor and E major which when combined created the scale pitch order of:
D E F G# A B

                                               (Click once on image for full-size)

The next step was then to analyze the scale for it's harmonic content and available triads… please always remember to check for all enharmonic possibilities... the available chords for this scale were as follows:

D minor, D sus2, Ddim., D lydian (incomplete)
E major, E sus4
F dim,
A sus2, A sus4
B dim.

Please note: Seventh chords are certainly available as well, however I have chosen to use only triads for this composition for the reason that triads generally offer more possibilities within this context. In addition triads can more times than not have a stronger idiomatic presence or possible stylistic use.

After I have derived the chord structures from such a scale I will then always look for unique characteristics within the chord structures that will generally dictate a compositional direction to follow. 

For example: 
1) The suspended chords have a nice open sounding nature to them, so I will intend to use them for sustained long duration notes or chord harmonies within the piece.
2) The three symmetrical diminished triads I will use for connecting sweeps, runs, etc… since they are traditionally used as leading and/or passing chords.
3) The original scale conception triads D minor and E major I will use for my main arpeggiated melodic and harmonic figures.
4) The incomplete D lydian structure I will use for color… for in my opinion lydian has such a wonderful quality of being stable yet it still implies movement.

This particular scale has yielded plenty of raw material in order to help me create my composition example. 
Please stay tuned for my next post when the notes actually start to hit the page in: Theoretical Sketching - Part 4 (Melodic and Harmonic Development).

I also suggest that at this point for those of you following this series of posts... that you also begin your own simultaneous examples. In order to ingrain the process and also to create your own piece of music as we continue together. Thank you!

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Theoretical Sketching - Part 2 (Conception)


I would like to state that this series of blogs regarding theoretical sketching is merely one approach towards the compositional process. It is intended only to demonstrate the sole use of theory as a means for composing... and nothing more. 
These blogs are in no way intended to replace or detract from the importance of traditional writing techniques and/or the use of an instrument in order to compose music.

Over the years I have now created approximately several hundred of these sketches and my ability to hear in my head what I am writing down has grown exponentially. I feel that this practice is a wonderful compliment to traditional study and analysis in order to enhance a composers vernacular.


My process for creating these sketches is for example to take several sketch sheets and head down to the beach with the intention of creating at least one solid piece or cue of music. 

My initial priority is always to create a palette of musical tools with which I can then begin my compositional process… much akin to an artist setting up his or her easel, selecting their brushes, paints, etc… before they actually begin to paint.


I will then start to create this tool palette based on one of the three fundamental elements common to most if not all styles of music (melody, harmony or rhythm). In general I usually start with harmony since I view harmonic structures as the foundation for the musical house I intend to build.

I have decided that for this particular sketch example that I will implement other subjects and techniques from my previous blogs for the purpose of consolidating and reiterating there principles as best I can.

My chronological order for this sketching process will be as follows:

1) Create synthetic scale and derive available chord structures from it.

2) Develop potential harmonic sequences, progressions, etc…

3) Establish rhythmic pattern based on two's and three's as well as skipping select beats.

4) Compose melodic themes and harmonic motifs, etc…

5) Establish final musical structure and content… organize in order to record.

6) Sequence, edit, mix and record audio mock-up, etc…

It has been my experience that something musical always comes from this effort and when I bring the sketch home and sequence it… I feel like I have just opened a Christmas gift... because with every sketch I discover new compositional ideas which help my vocabulary continue to grow and develop. 

Please note that I will attempt to use all the subject links listed above… however, this may
not be possible since each step in some way will determine the options for the steps to follow.

Thank you for your interest in this topic and "Theoretical Sketching" - Part 3 will be posted very soon.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Theoretical Sketching - Part 1 (Layout & Materials)

I personally use this approach to compose music when I am away from my studio and I am either feeling the desire to create music in a natural setting, like at the beach or when performing such mundane tasks as, waiting at the airport, taking a flight, etc… 

In our modern world the convenience of having our lap-tops with us is absolutely a wonderful option for mobile composing and I certainly encourage using them.  However, until computers are impervious to sand, water, heat, etc… containing unlimited battery life with no need for electricity and are as light as a piece of paper. I will personally continue to use sketch paper as my method of choice.

The composer's individual choice of sketch paper is of course their own. I have attached one my own personal preferences created in Sibelius years ago. It is in landscape layout form with eight bars per page on legal size 24lb. paper. 
I feel this weight of paper is much more conducive for writing on and it's weight can certainly take more erasing than traditional paper and feels better to the touch… I would also suggest picking up a kneaded art eraser for they are ideal for heavy erasing without destroying the grain of the paper.

                                                                           (Click once on image for full-size)

Regarding the staff layout... the instruments names are left blank in order to be filled in based on project demands, I prefer to think of it in traditional score layout form with the winds, brass, percs and then strings located from top to bottom respectively, I use two treble and two bass clefs for the wind and brass families… two percussion lines, and finally conventional string configuration. 
I have also created numerous other sketch sheet layouts for use with different genre's of music such as Big-Band, Jazz Combos, etc… and I would suggest doing so if your needs also require it.

I strongly recommend that as your own personal knowledge and skills develop, try and move away from pencil and more to the use of pen. I believe that when you are ready to actually commit ink to paper you have generally thought things out very clearly in your mind first. This is a great goal to strive for and I know from my personal experience that once you have you will then consider yourself to be a true composer of music.

Thank you for your patience regarding these preliminaries and I look forward to starting the actual musical sketching process in my next blog… Theoretical Sketching - Part 2 (Conception).

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Theoretical Sketching (Statement)

In the following weeks and into next month as my schedule permits I will posting a series of chronological blogs dedicated to the conception and use of theoretical sketching as a method for composing. 

These blogs will be showing how a piece of music can be created from a hand-written sketch solely in theory without the use of any instrument(s) in order to generate the musical ideas. 

In this digital age, sadly it is my opinion that not enough study is dedicated towards the pursuit of this ability.

This cumulative series of sketches will be audio realized at the end in order to demonstrate the written composition with little or no editing... showing just how effective this method of composing can truly be. 

After all there will never be a better instrument or computer that the human mind and this method of composing can be done anywhere and at anytime with only the need for pen and paper.

Please stay tuned and thank you for your interest.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Contrary Chord and Bass Motion

This Blog demonstrates the movement of chord structures and bass notes moving in contrary motion against each other.      

The example below moves through full chromaticism using the tonality of major chords... of course it is encouraged that the composer experiment with varying chord types and combinations within this type of movement for it is quite interesting.   

In addition, notice that the chords and bass notes begin in unison move in opposing directions and meet in unison in the middle at the interval of a diminished 5th and then split again to eventually resolve in unison once again. 

                                  (Click once on image for full-size)

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Skip A Beat!

This blog is posted to demonstrate how effective it can be to leave a beat off at
the end of a traditional amount of bars or phrase.

The two examples listed below are from the master Jerry Goldsmith who used this
technique as much or more than any other composer I can personally think of.

The effect of leaving of beat(s) helps to propel the music forward and create a
sense of anticipation, unrest, etc...

This wonderful cue has a 4 bar phrase that enters at 0:20 and consists of 3 bars of 4/4
with the last bar of the phrase in 3/4. 

"Questions" - L.A. Confidential