Most of the recording is not studio quality (since it wasn’t done in a studio), and recording isn’t something I enjoy doing, but I made the mistake of not putting my earlier compositions on tape (yes, that early) or onto the computer. Trying to remember those pieces has been futile effort. So now I at least score my pieces as I write them.
Earlier this year I did a series of posts on my writing process:
I sat down the other day and was able to write a few potential transitions to get me from one part to the next.
There are so many different forms that a piece of classical music can take. Some take the forms of dances: Gavotet, Mazurka, Allemande, while others are named for their tempo: Allegro, Largo, Adagio. Pieces can be called for what they are used for, such as a Study, or a diversion – Divertimento.
Like poetry, compositions often have repeated parts. Part one repeated, then part 2 repeated would be AABB. A rondo has a main part repeated 3 times ABACA.
Here is a sneak peek at the score:
As you can see there are 5 distinct parts, with the blue outline being the ending. Some parts may be combined depending how I want the repeats to go.
As for a name, not to give away the style, but I think I will be calling it “Lullaby”.
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I hope you have been enjoying my composition series Opus 1 through 5. The next one will follow once I have all the parts connected into a cohesive piece of music. How long does that take? Beats me, so stay tuned.
In the meantime, I’ll share a project I have been working on called Places. It was written for the acoustic steel-string guitar. The composition process doesn’t differ from how I write for classical guitar. The only difference is the sound that you get from each guitar; sometimes a piece of music just fits better on one over the other.
I discovered the joy of playing acoustic guitar after beginning my classical training. My musical influences came from hearing folk, Celtic, country, and bluegrass at various music festivals. In the 80s, electric guitarists were taking guitar to a whole new level, and in the late 80s/early 90s, acoustic players were doing much the same thing.
Places (which I have shared in a previous post), is a fingerpicked acoustic piece. The beginning is actually the first part of a song I was writing called Pieces, which I absconded for this new piece because it just fit.
While I played it, it brought back memories of places I have seen, so it was natural to put together a visual montage to go along with it. I tried various video editing programs (free) but settled on the movie maker that my OS came with.
It’s a rough draft, but I think that it will work for the meantime. I hope you think so too.
When I started my musical education journey, I didn’t have the advantages of computer transcription programs. There was no easy access to popular sheet music. Other that a few guitar magazines, if I wanted to learn a song, I had to get a recording and learn it by ear. That’s not an altogether bad thing—it’s a skill that is indispensable. And that wasn’t that long ago. Unless you think 40 years is a long time (it’s not. Really.)
When I decided to do my post-secondary education in music, one of my first required purchases was a calligraphy pen. Thankfully, not the feather dipped in ink kind. I’m not that old. We studied older manuscripts, practiced our musical notations, and practiced some more. Take a look at a handwritten musical score and see how much artistic skill is required.
The ink was just the final step though. You don’t want to be writing down rough drafts in permanency. I do suspect that the early composers did. No, for the majority of the time, a pencil—and eraser—are your best friends. If I had to choose, it would be the eraser (sorry, pencil).
Playing and writing are alternating tasks. Play a bit, write a bit, play a bit, erase a bit, and so on. Besides writing down the note’s pitch, you also have to figure out the complicated rhythm you just came up with. Enter the foot tapping. One and-a two-e and…Nope. One and two and-a…One-e and-a, and so on.
Of course, most of the time you know the rhythm; it’s those parts that make your piece sound cool that always give you trouble.
As I mentioned in the previous post, I have to make sure I don’t play to much, otherwise I forget the first part. That means I’ll write things down in short sections as I come up with it, and then connect the dots so to speak. If I’m having difficulty deciding where the melody will go, I often jump ahead and try to join them up later. Which leads me to a piece of paper that looks like this:
Eventually, I’ll have a complete handwritten piece ready for the final task. No more ink and splotches, dreading making a mistake (but I don’t want to start over!). Now there are many different computer transcription programs for that. They range from free to not so free to really expensive. I’ve used Finale, Encore, Sibelius, MuseScore, to name a few. I don’t write enough to warrant forking out the big bucks, so I am currently using the free program MuseScore.
I liked Encore, it was very user friendly and easy to learn, but it was glitchy and the price kept going up. MuseScore has a polished end-result, but it’s has some issues, mainly not being as straight forward as I think it could be.
My book, Journeys: Eight Original Pieces for Classical Guitar was put together using Encore, but at some point, I would like to transcribe them into a different program. I don’t want to have to key in everything again, so I need to find a way to convert one program to the other.
How do I compose? Probably the wrong way and the slowest way ever… I wish I could say that I can hear the music in my head then play it or write it down. I can’t. Not even close. The lucky ones can. I can’t even play the same thing twice in a row sometimes. I generally know if I want the next note or chord to go up or down, and sometimes I know what pitch it will be, but all my ear-training has failed me, or I never quite had it in the first place.
Ear training? How does that work? If you know someone who says they have perfect pitch, it means that when that person hears a note, they know what it is, and if they play a musical instrument–which they probably do (it would be a waste not to)–they know where to play it. For everyone else, we have to train our ears to recognize notes, usually based around a starting point. Relative pitch, I think it is called.
I’ll give you an example. Most people can sing a major scale. If you think you can’t, I’ll get you started. Do, re, mi… See? You know that! I’m not going to go deep into music theory because I’m not that cruel. I just want to impart a bit of knowledge. The space between two notes is called an interval, and each interval is given a name:
Do to Re = Major 2nd
Do to mi = Major 3rd
Do to fa= Perfect 4th …etc.
How is this used? If I make the note G, Do (we can do that), then A is a major 2nd above, B is a major 3rd, and a perfect 4th above is C, etc.
In a perfect composer’s world, I could play a note and know that the next note I want is a major 3rd higher. I then would know the exact note to play or write down. In my world, sometimes I can tell, but usually I need to play it to make sure if it sounds the way I imagined. If it doesn’t, then I try a different note. I know if the note needs to be higher or lower, which narrows down the possibilities. But it would be nice to know for certain the first time.
So, how do I get started? Sometimes I’ll hear a melody in my head, and I’ll play a few chords or notes to get started. If I can hear where I want the next note(s) to go, I’ll try them out. If I get stuck, then some random notes or changes can give me more ideas. I call this “try it and see” method, noodling. The difficulty happens if you play too much at once to remember, and even though it sounded good, it may be hard to repeat it in order to write it down.
My musical theory isn’t forgotten in all this. I know that certain chord progressions work well together, it’s good to stay within related scales, and that melodies usually need to flow smoothly without large leaps. But I’ll ignore those rules if what I hear is what I want. Take that, Theory!
Then the fun begins. Before I get too far into a composition, I have to make sure that I remember it, which brings us to: