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The Trombone ForumTeaching & LearningComposition, Arranging and Theory(Moderators: zemry, Thomas Matta) Studying composition with or without a teacher
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Lance Handsome

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« Reply #60 on: Mar 22, 2011, 08:25AM »

Boulanger. His first project was to transcribe and transpose the first page of the score of "Daphnis and Chloe" into all 12 keys.

Now I don't feel so bad that I never studied with Nadia Boulanger.

Seriously, though: All 12 keys? Of what possible use is that? It wasn't until I saw the score of "The Planets" that I discovered how Holst had obtained the organ-like sound of certain chords, but I realized that through looking at the score, not writing out the parts 12 times.
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« Reply #61 on: Mar 22, 2011, 09:11AM »

Now I don't feel so bad that I never studied with Nadia Boulanger.

Seriously, though: All 12 keys? Of what possible use is that? It wasn't until I saw the score of "The Planets" that I discovered how Holst had obtained the organ-like sound of certain chords, but I realized that through looking at the score, not writing out the parts 12 times.

It's primarily an orchestration exercise. Transposing keys also moves instruments into different ranges, forcing one to revoice some chords, as well as having to deal with some technical considerations of certain instruments. And to do so while retaining the flavor of the original. This can be challenging in modernistic pieces like Daphnis and Chloe because of the full use of instrumental range to attain specific tambral colors.
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« Reply #62 on: Mar 23, 2011, 06:35PM »

not to mention, transposing something as harrowing as daphnis and chloe through all 12 keys is a good shortcut to learning how to think  in all keys equally.  it's kind of the same with how we "teach" jazz - or any form of music for that matter. 

teach fluency in all 12 keys.  then you've taught fluency in this language.  to some extent, anyway...
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« Reply #63 on: Apr 12, 2011, 01:28PM »

The only way to get better as a composer is to write and hear what you have written.  Then go back and write more.  Every time you hear good musicians play your work, you are going to learn a lot more from that than from what any book will teach you.  I'm always amazed how much better my students get from just writing, hearing their work played and then going back and re-writing.  Even the best teacher isn't a substitute for that type of training.
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digitaltrombone

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« Reply #64 on: Mar 07, 2012, 11:43PM »

Trial and error
Spend as much time as possible doing it
Common sense
Transcribe stuff you like (both chords, melodies and orchestration)

Go for it!

Cheers
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« Reply #65 on: Jul 16, 2012, 04:22PM »

Usually, not always, but usually, when i have a student who's compositions are making little musical sense, it's because they are focused more on how the score should "look" (formal considerations) than how it sounds (what's in their head.)  My personal approach is to get them to rely on their head, and above all, if they don't hear it, don't wrote it.  Similar to the approach my jazz profs took with me about only playing what you hear - the rest is BS. 

I'm not saying it can't be fun to experiment with forms, rows, etc... it's just that it never works out until one has developed a good sense of what a melody is.  music is as natural as breathing if you let it be.
I'm no composing genius.  Which is why I sell bolts for a living.  BUT - when I compose, I look for a melody FIRST, then the harmony comes later.  I know it doesn't HAVE to be done that way, but the harmonics seem to flow more naturally for me using that method.  Once I've got the general melody, all of the exposition, development, recap, variation, etc. can flow from that.

Schoenberg's book is good, even if you're not into 12-tone music.  Learned a lot from it.
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« Reply #66 on: Mar 07, 2013, 12:13PM »

I looked at the hit counts for posts, and my Just Intonation Composition is #1 in this section!

Yay!  Sing it!

One thing that hasn't come up in this thread (I think) is the value of studying composition with friends, basically forming the composition version of a book club. I do this, and get a lot of great feedback from them, and I get to provide the same to them. It works as long as we make effort to understand where each other is coming from. Looking through the history of music, highly successful groups of composers tend to come out of such groups. One that comes to mind is the minimalist 'school' of New York.
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« Reply #67 on: May 06, 2014, 02:49AM »

One specific point of studying for a teacher - and by that I mean the "ideal" teacher - is that there is so much more to the plain technical writing of notes that makes up a sounding and resounding musical piece, that the student can discover from the tutor-student talks, discussions and evaluations in the teaching.

I belive that the point of having a teacher is the fact that we humans always seem to think "better", more creatively, more widely and more dynamically when we are interacting with other people and are subjects in social contexts. The teacher in itself has no actual part in the technical developement of a student besides a motivational and practical role but as I see it, the teacher is the main person to develop a students communicative, emotional and expressional skills in the students over all development in the composing field. I belive those qualities are nothing one can develop and evaluate by self studies and transcriptions; even though most people have an inner source of expressions and emotional gestures to scope from as a matter of who and what a person is.

To be a skillful composer I belive one cannot rely on that inner source only, because if its not subjected to at least one other persons thoughts, considerations and whatnot of social interactions of both good and bad, it will dry up or get stale from lack of expressional progression and developement. Something that has happened to many great artists and composers who get stuck in one genre or one style, and seem uncapable of changing to - or finding - something new.

For me, a teacher´s role is to motivate the student to have a technincal developement, but the most important role is to make the student see that there is a value in criticism, evaluations and discussions about the musical works, and to make the student ready for the confrontation between its works and the musicians and listeners reactions. That is why the personal qualities of a teacher are so important: A teacher should in my opinion be able to handle the sometimes very fragile aspirations of expression in its students, and through talks, discussions, criticism or arguments help the students to find ways to pursue their musical inspiration over time and by different circumstances. Of course not as a result of what the surroundings say and think, but as a result of the students own capability, need and choice to develop and its courage to go through the processes that lead to change.
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« Reply #68 on: Apr 27, 2015, 09:25PM »

While the work in the realm of composing that I do can hardly be called composing, as it is so immature, one score that I would highly recommend for reading is Strauss's Ein Heldenleben.
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« Reply #69 on: Apr 28, 2015, 08:26AM »

Easily the most useless, I-actually-paid-tuition-for-that? experience I've ever had was studying composition at the University of North Texas.

You can read the story here:

Dance for the Perihelion!


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« Reply #70 on: Apr 28, 2015, 11:28AM »

And I'll note another worthless class was "Advanced Orchestration."

The instructor, a graduate student, spoke almost zero to the issue of using instruments. His whole thing was about making sharp-looking music manuscripts with special ink pens on vellum paper.

They looked perfect, like engraved pages from a major music publisher, but I don't need to tell you how worthless that skill is today.

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« Reply #71 on: Apr 28, 2015, 11:35AM »

And I'll note another worthless class was "Advanced Orchestration."

The instructor, a graduate student, spoke almost zero to the issue of using instruments. His whole thing was about making sharp-looking music manuscripts with special ink pens on vellum paper.

They looked perfect, like engraved pages from a major music publisher, but I don't need to tell you how worthless that skill is today.



that used to be taught in "music fundamentals" - seems like the grad student didn't have much of a grasp on orchestration and chose not to teach it.  I can't blame him, really, it's a deeper art than many give it credit for.

so many "composition teachers" now-a-days are teaching advanced 20th century techniques (rows, serialism, etc.) and not very well either. They treat it like it's an advanced theory class. The best comp teachers I had made me listen, do score study and transcribe. "You wanna write like Beethoven?  Listen to Beethoven. It's real simple..."
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« Reply #72 on: Apr 28, 2015, 11:46AM »

so many "composition teachers" now-a-days are teaching advanced 20th century techniques (rows, serialism, etc.) and not very well either. They treat it like it's an advanced theory class. The best comp teachers I had made me listen, do score study and transcribe. "You wanna write like Beethoven?  Listen to Beethoven. It's real simple..."

I agree with your teachers. With my current teacher, I will bring what I have worked on for the week and then suggest listenings to see how composers were able to execute certain styles/directions that may be of use in my composition.

It also helps when you have a composition teacher who is geared more towards your group of interest. Only this semester my school's composition faculty included my teacher, who is more of full orchestra/large ensemble composer, where as other teachers focused more on chamber groups.
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« Reply #73 on: Dec 15, 2015, 08:00AM »

Studying composition with or without a teacher is a good question.  You need both.  A teacher for the basics for stuff dating back to the beginning of music performed.  This gives you the ability to study what you want, to do what you have to. For instance: Writing for "A" movies (star wars, independence day, the scent of a woman, etc...) is different than writing for a high school or college marching band.  Professional Musicians vs beginning musicians. However, that ground can merge. 

You should have a goal:  To make money, to be a good Samaritan, blow minds, show your heart, etc...  You goals will lead you into making the right decision for you.  I have met PHD's who have jobs writing demos for Yamaha, performance pianists who compose live while watching the films, dance instructors who compose for the Dance and Rock and Roll musicians who compose symphonies.

So if your goal is to study, use both a teacher and yourself.  If your goal is to be a composer...compose what you want or need or must do.  Start writing or playing now!
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