At the Piano

Composition Workshop

This group class introduces and develops compositional skill and help aspiring composers to find their creative voices. The class has a strong emphasis on composing music: students will be assigned compositional exercises, describe and discuss their work with the class, and work on a final project of up to two/four minutes length. The teaching component of the class includes the description of the basic elements and tools of musical composition (rhythm, melody, counterpoint, harmony), an introduction to musical structures and forms, elements of musical analysis, as well as guided listening and discussion of examples from the music repertoire of our time and of the past.

This Web page will be updated weekly, for previous workshops click here



Class Material

Assignment Due

Workshop I - Syllabus


Overview of the class. Compositional Process. Components of Composition. Musical Shape and Form.

Phil Glass, listen to Koyaanisqatsi (youtube)

Fryderyk Chopin, listen to Mazurka Opus 6 No. 1 in F# minor. Download score



2 Melody – Types of melody. Phrases and Periods. Hand out (Phrases, Periods, Chopin's Mazurka Graphic Analysis) Write a short melody. Identify the bass, and other motives in Phil Glass, Koyaanisqatsi. Analyze Fryderyk Chopin Mazurka Opus 6 No. 1 in F# minor: only identify the melodies, sections that repeat, and summarize the structure of the piece.
3 Melody - The Tonic Pitch - Scales - The Variation Principle Discussion of Phil Glass Koyaanisqatsi. and Fryderyk Chopin Mazurka Opus 6 No. 1 in F# minor Write a period as a continuous elaboration, and one made up of two contrasting phrases.
4 Melody Hand out (Building a Melody and its Variations). Early use of Variations William Byrd Sellingers Round, download score here. Continue exrcise from last week, write first variations.
5 Melody - Variation Variation Techniques in detail: Rhythmic Operations. More examples from literature: Mozart 12 Variations on "Ah, vous dirai-je maman", K.265, download score here. Write 2-4 variations on the melodies you have written.
6 Melody - Variation Variation Techniques in detail. In class analysis of "Ah, vous dirai-je maman", K.265. Analze the Theme of Mozart 12 Variations on "Ah, vous dirai-je maman", K.265.
7 Melody - Counterpoint Simple Counterpoint Rules. Study "Ah, vous dirai-je maman", K.265. Write one more variation of your material. Write a simple melody line and a counterpoint (note against note) for it.
8 Melody - Form Binary Form (ABA): Haydn minuets Analyze your counterpoint. Work on final project.
  School Holiday    
9 Melody - Harmony and harmonic variation.

Binary Form: the Pop song (AABA), I want to old your hand by the Beatles.

Example: how to build an "A" section starting from a period.

Example: how to add a lower voice (to the A section just described).

Continue working on Final Project
10 Melody - Harmony and harmonic variation.   Continue working on Final Project
Workshop II - Syllabus
1 Class introduction Introduction. Schubert's Wohin (from Die Schöne Müllerin). Dowload score and listen here.  
2 Melody - Harmony - Form (in one shot!) Guided full analysis of Schubert's Wohin Analyze Wohin. Bring one of your compositions to class.
3 More Binary form Full Analysis of Wohin, Luciano Berio: Folk Songs V. A la femminisca. Download Berio's score and reductions of Shubert and Berio here. Analyze A la femminisca.
4 Binary Form Full Analysis of A la femminisca. download the text here, and listen to the Folk version (unfortunately with guitar acconpanyment). Structural elements in a composition. Work on your composition and analyze the first 32 measures of J.S.Bach Chaconne from the Partita No.2 BWV 1004 in D minor, download score here.
5 Functional Harmony (and Chaconne form) Listen to J.S.Bach Chaconne for Violin Solo, download score here. Work on your composition
6 Functional Harmony - Chaconne J.S.Bach Chaconne analysis Work on your composition.
7 Functional Harmony - Musical Structure Using harmony to generate a musical section. Download worked out example here including etended harmony material. Download homework here.
8 (Feb 25 Musical Structure - Sonata Form (Exposition) Using harmony to generate a musical section: class Analysis of the Exposition of Ludwig van Beethoven Waldstein Sonata (Op.53); download score here. Work on your composition. Harmonic analysis of measures 78 to 86 ot the Waldstein.
9 Functional Harmony - Musical Structure Sonata form - Exposition: derivation from ABA form. Work on your composition.
10 Final Class Play and Discuss Final Project

Homework: analyze your final composition.

Self-guided work during Spring Break: Identify the first and second theme in the exposition of the following Sonatas.

W. A. Mozart KV 545

L. V. Beethoven Op.49 No.2

F. Schubert A Major D664

Workshop III - Syllabus
1 Functional Harmony Chromatic realizations of 5 to 1. Extended triadic harmony. Download related theory material I
2 Functional Harmony Extended triadic harmony continued Download related theory material II
3 Functional Harmony

Extendd Chromatic Secondary Motions. Arbitrary degree to degree motions.

4 Functional Harmony - Form Cadence - Cadential Action - Prolungation Download related theory material II
5 Functional Harmony - Form Prolungation - Modulation  
6 Extended Functional Harmony - Form Application of Extended Harmony Cadence - Prolungation - Modulation  
7 Form Sonata Form: more on Development. Recapitulation and Coda.  
8 Form More complex forms. ABA derived: Debussy Images Book 1 No. 1. Listen to Reflets dans l'eau download score here  
9   Final  

Besides Pencil & Paper and a good eraser, below is a list of useful software, and some Web-sites. If you need music paper click here to download.

Notation Software
Finale or Finale Print Music: (recommened, Finale Print Music is enough for this class)
Sibelius: (not recommended unless you have it already)
Musescore: (not as good as Finale or Sibelius but it is free)

Music Editing
Garage Band: For windows:

Logic Pro:

Final Cut: or similar video program that provides control on the audio tracks.

Musical Scores
International Music Score Library Project:




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