Write Like Mozart and other MOOC offerings

A MOOC is a Massive Open Online Course – a gigantic development in (free) distance education. MOOC courses are often oriented toward science and not so much toward music, but there are interesting offerings out there, even some of interest to composers.

Coursera offers many free college-level music courses, including Write Like Mozart: An Introduction to Classical Music Composition, Songwriting, and The Language of Hollywood: Storytelling, Sound, and Color.

Not free, but with a lot of (how-to) courses is Udemy, with offerings such as Music Theory for Electronic Musicians, Learn How to Record and Mix Music, Mixing Music with Logic Pro, Learn How to Remix.




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3 Creativity Quotes

English: Albert Einstein Français : Portrait d...

It’s not that I’m so smart, it’s just that I stay with problems longer. –Albert Einstein

Every education system on earth has the same hierarchy. Arts are on the bottom. In the arts, music is at the top, dance is at the bottom. As they grow up, we educate them from the waist up. Who are the winners of public education? The purpose seem to be to produce university professors. Typically, they live in their heads. They look on their body as a form of transport for their heads. A way of getting their head to meetings. All educational systems are geared for industrial employment. Don’t do music, you can’t get a job in it. Lots of people think they’re not talented because the thing they’re good in wasn’t valued in school. So many people are graduating from school, degrees are not worth anything. Academic inflation. Intelligence comes in many forms. It is dynamic, interactive, distinct. Creativity comes through connecting diverse disciplines. ­– Sir Ken Robinson

Without creativity we have no art, no literature, no science, no innovation, no problem solving, no progress. – A.J. Starko, Creativity in the Classroom


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Composer Focus – web site

I just discovered a new web site – Composer Focus –  that looks fairly new – not a great deal of content yet, but what there is is excellent with the promise of more to come. especially the promise of offering multimedia courses that cover (quote):

Working in TV/Film and Game Music

Music Theory

Production Techniques

Music Business

Ear Training

(and more…)

Very attractive site with excellent offerings. One thing that looks interesting is Articles>Roundup, which are lists of stuff (must be the British term for lists), e.g.

5 books to learn how to compose for video games

Top 5 orchestration books

8 unique and unusual sample libraries

Choir sample library roundup

iPad Music App roundup [I can use this for my Creativity in Music semester course]

Choir sample library

String sample library

Audio file formats: a roundup

Notation software roundup


Check out composer Kevin McLeod’s variegated site Incompetech.  He gives away a lot of his music (royalty free), but charges for custom projects. The site also offers (free) graph/grid papers, calendars, and more (including Really Bad Jokes).

Aaron Gervais, Composer

I just (re)discovered a terrific composer site – that of Aaron Gervais. It is a wonderful collection of all sorts of stuff, much of it self-promoting (that’s what sites like this are for), but Gervais is also an intelligent and thoughtful writer and he gives us a number of useful short articles on various subjects.


Working for Free: Helpful or Harmful?

Working Weekends Makes You a Worse Composer

A Machiavellian Guide to Becoming a Composer

Why Composers Should Drop Out of University (and What They Should Be Learning) – Parts 1 & 2

(“Education begins where academia ends. You make connections with people, you find a community, you decide what really matters, you find time to do what you love, you find a way to earn a living. You might do some of this while in school, but little or none of it is taught at school. So why don’t more composers just skip straight to the career and not bother with degrees?”)

Gospel Time by Jeffrey Agrell (video)

I like to think of the notated versions of my compositions as beginnings, not ends. I am always happy when performers inject their own visions and imaginations into my music. Composers don’t know everything. If we make performers partners, we will have a lot more varied and interesting performances. Why should a composition be frozen forever in one single version (recordings tend to make us think that there is only one valid version of a piece). The performance below of my Gospel Time for trombone quartet is good evidence of great imagination. There is no singing in my version – it was delightful to see that they dared to transform the first section into a sort of wordless sung hymn. There were more liberties in the middle – with a spontaneous oom pan section – what fun! They also had fun with the ending – more singing; plus a late coda encore. Good for them. I really enjoyed their performance, and clearly, so did the audience

IJCC: online composition journal

The “International Journal of Contemporary Composition” (IJCC) is an online peer-reviewed open-access journal, dedicated to providing the worldwide musical audience with free access to high-quality works by contemporary music researchers and composers.

“IJCC welcomes submission of unpublished original research articles and modern music composition scores, which are not under review in any other journals.

“IJCC website plays the role of a music producer center. Music producers visit our site in search of contemporary music production.

“IJCC website also allows[listening to] the music online.

“IJCC is published by the International Association for Academic Research”

Interval Song (video)

Composition Tip #26: Conduct!

Learn to conduct. At some point you will be called upon to conduct your music. Be ready for that day. For composers, conducting is like playing piano – a very useful skill to have to support what you do as a composer.

A conductor silhouette

You can also hasten the day by writing for groups that might be glad to perform your music and have you conduct it: Bands. Orchestra. Choirs. Brass choirs. Horn choirs.

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Composition Tip #25: Film Music!

John Williams

John Williams

English: Jerry Goldsmith conducting London Sym...

Jerry Goldsmith

David Raksin

David Raksin

Miklós Rózsa

Miklós Rózsa


Bernard Herrmann

Bernard Herrmann

Listen to film music. A lot of film music!

A lot of film music is among the most interesting and imaginative of the 20th century – they’re just aren’t any scores (listen and transcribe your own!).

Flexibility is or should be the ultimate goal of every musician and composer, and there is no one more musically flexible than a film composer, who has to be ready to compose a jazz theme one moment, a symphonic score the next, a chase scene the next, a haunting shakuhachi theme after that, and make the timing fit to the tenth of a second. Nobody has to have bigger ears and more composing chops than a film composer.

Read books on the history of film music, learn about Bernard Herrmann, David Raksin, Jerry Goldsmith, Miklos Rozsa, John Williams, and many more.

Resolve to learn film scoring at some point: click tracks, timing sheets, condensed scores and orchestrating, and of course all manner of computer and electronic music sequencing and sound manipulation.

Most of all, listen to a lot of film music. Take notes. Transcribe whatever catches your ear as worthy of emulating, copying, imitating, absorbing. Listen for timbres (colors),  orchestrations (combinations of sounds), voicings, chords, chord progressions, rhythms, ways to convey visual impressions in music (how do the greats score: tragedy? Joy? A sunset? Imminent danger? High energy? A peaceful, bucolic scene? Love? Playfulness? A majestic landscape? A historical era? A foreign location (Paris. London. Rome. Beijing. Rio. North pole. Moscow. Tahiti. Cuba. Nairobi. Cairo. Scotland. Madrid)?

If you’re between commissions, you could well spend the down time sitting down with a soundtrack and seeing how much you can learn from it.

Build that composer’s compost pile with film music!


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