Tip #2 – Getting to a Musical Destination with a Sequence

To remind for those who know, and to inform those that don’t, a sequence is a musical pattern or figure that is restated at a different pitch level while keeping the basic shape/contour/intervals of the original pattern.

Sequences tend to occur in classical music most often, especially in the melodic b-section of a phrase or period, but that should never limit a composer as to how to use a sequence! Exploring different uses of a sequential pattern of transposition in a figure can flourish a theme as well as bring a composition to an excitingly new harmonic destination.

When transposing a figure pattern up or down for a sequence, a composer will have to decide if things will remain exact or if there will be some modifications to the deviants – and this in turn will decide on where the composition will travel. First possibility is the keep the entire sequences diatonic to the key that the composition is in.

Another possibility is to make some changes by throwing in some accidentals to keep the exact intervallic patterns in each consecutive sequence. It might be wise to aim to not alter the tonal center, but there are no rules as to not doing so. So feel free to experiment!

Finally, sequence is not exclusively for melody. It can be used in harmony as well! A progression of the Circle Of Fifths in a key is a fundamental example of sequential use. Still, experimenting outside of the diatonic by using chromatic notes can allow the composer to reach different harmonic possibilities. So be creative and explore!


Thank you so much for taking the time to read! Feel free to comment, share, and subscribe for more daily tips below! Till next time.

Tip #1 – Using Repetition in a Unique Way

Repetition is one of the cornerstones to making a melody, theme, or in general – the piece of music itself, memorable to listeners. However, many composers abstain away from repeating the same material over-and-over again in their composition, as it is believed to be a sign of lacking in creativity or originality. Regardless of your opinion towards this matter, repeating a figure will not only help in becoming recognizable to the audience, but will also aid in developing a motif or theme. From Wagner’s epic themes to pop music ear-candy, repetition is a great technique that when used creatively can yield great results.

Two major aspects of a theme are the pitches and the rhythm. So let’s experiment with these two factors. An easy way to repeat is by simply rewriting the same phrase within a measure (with subtle variation) over again. Keep the pitches and rhythm roughly the same.

Still, the figure does not ever need to be constrained to the bar line. Having the figure be in a length longer/shorter in beats than the time signature can have surprising results!

Now, take out one of the variables. Keep the rhythm the same, but change the pitches. This will help in smoothly going from different harmonies to another.

And the opposite: keeping the same pitches, but changing the melody. This tends to not be as instantly recognizable to the ear, but the creativity in thematic development is very much still present.

Thank you so much for taking the time to read! Feel free to comment, share, and subscribe for more daily tips below! Till next time.

Teach Yourself Music Theory – 1.) Reading a Score

One of the most debated parts of music is the use of Western notation as well as the need to understand it. Even though this is the most common form of writing down music, most famous musicians tend not to know how to “read” it. Thus, it has come up for query as for the necessity to learn how to use this form of notation, as it doesn’t appear to have direct affect on success commercially or communication-wise. While the need may be up for question, excuses are certainly not. There is nothing standing in your way from learning how to read music and use it to compose, but yourself. Think of this as a language opportunity; and the more languages you know, the better you are when communicating your ideas to other musicians. It would be a shame for you to work hard to get into a recording studio, only to not be able to tell the players what you want in sound. So let’s start with the fundamentals:

When looking at a score, or the physical musical notation for a piece of music, you will see a bunch of dots and lines. Each dot symbolizes a pitch, which is a particular tone that you hear. In this common practice of Western notation, the pitches are grouped into musical tone letter names of – A B C D E F G… repeating back to A and continuing on to infinity!

Take a look at a keyboard. All the white keys on the piano match the letter names mentioned above. You’ll also see that the groupings of white keys around the black keys are always 3-4-3-4… with the group of 3 being C D E and the group of 4 being F G A B constantly repeating. And now it is time to introduce our friend: middle C. Middle C is also called C4 because it is the fourth C (counting from the left) on a keyboard. This will serve as a placeholder in many situations, as seen coming up next.

Now, these pitches are organized on a staff consisting of five lines and four spaces. The higher the pitch/dot is placed on the staff, the higher it sounds to the ear when you play it. And the opposite is true as well: the lower the pitch on the staff equals how low it will sound acoustically. So, now you might be wondering as to which line or space represents what pitch letter name – and the answer to that question is that it all depends of the clef. A clef is a symbol found to the far left end of any staff that tells the pitch representation.

First one is the treble clef, or otherwise known as the “g-clef.” It has that name from looking like a cursive “G” and having the swirl wrap around the line where G will be. Notice where C4 is in relation to this clef. Typically, treble clefs are used for high voices. So how about the low sounds? For that, we have the bass clef, also known as the “f-clef.” Once again getting its name from its shape, the two dots of the clef hug the line where F will be. Last, but not least, is the “movable” c-clef. The shape of this clef looks like two backwards “C”s connecting to each other in the middle – and the line on which they touch tells us where middle C is. Easy to remember. Reason why it is called a movable clef is because the clef can be on any line! If it was on the first line at the bottom, it would be a soprano clef; second line above, a mezzo-soprano clef; third middle line, alto clef; fourth line, tenor clef, and fifth top line, baritone clef. Alto clef, however, is by far the most commonly used.

One last final clef is the choral tenor clef, which looks like a treble clef, but with an “8” at the bottom of the tail. This tells us that the music sounds to our ear an octave, or eight letter names, lower than how it is visually written.

Thank you so much for taking the time to read! Feel free to comment, share, and subscribe for more daily tips below! Till next time.