How to Use Chord Changes to Learn the Art of Musical Composition

Edward Weiss
 


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When I first started getting interested in composing it dumbfounded me. So many questions. The number one question I had was how did they do it? How do you create something and build a complete piece of music?

Intrigued, I searched every book on the subject of music composition I could find. Living in San Diego as I do, the libraries aren't the best. I found books on harmony, theory, and composition. But they all were over my head AND they all gave examples that seemed antiquated and dull. Eventually though, if you persist, you'll always find at least one or two books that will be helpful and I did. I found this one book that had chord changes mapped out in 8-bar sections. Now here was something I could understand!

No note reading was required here. All I needed to do was play a few chords on the piano and be able to keep time - both of which I could do. After playing the chord changes for a while, I started to feel what musical form was. It no longer was an academic exercise. Not at all. You see, when I played through the chord changes in 4/4 time, I actually felt the form! That is, after the 8-bars was played, I knew that I could either repeat them again, or play new material (another new 8-bar phrase. ) And that's all there is really to musical composition. Composition is the art of repetition and contrast.

Now, just saying this won't teach you anything. That's why when I read this in a book, I understood it, but didn't really know how to do it. By following simple chord changes, the body actually takes in the rhythm and you start to feel what an 8-bar phrase is. By doing this, you intuitively begin to understand what form is all about.

For instance, in the lesson piece Fall Sunrise, we have something called an ABA form. We have 4-bars repeated twice for the first section (A), then an 8-bar phrase repeated twice for the (B) section. When we use the art of repetition and contrast we get the common ABA form used so much in musical composition.

Edward Weiss is a pianist/composer and webmaster of Quiescence Music's online piano lessons . He has been helping students learn how to play piano in the New Age style for over 14 years and works with students in private, in groups, and now over the internet. Stop by now at http://www.quiescencemusic.com/piano_lessons.html for a FREE piano lesson!

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