Why Claude Debussy Never Cared About Music Theory

  Claude Debussy was born on August 22, 1862. So, I felt writing a blog post to celebrate would be appropriate. Debussy was a revolutionary composer who challenged the conventions of Western music. He was influenced by the impressionist painters, the exotic sounds of gamelan music, and the symbolist poets. He created a musical language that was expressive, colorful, and atmospheric. One of the most remarkable aspects of Debussy's music is his use of harmony. He did not follow the rules of tonality and functional harmony that dominated the music of his time. Instead, he used modes, scales, chords, and parallel movements that created a sense of ambiguity and fluidity. He also experimented with timbre, texture, rhythm, and form to create musical images that evoked moods and emotions. Debussy's music can inspire us to think outside the box and explore new possibilities in our own compositions. We can learn from his innovative techniques and his artistic vision. We can also apprecia

The Hazards of Pedantic Teaching

The ultimate goal of any composer is to create music that moves the listeners. However, many students face the challenge of learning from composers who teach in a rigid and complicated way. This makes them feel frustrated or incompetent. This kind of teaching can discourage students or make them copy someone else’s style. Neither of these outcomes will help you express your own musical voice. Many instructors follow a traditional method of teaching you how to write the music they know how to write. They think this is a good way to learn because it is based on imitation. They hope that by writing like a more successful composer, you will improve your own skills. I often tell my students that the essence of the whole composition is hidden in the first four to eight bars of music. You may have heard that real creativity begins in the eighth bar, but once you learn how to go beyond the eighth bar effectively, you will start to grow and explore as a composer. The first few bars are easy to

Counterpoint: A Fundamental Technique for Music Composition

If you want to learn more about the history and theory of polyphonic music, consider writing your own cantus firmus composition. A cantus firmus is a pre-existing melody that forms the basis of a polyphonic composition. It is usually a plainchant excerpt or a popular song sung by one voice, often the tenor, while other voices weave around it with different rhythms and melodies. A cantus firmus can have symbolic or musical significance and can be used to create unity and coherence in a complex musical texture. Some examples of composers who used cantus firmus technique are Dufay, Josquin, Palestrina and Bach. One of the most critical parts of counterpoint is learning to internalize the music you hear. You should first aim to audiate the cantus firmus. Once you can clearly hear the music in your mind's ear, you can begin to add the second line. In this way, you should continually develop your ability to hear additional voices as you progress.  In this blog post, we will give you some

Similarities of Classical and Baroque Music

Music has evolved through the centuries and undergone drastic changes. One of the most significant transitions was from the Baroque to the Classical period of music. In this paragraph, I will compare and contrast some of the main features of these two styles, such as ensembles, instrumentation, and counterpoint study. The Baroque and Classical periods of music have many similarities. While the style of music changed drastically, certain key elements remained the same between the two styles. Composers in the Classical period sought to simplify music and create clearly audible musical lines. In contrast, composers from the Baroque period were interested in creating complex and highly ornamented musical lines. The Baroque period occurs from approximately 1600 to 1750, and the Classical period extends from 1750 to 1820. Ensembles Ensembles are groups of musicians that perform together. Both the Baroque and the Classical period had similar types of ensembles, such as operas, orchestras, str

Composing a Melodic Skeleton that Unifies Harmony and Melody - Online Music Composition Lessons

One of the challenges of composing music is to create a coherent and expressive melodic line that fits well with the underlying harmonic structure. A melodic skeleton is a simplified melody that outlines the main notes and intervals defining the harmonic progression. It can help composers to create melodies that are consistent, logical and memorable. A melodic skeleton can be derived from the chord tones, the notes that belong to each chord in the harmony.  For example, if the harmony is C major, G major, A minor and F major, the chord tones are C, E and G for C major; G, B and D for G major; A, C and E for A minor; and F, A and C for F major. These notes form the basic framework of the melody and can be used as starting or ending points for each phrase. However, a melodic skeleton can also include non-chord tones, which are notes that do not belong to the current chord but add variety and interest to the melody. Non-chord tones can be classified into different types according to their

How to Compose an Original Piece with Harmony: Advice from Kevin Ure

If you are interested in composing your own music, you might wonder how to create a coherent and pleasing harmony piece. Harmony combines different pitches that sound simultaneously, creating a sense of depth and richness in music. Harmony can also convey emotions, moods, and styles, depending on how you use it. One of the best ways to learn how to compose with harmony is to get advice from an expert. Kevin Ure is a composer and music theorist who teaches music theory and ear training courses at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. He is also the instructor of The Composers Studio at, where he offers online lessons and resources for aspiring composers. He has composed several works for various ensembles and solo instruments, such as Soliloquy , The Beast of Gevaudan , and The Garden Tower . In this blog post, we will share some tips from Kevin Ure on how to compose an original piece with harmony. These tips are based on his YouTube videos, where he explains various aspects

Orchestration for String Quartet: Tips and Tricks

If you are a composer or an arranger who wants to write music for string quartet, you might be wondering how to make the most of this versatile and expressive ensemble. A string quartet consists of two violins, a viola, and a cello, and it can produce a wide range of sounds, textures and moods. But how do you orchestrate effectively for these four instruments? Here are some tips and tricks to help you create engaging and beautiful music for string quartet. 1. Know your instruments. Each string instrument has its own characteristics, such as range, timbre, dynamics and articulation. You should be familiar with the capabilities and limitations of each instrument and the players' preferences. For example, string players generally prefer keys with sharps rather than flats, as they are easier to play on their instruments. You should also know how to write idiomatic parts that suit the natural tendencies of each instrument, such as using open strings, harmonics or double stops. 2. Use d