ep-413 DSP – week 3

Composition tools

Make music using X

“Lyrebirds and Acoustic Guitar” by Chris Lopez

Tools used by students in this class:
  • Reverse engineering the style of a reference song. Use a Midi keyboard + Logic
  • Maschine + microphone
  • Modular synth + Midi
  • Listening to melodies in your head + Ableton Live
  • Building a chord progression, playing piano, guitar, Ableton Live racks
  • Composing with drums in Ableton Live. Building a form or structure. Using the ideas in your head.
  • Ableton Live.  And playing the guitar.
  • Finale music notation software.
Dramatic shape:

Every performance has a dramatic shape. That is, excitement level measured over time.

What is the shape of this piece:


Like stories, songs have beginnings, endings, and journeys that connect.  Many forms can be applied, but the goal is always the same – to have maximum impact on the listener – to communicate honestly with strength and conviction.

As you listen to music, be aware of the form – especially in terms of the dramatic shape.  Where is the peak of intensity?  Does the music grab your attention immediately, or does it build slowly?    How much repetition do you hear?  Can you find suspense, surprise, humor, sadness, power, or beauty?  What musical elements work together to create these feelings?

The most powerful tools you have as a composer are your ears.