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Thread: Music reading and notation for composition

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    Registered User 3step's Avatar
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    Default Music reading and notation for composition

    Composition has always been my focus in music. With mandolin, I started out with folk, celtic, and other traditional styles. I've always listened to classical since I was a kid though, and had always wanted to play and compose for it; but not until I had become accomplished enough on the mandolin, did I feel ready to do so. After about 3 years of focusing on classical composition, I now have 20 or so pieces, including a mandolin concert in Gmajor in 3 movements, inspired in part by Vivaldi's masterwork concerto in Cmajor. I also have many Italian and renaissance inspired pieces. I never did go into a conservatory program or any music study for that matter besides a few classes here and there on guitar when I was young. I am very disciplined though, and study and listen to music a lot, besides playing. My regret is that I can't read and write it down. I plan on recording it on mandolin very soon, but I would also like to approach others in the classical community to see if they would possibly be interested in performing some of these pieces. I feel like I may not be taken very seriously if I can't even read or write down my own music though, and I agree that it is something I should know at this point. Would anyone have suggestions on methods, options, or texts that might help towards learning this, outside of enrolling in a conservatory or full time music program, which isn't a viable option right now. I am open to taking night classes, but I wonder if it is the best route to go.

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    Registered User DougC's Avatar
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    Default Re: Music reading and notation for composition

    You are right about credibility. However you have to start where you are. I'd find someone who can read and write music, someone who can write music by listening to audio. That person can really help you get a perspective on what you have done and how it looks on paper.

    And start with some serious determination to learn to read and write. There are some great websites for learning music and they are free. Here is my favorite.

    http://www.musictheory.net/lessons

    Good luck.

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    Registered User 3step's Avatar
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    Default Re: Music reading and notation for composition

    A website recommendation was something I was hoping for. That sounds like a good idea as well about getting someone to write the pieces down. I could then look at them while I play, and knowing them so well the notation might begin to sink in. Thanks

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    Default Re: Music reading and notation for composition

    Interesting question! How do you have your compositions "captured" right now? Have you memorized them, written them in your own way, recorded them or something else?

    I think the ideal, but hard to find, approach would be to find a classical mandolin teacher. A second idea is to take some piano lessons. Piano teachers are more plentiful! You would learn treble and bass clef and that would be valuable under any circumstance. Even if you don't have a piano, you could buy an electronic keyboard for not too much.

    There are free mandolin instruction books that teach notation available on IMSLP; e.g., Munier. I also like Complete Idiot's Guide to Music Theory by Michael Miller.
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    Registered User 3step's Avatar
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    Default Re: Music reading and notation for composition

    I just memorize, memorize, through lots of playing. I don't really want to take away time from playing mandolin to play piano, though I know it's one of the best ways to learn notation. I have played but I pretty much gave it up and even play guitar now only on the odd occasion. mandolin has brought me the most satisfaction and range, and a means to play classical music which I thought I would never be able to play at some points in my life, because I thought I hadn't mastered the 'right' instruments. Gradually the mandolin revealed itself to be utterly at home in classical music, now my focus is mostly there, along with other early musical forms. Maybe I'll post an mp3. I just recorded a few new ones.

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    Default Re: Music reading and notation for composition

    You are on your way. Learn the language, take a theory course. Check out local colleges. Sorry, I do not have any specific recomendations for study courses or materials.

    Also, get familiar with one on the notation program. Something that will allow you to hear what you have written, and will produce professional looking results.

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    Registered User DougC's Avatar
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    Default Re: Music reading and notation for composition

    I thought I'd search the term Broken Thirds online. And finding another term is often used, "broken chords" I thought I'd just explain the term here. The best source is not some online music dictionary. The best is good old Wikipedia.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arpeggio

    Broken in this sense means that you play the notes of a chord one at a time. This allows instruments like a clarinet to get the effect of a chord.

    But playing chord notes is playing thirds.
    Chord notes are the I, III and V of the eight notes of the scale. (Do, Me, So like the cello video there.) Do re Me fa So..... Start counting again on the bold letters. 123, 345. do me so = I III V. This is going up or ascending as in the cello video. Descending or going down would be like Paul J's video. Counting backwards is a bit harder. Easy to play however.

    Also fooling around with a music notation program is a real good way to learn how to write music because you can make it sound out the notes you have entered. i.e. you can hear the dots on the page. But you should really learn the basics at

    http://www.musictheory.net/lessons

    MuseScore is a free notation program and it is almost as good as the $400 programs. Well worth the time and effort.

    https://musescore.org/
    Last edited by DougC; Apr-15-2015 at 7:27pm. Reason: is it clear as mud? wait for it to settle, trust me.
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    Registered User 3step's Avatar
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    Default Re: Music reading and notation for composition

    Really fascinating stuff. I liked finding the thirds. Theory to me, seems similar to stepping up close to a painting to see the brush strokes, pigment, texture and such -the method behind the art, and the study of that. The staff and score - maybe like a blueprint for that lovely house. A mathematically precise visual representation -but all the room still for color, design and personal touches!
    All you need is a hammer,nails, paint - or a penny whistle, Grand piano, mandolin..

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    Default Re: Music reading and notation for composition

    I have known a few folks who could write notation by ear. What I mean is that at a jam instead of recording a tune they wanted to remember, they would whip out some music paper and write it out. Note for note. This before or at the same time they worked it out on the instrument.

    Amazing stuff.
    Indulge responsibly!

    The entire staff
    funny....

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    Registered User 3step's Avatar
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    Default Re: Music reading and notation for composition

    Quote Originally Posted by JeffD View Post
    I have known a few folks who could write notation by ear. What I mean is that at a jam instead of recording a tune they wanted to remember, they would whip out some music paper and write it out. Note for note. This before or at the same time they worked it out on the instrument.

    Amazing stuff.
    I want...! One of my favorite scenes in the movie Amadeus is when Mozart sends a pool ball banking around the edges of the table and composes in between, catches it, repeat... Looks like fun.

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    Default Re: Music reading and notation for composition

    Quote Originally Posted by JeffD View Post
    I have known a few folks who could write notation by ear. What I mean is that at a jam instead of recording a tune they wanted to remember, they would whip out some music paper and write it out. Note for note. This before or at the same time they worked it out on the instrument.

    Amazing stuff.
    Many college level theory courses spend a great deal of time developing this skill. It isn't as hard as you would think if you have a decent grounding in the music being played. For example if you know what key/mode the piece is in that narrows the notes down and if you know the type of tune--waltz, jig, etc--then that helps out with the rhythmic motifs. Still takes a ton of practice to do at performance speeds.

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    Default Re: Music reading and notation for composition

    Books like Music Theory for Dummies is also a good place to start. And learn a notation program on your computer -- MuseScore is very powerful notation software and is completely free. It is very similar to Finale and Sibelius in many ways and will be more than adequate for your purposes. You can get it at www.musescore.org

    Also finding books like many Mandolin books from places like Mel Bay which show the music in both tablature and in notation is a good way to learn -- the tablature makes it easy to find the notes (it's like paint-by-numbers only it's play-by-numbers) and once you've got a phrase learned you can look at the notation and see how those sounds would be written down.

    There are also workbooks you can buy called "Music Theory Workbook" which have the answers to the questions right in the books so you don't need a teacher. But you might find a teacher on any instrument who is willing to give you only theory lessons -- doesn't have to be piano. And you don't need to learn an instrument, you just study theory and notation with them. If you lived in my area (southern New Hampshire, USA) I'd be happy to teach you. And with your playing background it shouldn't take many lessons for you to learn about notation and music theory.

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    Registered User 3step's Avatar
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    Default Re: Music reading and notation for composition

    I did go on musescore -many times. Astonishing. I used to not care all that much for computers, accept as occasionally handy tools that are overhyped; but when they can facilitate things like this, I feel differently. I almost have a score for the first part of a concert. I never would have thought.

  14. #14

    Default Re: Music reading and notation for composition

    Quote Originally Posted by dhbailey View Post
    Also finding books like many Mandolin books from places like Mel Bay which show the music in both tablature and in notation is a good way to learn -- the tablature makes it easy to find the notes (it's like paint-by-numbers only it's play-by-numbers) and once you've got a phrase learned you can look at the notation and see how those sounds would be written down.

    .
    You have to be careful though. Over several years of guitar instruction I found tablature to be counterproductive to the teaching of notation. Students--esp. adult learners--used the tab as a crutch and took longer to learn than using a standard notation only method.

    The biggest impediment to learning standard notation--esp. in experienced but notationally challanged players--is very simple. It's pride. Here you are, a guy who can play wicked hard reels at 120 bpm and you're stumbling through reading very basic tunes. You get frustrated and decide that it just isn't for you. What you have to do is put your pride in a box and soldier on. With consistant reading practice your reading skills will be where you want them in a lot less time than you think.

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    Registered User DavidKOS's Avatar
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    Default Re: Music reading and notation for composition

    Quote Originally Posted by StanE View Post
    You are on your way. Learn the language, take a theory course. Check out local colleges. Sorry, I do not have any specific recomendations for study courses or materials.

    Also, get familiar with one on the notation program. Something that will allow you to hear what you have written, and will produce professional looking results.
    This is good advice.

    I am all for the OP writing new "classical" music; however as person with a Master's in Music Theory and Composition, I suggest getting some lessons from a working composer. There are so many things to learn that a good teacher will help.

    Composition lessons will be very useful for someone wanting to compose serious music.

    Also, unless the OP has exceptional ears and can grasp counterpoint and harmony intuitively (!), these lessons will help in how you actually write a piece of music in multiple parts, making use of things like imitation, thematic development, orchestration, etc.

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