Composition  Course

Ready to Start Your Musical Dream Life?

Learn how to compose music that matters and makes a difference!

  • become a faster and more efficient composer
  • focus on what really works in the application
  • learn at your own pace
  • become a powerful musical storyteller
  • we help you build musical confidence and a musical life you can be proud of

Composition Course - Table of Contents

Lesson 1 - 6: Horizontal Writing and Strong Lines from 1-part to 4-part

"Melody is King!"

You've probably heard that phrase very often - and that is for a good reason. Melodies are the most fundamental elements in music that we can relate to as humans because we can produce and also re-produce themes very quickly with our voice.

Melodies have been around long before music theory became essential to creating music. In our composition course, we focus heavily on horizontal writing, as this is one of the most critical elements in musical storytelling.

This first segment of the course teaches how to find strong melodies, and how to use them respectfully in the context of other lines (two parts, three parts, and even four parts).

As we are going to find out, lines also can describe voice-leading in harmony, and they even connect to almost any other place in music theory. In Interval Theory, we refer to melodies as 'strings,' and they will become a firm friend of ours that will always offer a helping hand in composition.

Musical Example by CIT (composer in training) Norbert Mészáros

  • Lesson 1: Plainsong (1 part)
  • Lesson 2: Plainsong (2 parts), Counterpoint
  • Lesson 3: Plainsong (3 & 4 parts), Counterpoint
  • Lesson 4: Changing Scales (horizontally), Sketching
  • Lesson 5: Combining Scales (vertically)
  • Lesson 6: "Concept of 1, 4 and 5", Crossing of Voices

Lesson 7 - 15: Chord Complexity, the Matrix of Triads and an Introduction to ICs

Now that we know how to deal with horizontal writing, we want to focus on the vertical strength of music with the final goal, to bring these two sides together.

Chord complexity is quite simple when you start with Interval Theory because the shape of the chord structures doesn't change. However,  the relation between the treble structure and the root tone defines the complexity.

This relation brings us to the 'Matrix of Triads' and how powerful that concept is for composition and musical creativity. We will stay in control over all horizontal and vertical forces at all times.

We will discover what the 'Horizontal Formula' is and how we can use that to apply voice-leading from an interval-point of view. Our results will stay tonal all the time because the Overtone Series remains our guide for vertical structures.

Now we start seeing where and how we can enhance our existing knowledge about the Diatonic System. Many new musical doors will become accessible, and you will become more and more fluent and confident in connecting the musical dots!

The biggest goal of this composition course is to help you get closer to your voice and taste so that you can develop into the most original and most creative version of yourself!

Musical Example by CIT Hélène Philippe-Gérard

  • Lesson 7: Triads, vertical and horizontal writing combined
  • Lesson 8: Extended Roots & Triads, Outside Intervals
  • Lesson 9: Matrix of Triads, Extended System of Mediants
  • Lesson 10: Major and Minor 7th Chords (3 parts)
  • Lesson 11: Minor Natural 7th Chords (3 parts)
  • Lesson 12: Dominant 7th Chords (3 parts), Jazz Theory
  • Lesson 13: Matrix of Triads with Equivalents
  • Lesson 14: All types of 7th Chords (4 parts), Resolutions
  • Lesson 15: 6/4 Basics and how to use them

Lesson 16 - 18: Bass Movement including Coordination of Horizontal and Vertical Movement

It's time to focus on the bass!

In this part of the course, we are going to dive into good line writing in the lower section of our arrangement or orchestration. The usual thing that (rather inexperienced) composers do is writing the root tone or scale tone five below their chord progressions.

Well, this works, but it's rather simple-minded and a waste of potential. If you talked to some experienced bass players and asked them about how they create their lines, you will be surprised about how many things they take into account when they play.

Most of those concepts go back to our first section of the course, the line-writing segment. It's incredible how much one can spice up an ordinary chord progression by creating a robust and singable bass line.

And do you still remember that we create chord complexity by controlling the distance between the bass note and the treble structure? Now, this knowledge comes in very handy as we always stay on top of what we do.

You want to control the horizontal force and the vertical stability at the same time. This segment shows you exactly how to do that.

Musical Example by CIT Gareth Prosser

  • Lesson 16: Bass Movement I, Walking Bass Line
  • Lesson 17: Bass Movement II, Bass Displacement
  • Lesson 18: Bass Movement III, Coordination

Lesson 19 - 23: 6/4 and their Intervallic Application with Scale Pairs, Reflection and Pulsation

It's time to increase the musical options exponentially by combining some of our techniques.

We are going to revisit 6/4 structures (which live in a world of triads)  and apply various intervallic techniques to them. This helps us to even connect to some of the trendy musical places like Negative Harmony via scale reflection.

While our musical ideas and concepts stay very simple, the artistic results in the music that we create will increase in complexity. We also open up to second-octave chord structures, just like 9th chords, and dive into the orchestration.

Functions like ostinatos, pedals, or motors are excellent for controlling the energy in an orchestral work. The attention of our audience follows the energy in our work! We explain how to use that concept as an element of musical storytelling. You will learn how to guide your audience through the plot elegantly.

Musical Example by CIT Gareth Prosser

  • Lesson 19: 6/4 with Scale Pairs & Reflections
  • Lesson 20: Reverse 6/4 and its Application
  • Lesson 21: All types of 9th Chords, Octatonic Scale
  • Lesson 22: 6/4 in 9th Chords and their resolutions
  • Lesson 23: 9th Chords with Pulsation and their intervallic Application in Composition

Lesson 24 - 26: Expansion & Contraction using Scale Tones, Intervals and Equivalents

Expansion and Contraction is a vast subject in music theory, and its application is of great value to the composer!

However, this topic usually does not show up in conventional literature about music theory or composition. Expansion and Contraction not only connects to chord structures and their resolutions, it also helps us to control the vertical spacing between the notes so that we can make sure that every line has enough space to move.

This part of the composition course is an elegant entry into Chromatic harmony, as well. Everybody can follow a chromatic line, no matter how musical she or he is. Hence, Expansion and Contraction contribute a lot to modulations and shifts of tonal centers.

It also organizes and connects all the equivalents so that we can use their musical nature and tendencies to our advantage - almost like shortcuts. The composer should be able to express himself freely by following his emotional reaction to what he wrote.

By combining simple musical tools, you get access to so many colors so that your taste will help you make the right choice! Very similar to the total number of colors that we can create out of red, green, and blue.

Musical Example by CIT Miles Ito

  • Lesson 24: Expansion and Contraction – Introduction
  • Lesson 25: Connecting to the Matrix of Triads, Motors
  • Lesson 26: Expansion and Contraction using Equivalents, Resolution

Lesson 27 - 30: Intervallic Application & the Emotional Use of 2nd-octave Chord Structures

We've already learned that second-octave chord structures (9ths, 11ths, and 13ths) follow the same vertical shape of their more straightforward pendants from the first-octave.

That knowledge brings us directly into the application and how to use those structures for effectively telling a musical story. You will learn how to distribute and play with vertical complexity over a given timeline and even how to transition back into the Diatonic system if that is your goal.

Musical freedom gets more and more into the focus of our lessons from this point on. So, the question that comes up naturally is: "How do you stay organized when aiming for freedom?"

The definition of musical freedom does not equal randomness! It's the ability to make confident choices!

11th and 13th chords sound very jazzy by nature, but it also depends on the register where you use them in your arrangement. As always, the Overtone Series remains our trusted friend who shows us how to take control over 'the amount of Jazz' in our writing.

The contemporary 'Hollywood Orchestra' style consists of two significant elements, late Romantic writing and concepts of Big Band writing! Now it becomes obvious why we should make second-octave structures appear on our musical tool belt.

You will be surprised about how quickly you can get to outstanding musical results using Interval Theory on top of the Diatonic System.

Musical Example by co-founder Frank Herrlinger

  • Lesson 27: 11th Chords (3p), Resolution & their application
  • Lesson 28: 11th Chords (4p), Advanced Gathering
  • Lesson 29: 13th Chords (3p) and their Resolutions, Advanced methods for Sketching
  • Lesson 30: 13th Chords (4p) with Resolutions, 'Piano Jazz Style' Sketching, Working with the Horizontal Formula

Lesson 31 - 32: The World of Pentatonic incl. Extended Roots & Pentatonic Chord Structures

Everybody loves Pentatonic!

The pentatonic scales (major and minor) connect seamlessly to most of our 7-tone scales that appear in the Western culture. That makes them very strong and also easy to use.

Guitar players love the major and minor pentatonic because it's easy to play, and you hardly can play any wrong note when soloing over a chord progression. But from a composition-point of view, they are even stronger and more versatile.

We will go into concepts of Harmonization, pentatonic chord structures, and their intervallic meaning. These elements alone will show you that actually, the world of Pentatonic is much bigger and way more colorful than most composers imagine.

It's time to take full advantage of all the musical opportunities that the Diatonic System offers - with a healthy dose of interval fairy dust on top!

Musical Example by graduate Marc Bercovitz

  • Lesson 31: Pentatonic Scales, Extended Roots, Line Writing with Penta Scales
  • Lesson 32: Pentatonic Chord Structures and their Application

Lesson 33 - 34: The Matrices of Intervals (3p) - How to Compose with Intervals and the Harmonic Series (or Overtone Series)

Up to this point, we've focused on how to enhance the Diatonic thinking. Most composers go through this education first, and therefore, we provided many overlaps that let them transition into Interval thinking.

With this segment of the composition course, we introduce the 'Matrices of Intervals' (3 part) and explain how to use them in our writing.

As you will find out, those matrices not only show lines on top but also connect to Diatonic chord structures, in case we want to refer back. It's almost like increasing the resolution of musical options, and this gives us a much clearer picture of what is possible.

We also dive very deeply into the nature of the Overtone Series as it becomes an even stronger point of reference when we remove any connection to the Diatonic System.

This all builds musical confidence and will let you make decisions quicker and more efficiently.

Musical Example by co-founder Thomas Chase Jones

  • Lesson 33: Matrix of Intervals I (M0 and M1), Interval writing and how to connect it to the Diatonic System
  • Lesson 34: Matrix of Intervals II (M2 to M6), Application and how to use the Matrices

Lesson 35 - 40: The Nature of the Intervals (TNO-Series) - Part I

'TNO' stands for "the nature of ..." and describes our Academy's approach to explain the natural behavior of isolated intervals and also the combination of intervals (ICs).

Most composers who got to the TNO series say that this is the "meat and potatoes" of the whole course. Every lesson in the TNO-series comes with a storyline that we want to follow musically as an assignment. That preparation is as close as possible to the real-world scenario, but still, the composer is in a safe environment.

The most efficient way to apply advanced interval theory to your writing is to use the concepts presented. You'll recognize lots of familiar sounds from classical works inside our musical demonstrations, but you won't find any better-structured or more natural way to access them anywhere else. It's like unlocking these gems one after another using interval theory.

And on top of that, the 3-step-process of 'Gathering,' 'Sketching,' and 'Developing' will help you focus on the critical key elements that move the needle forward so that you don't get stuck. This journey is about you turning into a creative musical monster!

Musical Example by graduate Marc Bercovitz

  • Lesson 35: TNO “1” – Part I, from Scales to Polytonality
  • Lesson 36: TNO “1”, – Part II, how to compose with “1”
  • Lesson 37: TNO “1+1”, TCB and how to use “1+1”
  • Lesson 38: TNO “2”, Cadences, Resolutions and Motors
  • Lesson 39: TNO “2+1” & “1+2”, Melodic Use and Polytonality
  • Lesson 40: TNO “2+2”, Resolutions and 3-note-themes

Lesson 41 - 42: The System of Bitonality & Polytonality including the Application

Let's step into the mysterious world of Polytonality.

For sure, there's a little bit of a mystery around that topic, as most literature about basic music theory doesn't touch that subject. But the sound appears exotic sometimes, even if the vertical structures remain simple all the time.

Our Academy sheds some light on Polytonality. In fact, we've created a System of Polytonality that breaks down all the components into smaller elements so that it becomes easier to apply.

This might hit you with surprise, but we dive into the world of Bitonality already in the first section of the composition course. Scale combinations are a very smooth entry point into bitonal writing from a melodic point of view.

Lesson 41 and 42 cover the harmonic aspect of Polytonality and give lots of inspiration for the orchestration as well.

Musical Example by co-founder Frank Herrlinger

  • Lesson 41: Polytonality I – Major and Minor
  • Lesson 42: Polytonality II – Bitonality

Lesson 43 - 54: The Nature of the Intervals (TNO-Series) - Part II

This block about the TNO-series is by far the most extensive content in the whole composition course.

That's the moment when intervals become our base of thinking for emotional decision-making. You will learn how to mimic Diatonic cadences or chord progressions but using interval relations that bring in a more sophisticated flavor at the same time.

Your musical vocabulary will become very substantial, hence, allowing yourself to speak music more fluently and express yourself freely. Once you understand what the nature of an interval is, you can use the tendency to your advantage to set up expectations for the audience or control the amount of complexity.

Again, every lesson provides a storyline that we are supposed to follow musically in the assignment. A big part of that assignment is also to gain knowledge and experience as an orchestrator. We will get more and more familiar with how the different functions in the orchestration work together and how to control them properly.

In this stage, you will have reached a tremendous amount of musical freedom already. You will be able to connect to many different musical places seamlessly, such as the System of Polytonality, the World of Pentatonic, plain Triads, and even pure line writing.

As a result of all that, you'll recognize that you now can write faster, more elegantly, more efficiently, and also to a given storyline without confusing emotions. These are crucial requirements for a working composer in the industry!

Musical Example by co-founder Thomas Chase Jones

  • Lesson 43: TNO “3” – The Connector Interval
  • Lesson 44: TNO “3+1” & “1+3” – Faux Scales & Pivot Points
  • Lesson 45: TNO “3+2” & “2+3” – Diatonic & Polytonal Use
  • Lesson 46: TNO “3+3” – Connector, Bitonalty & Matrix Roots
  • Lesson 47: TNO “4” – Portal Interval, Transitions & Pulses
  • Lesson 48: TNO “4+1” & “1+4” – Organized Dissonance
  • Lesson 49: TNO “4+2” & “2+4” – Polytonality & Pentatonic
  • Lesson 50: TNO “4+3” & “3+4” – Stacking/Hacking
  • Lesson 51: TNO “4+4” – Polytonality, The Classic Crab, Motors
  • Lesson 52: TNO “5” – Primary Roots & its Sub-Roots
  • Lesson 53: TNO "5+1" & "1+5" Stable vs. Unstable
  • Lesson 54: TNO "5+2" & "2+5"   From Pentatonic to Polytonality

Lesson 55: The Nature of String Theory including the Application

You probably still remember that we started our musical journey with line writing based on scales and roots.

In this lesson, we want to revisit line-writing, but with an interval-point of view. Lines or fragments of lines can work as strings. Strings are only related to themselves and can connect horizontal and vertical thinking, harmony and melody, or the Diatonic system and Interval Theory in general.

Strings can provide an infinite amount of ideas and, therefore, connect strongly to the 'creative pool' as the materials demonstrate.

String Theory is one of the final puzzle pieces that we need to be aware of to understand the complete picture of music theory!

Musical Example by CIT Dan Selsick

  • Lesson 55: TNO "String Theory" – The Application

Lesson 56: The Creative Pool (CP) and the Big Picture of Music Theory

Your musical adventure has come to an end as you've reached the last lesson in the Composition Course!

Congratulations! Now, you have everything in place to express your musical thoughts and wishes freely!

This lesson is about giving you the complete road map that can lead you to any musical place you can imagine. It's the coordination of your newly-gained knowledge about Interval Theory and how it connects to conventional theory.

It's also a reminder of the tools and techniques that boost your creativity and move your writing forward.

The whole course is about YOU!

It's designed to help you find your musical voice and transform you into the best version of yourself possible!

  • Lesson 56: The Creative Pool & The Big Picture of Music Theory

Not sure if the Composition Course is right for you?

Let us help you make a decision ...

This Course is for you!

  • You can read music (treble and bass clef) and black dots on the white paper look familiar to you.  
  • You have a solid understanding of traditional music theory and the Diatonic system.
  • You are curious about learning something new, and you can devote a few hours each week to your studies.
  • You have a fast and stable internet connection.
  • You appreciate the presence of like-minded creative people, and you want to enjoy your musical life to the fullest.

This Course is NOT for you!

  • You don't read music and you don't know what the difference is between the treble clef and the bass clef.
  • Although you are interested in the Course, you are entirely new to the world of music theory.
  • You don't want to invest in yourself and believe that the latest shiny objects (new sample libraries, gear, etc.) are more important than the ability to compose great music with whatever you have already.
  • You are looking for 'that one secret course' that does not require any work from you but still give you all the marvelous results.

If you have any further questions, please get in touch with us.

Get access to the  Composition Course

The Composition Course is part of the Access Pass!

On top of the ever-growing content directly available inside the Academy (currently over 90 hours of instructional materials), members can unlock a new lesson from the Composition Course every month via the Coins System

Based on our experience, most members take one lesson every 4-6 weeks (so, it's all covered in your Access Pass). Still, some prefer to move quicker, and the Coins System also allows for rapid access to all the Composition Course materials.

Please sign up, get your Access Pass right away, and start your musical adventure today!