THE MUSIC INTERVAL THEORY ACADEMY
Music Composition Course
How Do You Learn Music Composition?
In short, take a deeper look at the following areas:
Music Composition Course - Course Curriculum
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 - for a good reason. Melodies are the most fundamental elements in music we can relate to as humans because we can quickly produce musical ideas with our voices. Just think of Classical works, and most likely, you'll remember the ones you can sing.
Singing has been around long before music theory became essential. In the course, we focus heavily on horizontal writing, as this is one of the most critical elements in musical storytelling.
The first six lessons teach how to find strong melodies and use them respectfully in the context of other lines (two parts, three parts, and even four parts), but in a contemporary way; there's no need to write like Mozart or Bach.
As we'll discover, lines can weave into harmony and use voice-leading. That's a quick transition to chords or vertical structures in general. We'll introduce various composition assignments to help you apply the techniques to your style.
Musical Example by CIT (composer in training) Norbert Mészáros
Lesson 7 - 15: Chord Complexity, the Matrix of Triads and an Introduction to ICs
Next, we'll have a detailed look at chord structures and the vertical complexity.
One goal of the course is to combine horizontal writing with chords, as this will prevent you from running into blocky and over-used progressions.
Interval Theory is designed to enhance the Diatonic System, and we will discuss subjects like the "Horizontal Formula (HF)" or the "Matrix of Triads", which helps us apply voice-leading from an interval point of view. These concepts work brilliantly in film scoring and also in video games.
Interval Theory focuses on the intervals and helps you see beyond pure chord tones.
Musical Example by CIT Hélène Philippe-Gérard
Lesson 16 - 18: Bass Movement including Coordination of Horizontal and Vertical Movement
It's time to focus on the bass!
In this section, we'll take a close look at good line writing in the lower register. Often, (relatively inexperienced) composers write the root or scale tone five in the bass, but music history shows that walking bass lines have been around since 1600.
A walking bass works equally well in jazz performances and popular music, but there are other solutions available how we can use the lower register. Some of these concepts go back to the first section of the course, namely line writing. This is also a good moment to focus on the harmonic series as the upper structure's complexity follows the fundamental's overtones.
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 19 - 23: 6/4 and their Intervallic Application with Scale Pairs, Reflection and Pulsation
Next, we want to expand on our palette of musical tools by combining some of the concepts.
We'll revisit 6/4 structures (which are part of triads), how to use them in major and minor keys, and apply various techniques to them. This even connects to some trendy subjects such as Negative Harmony (via scale reflection).
While our musical ideas and concepts stay simple, we'll bring more (controlled) complexity into the compositions: second-octave chord structures (9ths, 11ths, 13ths), functions like ostinatos, pedals, or motors, and also the orchestration.
The course covers musical storytelling, and you'll learn to guide your audience's attention through the plot very elegantly.
Musical Example by CIT Gareth Prosser
Lesson 24 - 26: Expansion & Contraction using Scale Tones, Intervals and Equivalents
Expansion and Contraction is a vast subject in music theory, and their application is of great value to the composer. It's also found very often in film scores or video game soundtracks.
Surprisingly, this topic doesn't show up in conventional music theory literature.
This part of the course is an elegant entry into Chromatic harmony and contributes significantly to modulations of tonal centers.
It also explains substantial portions of major works from past composers, such as Sergei Prokofiev and Claude Debussy (among many others). They used quite a bit of chromaticism in their writing. In simple terms, the composer should be able to express himself freely.
By implementing Interval Theory into your process, you get access to many new colors that will help you write more original and honest music.
Musical Example by CIT Miles Ito
Lesson 27 - 30: Intervallic Application & the Emotional Use of 2nd-octave Chord Structures
Chord structures follow similar vertical shapes.
That knowledge brings us directly into the application and how to use those structures for compelling musical storytelling. The course covers composing to a given timeline or storyboard and playing with vertical complexity over time.
It's the musical freedom that gets more into focus now. So, the question that comes up naturally is: "How do you stay organized when aiming for freedom?"
The definition of musical freedom doesn't equal randomness! It's the ability to make confident choices! You can still follow musical form and use Interval Theory as your thinking base.
One musical style often seen in film music or video games scores is the typical "Hollywood sound". It actually consists of two significant elements, late Romantic writing, and concepts of Big Band writing, and both use second-octave chords.
Next to the theoretical knowledge, you'll also develop major skills in making emotional decisions.
Musical Example by co-founder Frank Herrlinger
Lesson 31 - 32: The World of Pentatonic incl. Extended Roots & Pentatonic Chord Structures
The pentatonic scales (major and minor) connect seamlessly to most of our 7-tone scales, like the Church modes (Ionian, Dorian, Phrygian, Lydian, and so on).
Guitar players love pentatonic scales because they are easy to play, and you can hardly mess it up when soloing.
We'll go into concepts of harmonization, pentatonic chords, and their intervallic meaning. These elements alone will show you that the Pentatonic world is much bigger and way more colorful than most composers imagine.
Musical Example by graduate Marc Bercovitz
Lesson 33 - 34: The Matrices of Intervals (3p) - How to Compose with Intervals and the Harmonic Series (or Overtone Series)
This course segment features the 'Matrices of Intervals' (3 parts) and explains how to use them efficiently.
We dive deeper into the nature of the Harmonic Series as it becomes an even stronger point of reference when we step into pure intervallic thinking.
Musical Example by co-founder Thomas Chase Jones
Lesson 35 - 40: The Nature of the Intervals (TNO-Series) - Part I
'TNO' stands for "the nature of ..." and explains the natural behavior of isolated intervals and when they appear in bigger structures, like interval combinations (ICs).
Most composers describe this section as the "meat and potatoes" of the whole course. Every lesson in the TNO-series comes with a storyline that we want to follow musically in the assignment. That's perfect training for real-world scenarios, but you'll still be in a safe environment.
The best way to master advanced interval theory is by applying it to your compositions. You'll recognize that there are no correct solutions but only decisions based on your unique taste!
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 you don't get stuck. This journey is about you turning into a creative musical monster!
Musical Example by graduate Marc Bercovitz
Lesson 41 - 42: The System of Bitonality & Polytonality including the Application
Let's step into the mysterious world of Polytonality.
There's a bit of a mystery around that topic, as most literature about basic music theory doesn't cover that subject. Yet, the sound can appear exotic and exciting.
We want to shed some light on Polytonality. In fact, we teach a whole System of Polytonality that breaks down all its components so that you get easy access to it.
Musical Example by co-founder Frank Herrlinger
Lesson 43 - 54: The Nature of the Intervals (TNO-Series) - Part II
This block about the TNO series is the most extensive content in the course.
That's the moment when intervals become your second nature. You'll learn how to mimic Diatonic cadences or chord progressions but using interval relations that bring a more sophisticated flavor to the table.
Your musical vocabulary will become substantial and profound, allowing you to speak music more fluently and express yourself freely. Once you understand the nature of an interval, you can use its tendencies to your advantage. You might want to set up expectations for the audience, control the amount of complexity, or simply play with energy.
One aspect of each assignment is also to gain experience as an orchestrator. We will get more familiar with how the different functions in the orchestration work together and how to control them properly.
As a result, you'll recognize that you can now write faster, more elegantly, and more efficiently. These are crucial requirements for a working composer in the industry!
Musical Example by co-founder Thomas Chase Jones
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 revisit line-writing 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.
Strings can provide an infinite amount of ideas and will boost your creativity as an artist. String Theory is one of the final puzzle pieces we need to be aware of to understand the complete picture of music theory!
Musical Example by CIT Dan Selsick
Lesson 56: The Creative Pool (CP) and the Big Picture of Music Theory
This last lesson is about giving you the complete road map that can lead you to any musical place you can imagine. It coordinates your newly-gained knowledge about Interval Theory and how it connects to conventional theory.
It also reminds you 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 unique musical voice and transform you into the best version of yourself possible!
Not sure if the Music Composition Course is right for you?
We help you make a decision ...
This Course is for you!
This Course is NOT for you!
Get access to the Music Composition Course
Simply join the Academy.
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.
Join today and immediately start your musical adventure!
Studying Music Composition Online
- Case Study and Actual Results
So, you are interested in studying music composition and want to do it at your pace and on your terms. We know that there are many music programs available online, and at first view, it's hard to decide what music school fits your needs best.
With this article, we try to help you with good information and a detailed look at the materials we teach at the Academy. That's the best way for you to find your perfect course for music composition online.
We want you to meet Daniel Poissant. He's a great composer from Montreal and a current student of the Academy. He was so kind as to document his musical journey at the Music Interval Theory Academy for you.
We'll look (virtually) over his shoulder as he takes us through the musical pieces that he wrote as part of the Composition Course and other music composition classes. As you'll see in the videos below, Daniel follows a clear methodology in which he starts with some initial musical ideas, writes a piano sketch, and then develops it into a sophisticated orchestral piece. That is what you'll learn when studying music composition online at MITA.
Daniel does a wonderful job of giving great reviews of the lesson's materials and showing his music examples (in audio format and also music notation ). So, let's jump right into lesson 1.
Strong Lines - Results from Lesson 1
Strong melodies are essential in music. If somebody asked you to write like Mozart, I bet the first thing that would come to your mind is a melody. But that's only one piece of the puzzle, and we need to think more globally. One of the most important elements in music is repetition (or form, for a better term). Without repetition, we would never identify any chorus or a musical theme. And that's why we introduce patterns or "building blocks" early on. Those patterns describe the use of chords and give shape to your patterns.
I briefly want to highlight one particular part of lesson 1, and that is the "Matrix of Modes". This matrix coordinates the scales emotionally and helps make good decisions about what scale to pick to evoke specific emotions or moods.
You most likely never woke up and said, "Today is a great day to compose with the Lydian and Locrian scale", right? It's hard and complicated to make logical decisions about what scale to pick. Let's keep things easy and simple to use instead. All the scales are connected and offer many different gradations of emotions that you can use in your compositions. That's what the "Matrix of Modes" is all about.
In conclusion, here's a short list of the takeaways Daniel took from lesson 1:
Smart Counterpoint - Results from Lesson 2
If you've studied classical music (just a bit, at least), then you're most likely familiar with the concepts of counterpoint. Moreover, you know that these things can get complicated rather quickly.
As Daniel points out in the video, it can actually be simple, and he talks us through the process.
Although counterpoint might be associated with "old-fashioned music", it's one of the major skills that every composer should have in his toolbox. And it's used in literally every movie, video game, or any other media production.
Melodies are timeless and let your audience connect with the music you create. In its simplest form: Whatever you wrote as your first melody, do something different in your second one.
Now, there are some tips and guidelines that will help you with your decision-making, and we go into those in the materials.
Again, here's a summary of Daniel's takeaways:
Advanced Line Writing - Results from Lesson 3
In this lesson, we introduce even more line movement techniques to help your melodies become smoother and more connected. Let's have a close look at some of those techniques, such as Diatonic passing tones, leading tones, or chromatic alterations.
Do you know what's interesting? Only a few composers really feel comfortable with line writing. Even if they've studied at music school or have taken online classes! Most composers never get to write four independent lines against each other.
And you might ask: What's the point of doing that? In short, that's the blueprint for getting out of those blocky and generic chord progressions that so many composers want to break free from.
If you've never tried it, we encourage you to spend only 10 minutes today and try it!
Daniel's takeaways from lesson 3:
Changing Scales - Results from Lesson 4
Part of this lesson is switching through the modes and picking various scale-tone combinations for position change. That's one of the proven techniques that lead to interesting musical results quickly (as Daniel demonstrates in the video and shows in his audio recording).
If you feel like you're not in control of the emotion at all times, pay attention to the scales you pick. That's simple advice but one of the most practical things you'll ever do.
We haven't seen 'changing scales' being taught as part of the fundamentals of musical composition (although it's easy to apply and so powerful in musical storytelling), but if you want to write commercial music, then this is a technique that you'll value a lot from early on.
Great takeaways to focus on:
Combining Scales - Results from Lesson 5
Many of the techniques we discuss in this lesson find great use in media like Television, films, or video games.
This lesson covers mode combinations and how to create interesting musical building blocks that we can expand on in the later composition.
Thanks to Daniel's explanation, you will follow along easily but imagine you only listened to the final piece with no explanation at all.
Take a minute and listen to the piece at 7:21 min. in the video. The fundamentals of music theory won't explain properly how to get to such a sophisticated result.
Valuable takeaways to remember:
Crossing of Parts & Triads - Results from Lessons 6 & 7
The crossing of parts can help you move from chords to line writing and vice versa. Since we talk to many composers at the Academy, one of their most common problems is how to get out of those blocky chord progressions that sound like a beginner piano player has orchestrated the sketch.
But don't be afraid, you don't have to turn into an expert pianist to write great compositions or arrangements. One of the fundamentals of musical composition is writing in a key (like in D major). While this works wonderfully for songs, it's not always good advice in scoring films or even animation.
Please listen to the materials that Daniel created based on lesson 6 and how he turned that into such a fluent piece of music. He calls it "Jean Maladroit", and this track could even work as a main title for an animated show or a video game.
If you go through MITA's music composition courses online, you'll get access to all the tools and techniques that we've successfully used in film and television over the last four decades (and still counting).
Daniel's takeaways from lessons 6 & 7:
The Matrix of Triads - Results from Lesson 8 & 9
This section of the course covers triads and how to use them with interval theory. Next to melodies, major and minor triads are one of your most trusted companions as a composer. And the way how the Matrix of Triads organizes those vertical structures is one of the most practical and proven composition techniques, especially for musical storytelling (films and video games).
TC and Frank (the co-founders of MITA) have literally written hours of music for animation and other media projects based on these techniques, and in the video, Daniel shares his own musical results.
One of the main features to point out is that the Matrix of Triads is a fantastic tool to analyze, understand, and emulate a very big portion of Western music, including Tonal Centers and Cadences. But you can even take it one step further and use it to write bitonal music or create other complex structures while keeping it simple in your thought process.
Here are some of Daniel's takeaways from these lessons:
Chord Complexity - Results from Lesson 10
Now that we know how triads work on major keys and minor keys, let's put them into a more complex setting and transition into 7th chords. As Daniel points out in the video, you want to put all the puzzle pieces together and make them part of your personal toolbox for composition.
At this stage, we combine our line writing knowledge with harmony and chords, and you may ask: "How is this different from the conventional way of doing it?" - It's all in the flow of music and how to control your emotional storytelling using intervals!
You'll see that we constantly build upon the knowledge that we've acquired from previous lessons. That's the only proven way to develop solid writing skills that will lead to continuous and repeatable success.
If you struggled to bring out your musical ideas for a long time, you might want to look at the free online courses and classes that we've released to help you make the next step.
Here's Daniel's feedback and his takeaways:
Minor Natural 7ths - Results from Lesson 11
Let's go deeper into the various 7th-chords. They are great for musical storytelling, as you'll see and hear in the video. If you've been following the MITA content just a bit, then you know that our music school focuses on practicality. And it does not have to be complicated!
Actually, most of our piano sketches look very simple, as they are supposed to guide you through the piece. If you want to write commercial music, it's crucial to stay in control of the emotion of what you write.
Daniel manages beautifully to use minor natural 7ths and combine them with line writing techniques, the RCs, and other elements that the composition course covers. You can really feel the haunting mood (coming from the minor natural 7ths) in his compositions for this lesson.
In many video games with a dark and eerie atmosphere, this type of writing is what you want to do as the composer.
Here's a short list of the important takeaways:
Dominant 7ths - Results from Lesson 12
If you still struggle with writer's block, then our advice is to pick just one composition technique and use that throughout your whole piece. That's what we do with every lesson, and some of our Academy members refer to that as the "tool of the day".
They say it's the easy-to-follow formulas and clear methodology which make it one of the best online music composition courses available today.
Daniel uses two techniques in combination with Dominant 7ths, and that is, chromatic movement and harmonization. If you want to go deeper into harmonization, please have a look at "Harmonizing the Line - Best Practices", but don't forget to come back to this content piece, as we still have lots of things to share with you! :D
Remember and apply those takeaways when dealing with Dominant 7ths:
The Matrix of Triads with "3+3" - Results from Lesson 13
With the techniques explained in this lesson, you can instantly mimic big portions of classical music. And if you listen to Daniel's works for lesson 13, you'll understand what that means. Many of the clichées we hear in classical pieces follow movements that we can describe with intervallic patterns.
And if you know the Diatonic meaning of those, you can switch seamlessly between conventional music theory and intervallic thinking.
We've already learned about the Matrix of Triads in lesson 9, and now, we want to enhance it with the "connector structure" 3+3.
Again, you'll be surprised how easily we can manipulate the emotion and musical flow with this technique.
Practical key points about this lesson to keep in mind:
7th Chords (4 parts) - Results from Lesson 14
This topic may seem that we can fly through it rather quickly, but let me tell you why it's important and part of the fundamentals of musical composition: 7th chords are complete with just 3 parts, so what do you do with the remaining voice?
If you've only worked with your digital audio workstation (DAW) so far, you most likely never thought about that question, but if you deal with real ensembles and musicians, then you know how important it is to keep the size of your section the same throughout the piece.
We show you more than one correct solution to this potential problem, and here's even another valuable hint: Even your midi orchestrations in your DAW will sound better if you know how to handle this.
Daniel's takeaways from this lesson:
6/4-Basics - Results from Lesson 15
6/4-movements is a fantastic tool in composition and connects seamlessly to triads and even cadences. You hear this type of writing a lot in hero movies are hero-driven video games. And while it looks very simple in music notation, the emotional impact is huge, so please put this technique into your musical toolbelt.
Next to the regular 6/4 movements, our music school also focuses on and explains the use of reverse 6/4 (see the video).
A side-effect of this lesson is that you become aware of the harmonic weight of the bass against the chord above. It's the harmonic series (or overtone series) that tells us how stable or unstable the whole vertical constellation becomes when combining different tones and playing them simultaneously.
One thing that should be acknowledged is how aware Daniel has become of the options available and his decision-making. In the video, he points out a few of those musical doors that he purposely left unopened for this particular piece.
Interesting points to remember:
Bass Movement I - Results from Lesson 16
The bass register is such a powerful area on the canvas of composition so that you want to use it effectively. Depending on the style and genre, you'll hear the root or scale tone five of the chord most often, but there are plenty of other cool things that we can do.
The Interval Theory Composition Course offers three full lessons on bass movement and shows exactly how to use the bass range most effectively.
There's even a fun assignment for you that demonstrates the power of the bass range: Take any commercial music and pay attention to the moments when the bass instruments enter and leave. In both cases, it'll grab your attention and most likely push the story forward. That's the power of the bass!
Changing some of your bass notes is a very effective method to make your piece sound more sophisticated.
Things that help you to master the bass range:
BONUS: Negative Harmony Applications
Our Academy members keep giving great reviews about the Negative Harmony materials based on Interval Theory. And while there are different approaches to Negative Harmony, Interval Theory seems to be an easy and very digestible way to put things into action quickly.
Our ebook provides one of the best introductions to this topic and presents all the information so that members get even more out of the application courses.
Daniel wrote three different piano pieces, all based on the same core concepts and gathering. If you listen to the examples in the video, you'll notice that all of them follow a completely different character.
Never forget that you can put any of these techniques in a sequence or use them on top of each other. So, you want to learn the actual techniques and also implement them so that you can evaluate if they bring you closer to your own musical voice.
Negative Harmony is a fascinating topic, and if you want to go deeper into it, we recommend you start with the following videos on our YouTube channel:
This is why the MITA music composition classes are so powerful: You get access to the proven and most practical composition techniques and put yourself into a supportive environment. We offer monthly live Zoom events like member meetings, co-working sessions (study groups), or master classes. Besides that, the internal MITA forum or the Virtual Campus is a great place to connect with other like-minded composers just like you and share your big and small musical wins.
Many thanks go to Daniel Poissant, who was so kind as to document his musical journey inside MITA. Hopefully, this gives you a transparent look at how your own musical life may change for the better and what is available to you.
We have put two full composer lifetimes (Thomas Chase Jones and Frank Herrlinger) into the creation of MITA, and the result is a unique and refreshing approach to composition based on the intervals.
If writing music is important to you, then we believe this is the best online music composition course available for you. Daniel did a fantastic job presenting his works and sharing a ton of inspiration.
And if you struggle with your own musical works, you've found the perfect spot now! Why don't you simply try a few of those techniques on your own and put them to the test? It's all in your hands. It's your name on the page, and you are the author!
And if you feel ready and confident to take the next step, join MITA today, and we're looking forward to welcoming you inside.