Music Composition Course

How Do You Learn Music Composition?

In short, take a deeper look at the following areas:

  • become familiar with music notation
  • find your unique taste by listening to various genres and styles
  • learn composition techniques and apply those to tell your musical stories
  • become a powerful musical storyteller
  • we support you on this journey in the best way we can

Course Features

  • Video lessons with downloadable PDFs and MP3s (for offline access).
  • Each lesson is between 1-2 hours of video and includes around 20-60 pages of materials.
  • Learn a unique methodology for writing music based on Interval Theory, and never have writer's block again.
  • Get student reviews and ask questions on the private Academy forum.
  • Get access to the co-founders, Academy composition teachers, and graduates.
  • It's the perfect course for learning at your own pace and anywhere.
  • Develop additional skills that complement your existing knowledge about composition.
  • Develop additional skills that complement your existing knowledge about composition.
  • Get access to the Orchestration Concepts Course and learn how to apply all concepts to the orchestra.
  • Get access to the monthly live members' meetings and ask questions to the active community.

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 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

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 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 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 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

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 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 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 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

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 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

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 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)

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 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 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 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.

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 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 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 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 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 55: TNO "String Theory" – The Application

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!

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

Not sure if the Music Composition Course is right for you?

We help you make a decision ...

This Course is for you!

  • You can read music (treble and bass clef).
  • You have a basic understanding of conventional music theory and the Diatonic System.
  • You are curious about learning something new, and you can devote 1-2 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.
  • Although you always wanted to compose, you are entirely new to the world of music theory.
  • You don't want to invest in yourself but focus on buying the next shiny object (like new sample libraries, gear, etc.).
  • You keep looking for 'that one secret shortcut' to becoming a master composer overnight with zero effort.

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

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!