SHIELDS – “I Already Know”

SHIELDS's tune "I Already Know" is a catchy, rhythm-heavy tune that doesn't go completely into the mainstream, instead refreshingly vying for control over the edges of what are indie and alternative musics.


“A Complaint” – Young Composer Score Call

Composer 1's work "A Complaint" is based on William Wordsworth's poem of the same title.  Please view the score here and listen to it below. This work has an apt sense of gesture, time, and structure.  The opening gestures of the work return to us at the end, in a "bookending" format.  However, the opening …

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Gísli Magnússon – Svartifoss

It seems more and more that Iceland is becoming a haven for new music and new sounds in Hartford, CT.  From the influence of Bjork to the Hartt School's international collaborations, the music of Iceland is seeping deeper into the Hartford area.  Gísli Magnússon's piece Svartifoss depicts a waterfall in his native Iceland, and is …

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Aaron Mencher -“Uncertainly Yours”

Composer Aaron Mencher's work "Uncertainly Yours" is a very cohesive work that relies on intervallic tightness, but is extremely fluid and athematic.  Please download his score to follow along with this analysis. Here is the audio: The piece begins with the unifying interval that holds this piece tightly together, despite its arhythmicism and themelessness.  The …

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Sight Reading Exercises for Guitarists – Book

Book available for purchase here Sight Reading Exercises for Guitarists The goal of this book is to provide a large volume of exercises that guitar teachers can use to help students gain facility with reading music. This book is not intended to teach sight reading. It is only meant to make a guitar teacher's job …

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Proportional Notation (Tool #59)

One trap that is easy to fall into as a composer is the rigidity of rhythm, meter, and barlines.  While these are good tools to use when constructing a piece, sometimes a true sense of line requires that you write music that is free from strict rhythm, meter, and barlines.  This allows your music to …

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Metric Modulation Calculator – Update!

Hi All, Thanks to the handiwork of Enrico Dell'Aquila (who can be found here:, my metric modulation calculator can be found here: No more need to use a spreadsheet or download anything, and we have graphical output and an easy-to-use interface. Enjoy! Dan

Tool #47: Writing Tuplets Idiomatically (“Correctly”)

Modern music seems to have engineered an explosion in rhythmic notation, in particular the use of tuplets.  Performers are increasingly used to things such as 11 notes in the space of 8, dotted rhythms in tuplets, and nested tuplets (tuplets-within-tuplets), for a few examples.  Yet, is there a way to notate tuplets accurately and idiomatically, …

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Tool #44: Beaming Complex Rhythms

Anyone who has worked with live performers knows that notational accuracy and clarity are incredibly important.  If your notation is unclear, or even not crystal clear (even when indicating indeterminate elements of a composition), valuable rehearsal time is lost and performer morale is lowered.  If you don't take the time to notate specifically and clearly, …

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Tool #31: Expanding Your Rhythmic Arsenal

Expanding your rhythmic arsenal never hurts.  Whether you need a freer-sounding piece, a busier passage, a thematic variation, or a unique and catchy rhythm, here are some techniques to increase the rhythmic variety you're using and make your rhythms more interesting. Tie over the barline.  If you have a passage contained within three measures, consider …

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Tool #24: Asymmetric and Mixed Meters

Now I'd like to talk about two (really one in my use of them) of my favorite compositional devices: asymmetric and mixed meters.  The goals I use them for are throwing rhythms off, motivic development, and playing around with perception of beats and time. My main use of them: Asymmetric and mixed meters can be …

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Tool #17: Augmentation and Diminution

Here's another post on (one of) my obsessions: motivic development.  So far I've talked about octave displacement and additive processes in this motivic development vein, so I'd like to add another tool to the list of ways to develop motivically: Augmentation/Diminution. This is a pretty simple technique.  It assumes that there is melodic or harmonic …

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Tool #13: Metric (Tempo) Modulation

Update: click to get to this post for a metric modulation calculator! Second update: check here for the new, easier-to-use calculator! Alright, let's tackle a rather hands-on technical tool.  Metric modulation (or more accurately, tempo modulation) is the shifting of the beat from one rhythmic value to another.  For example, simple metric modulations might change …

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