Teaching my voice and piano students how to compose a song is a huge part of my curriculum. One of the easiest ways to get even the youngest students to write and then sightread their own music is a simple game. Many of the best piano curriculum books feature a few exercises in which you must write a few measures of melody, but this game extends it and makes it accessible either for voice students who don’t have those books or for piano students who may not be quite ready for the exercise of simply coming up with something.
When I was growing up, it was always the running joke that singers were the dumbest of the musicians when it comes to theory and composition. Writing for the guitar can be a very perplexing experience if you are a composer who does not play the instrument. The guitar is a transposing instrument which sounds an octave lower than notated.The guitar is always notated in treble clef.
Since you can play the same note on different string on the guitar the circle with the number is common for specifying the desired string.
Understanding the 5 main major and minor chord shapes on the guitar will really help make the piece feel like guitar music.
Just as on the piano to make any of these chords minor simply lower the 3rd of each chord a half step.
If the guitarist stays in the same hand position the second chords is not able to ring out.
So far I have been discussing everything from the point of view of writing concert or solo type works for the guitar.
An award-winning composer, accomplished musician and sonic storyteller, Douglas Gibson resides in New York City, where he composes and gives music composition lessons locally and online worldwide. For music composition lessons in New York City, or online worldwide, contact Douglas Gibson.
I often get asked what the point of the Bass Clef is because its existence just seems to make life harder for no good reason!!
Well, the reason we have the Bass Clef is simple – to make music easier to read by avoiding the use of too many ledger lines. However, Middle C in the Bass Clef goes on a ledger line above the stave so there are loads of notes we can write below Middle C without having to use any ledger lines.
If you can learn how to read Treble and Bass Clef then you will make a huge leap forward as a musician.


This can be extended across the keyboard as required for two, three or four octave scales.Here are the notes of one octave depicted on a piano keyboard diagram.
Here, Saint Augustine, FL teacher Heather L. shares her strategy for teaching the process and making it fun at the same time! It is multi-functional, in that it works to hone students’ sightsinging, musicianship, creativity, and theory knowledge in practice. First, on a sheet of staff paper, I draw a five-note scale in a tessitura where the singer’s comfortable. Eventually, of course, you will slowly grow to take charge of this game and be able to compose a song more freely and independently. Making it even more fun could mean writing some lyrics first and trying to write the melody to match. Enjoy live interaction and real-time performance with friendly teachers in a fun group setting. With the exception of solo harp, guitar seems to be one of the most confusing instruments to write for. Guitarist’s use 4 fingers to play with the index finger being 1, middle 2, ring finer 3, pinky 4. When plucked open (as in no fingers pressing down) the pitches from lowest to highest are E, A, D, G, B, E. Almost anything can be edited for the guitar, but a simple copy and paste of say a flute part won’t feel like a guitar part. In order for the guitarist to let the notes ring in the second chord they will need to shift positions.
It is perfectly acceptable to simply write the chord harmonies you want if you want the guitarist to decide on the voicing to be used. If we were to use a Treble Clef (remember, Middle C in the Treble Clef goes on a ledger line below the stave as shown below) then we would have to use loads of ledger lines – this would make the music really difficult to read.
And with most students out of school for the summer, it’s a great time to do something out-of-the-box, like composing! As that time comes along, I’ll begin to allow more freedom with only some constraints. But perhaps, that’s because they were never given the encouragement needed even to try.


She is a graduate of the prestigious Westminster Choir College in Princeton, New Jersey, and has performed with the New York and Royal Philharmonics, the New Jersey and Virginia Symphonies, the American Boy Choir, and the internationally renowned opera star, Andrea Bocelli. If composing at the piano and you want the notes to ring out, like the pedal would, as opposed to single line sound these voices will also be of great help. This is due to the due to the fact that some notes will be too far of a stretch, or not possible as the open string the major chord enjoyed is now not available after lowering. Not a problem at all, but it does need to be kept in mind what is composed after it and how much time for a position leap.
Guitarist, and certainly those of a professional calibre, will be well versed in harmony and should be easily able to sight read any harmony.
Look at the diagram above – this shows what is often referred to as the Grand Staff (the combination of Treble Clef and Bass Clef). I prefer the simplicity of C major for beginners, but I might use an entire scale for more advanced students. Often the chord symbols are indicated and also included are any type of rhythmic instruction. By learning Treble and Bass Clef you can see the huge range of notes that you will be able to read. For instance, for my six-year-old voice student, Ella, I drew a quarter note, then a half note, then a dotted half, then a whole note.
Depending on the student’s theory level, I sometimes write the number of beats beside each kind of note. Ensure the scale maintains a regular rhythm.AccentingSometimes scales are played with a slight accent on every fourth note. This works well for two and four octave scales.Music ScoreHere is the music score for one octave of the F Major scale, with the right hand starting on the F above Middle C and the left hand starting on the F below middle C.



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