HOSTS- Jeremy Burns, Matthew Scott Phillips


TYPE- Special Topics


DURATION- 1:06:47


BUMPER MUSIC- "The Sundails: Pereunt et Imputantur"

(Matthew Scott Phillips)

ANNOUNCER- Mike Cunliffe 


Composition is the art of simply creating music out of nowhere, from within, and organizing it into a finished piece. It can be an expression of what is going on with you emotionally. It can be an expression of something you've been inspired by, visually, sensually, socially, politically, or by other external sources. Either way, it all begins with you sitting down and taking the time to piece together a musical masterpiece. Let's talk about some of the processes involved, however simple or complex, with our own Matthew Scott Phillips!


-Think about what you're trying to say. That will very much determine your melodies and harmonies. It might also influence your choice of instruments.


-Take advantage of your resources, or the lack thereof!


-The composition challenges and possibilities are the same regardless of how many instruments are involved.


-Take advantage of your available technologies. If your have a smart phone, you can probably sing or play your ideas as they come to you. You can later revisit them and develop them.


-Are your sources of inspiration internal or external? It doesn't matter! But maybe try to recognize the difference.


-Try to explore emotions that transcend happy and sad. Think about deeper and more complex situations and emotions and how you would translate them into music.


The following tips were drawn from Bob Reynolds at:


1. Movement. I almost always get ideas while walking. (This is an old trick. Beethoven used to walk each morning before sitting down to write.)


2. Bass lines. Sometimes tunes start with a melodic bass line (lots of the Can’t Wait for Perfect material started that way).


3. Tiny melodies. A melodic motif or a combination of 2 chords often gets the ball rolling for me.


4. Balance. Much of composing for me is trying to balance the more-pop-than-jazz chord progressions I favor with the sophisticated “jazz” harmonic textures I know and love. Many times, for me, it’s not that I choose chords that are “out” or difficult, per se, but rather I find unique ways to combine and arrange more “common” chord types.


5. Be like Wayne. I like Wayne Shorter’s melodic approach to writing. There’s often a singable melody with sophisticated harmonic movement, but also a sense of keeping one thing the same while changing something else. (Static melody note hangs over two diatonically unrelated chords, etc.)


6. Listen to what you love. Never fails. I put on some music that moves me (genre agnostic) and the ideas start flowing.


7. Groove, beats and pocket. I like love grooves.


8. Rich harmonic movement. I like cool chord  progressions (cool being subjective to personal taste), but think Pat Metheny. I love chords moving tertially (in thirds, vs. traditional cycle fourth movement).

Try moving constant-structure chords (Berklee-speak for a chord that remains the same as it gets moved around. Ex.: Cmaj7 / Emaj7 / Dbmaj7) around in minor and major thirds.


9. Relationships. Tunes are often born from two chords, which, when played back and forth begin to reveal a melody, mood, or both to me. If I get goosebumps I know I’m on to something.


10. Steal. (See #6) Try to put the music that moves you into a pot and stir it into your own thing. Build from there.


11. Melody rules. This personal preference but I prefer melody to complexity. Very nearly every tune of mine can be sung, and those that can’t, like “Nine Lives”‘s bridge…well, you could sing that, too!


12. Think shapes. What’s the arc of this song? Where are you coming from and where do you want to go?


13. Begin with the end in mind. What mood does this song create? What’s the end of the song feel like? Work backwards.


14. Blend and borrow. Have a couple small ideas that haven’t amounted to fully fleshed out songs? What happens if you mix two (seemingly unrelated) ideas together. Anything?


14. Put the end at the beginning.


15. Put the beginning at the end.


16. Sing. If you can’t sing it, should you be writing it? (See #11)a