A few days ago, I had my first meeting with my mentor, Jacky. Although the meeting wasn’t that long, we discussed many things, and I got a lot of information out of our discussion. We didn’t really talk about how to compose music with technology, but we focused more about the elements of music and harmony and what makes music sound interesting.

The main thing we talked in our brief meeting was contrapuntal movement. This refers to the movement of melody lines. Here are some of the different kind of movements that we talked about:

As you can see, similar motion refers to two lines going in the same direction, and contrary is the opposite. Oblique is really similar to “similar motion”, but one of the notes is held the same throughout. We discussed which kind of movement was best, and we both agreed that contrary motion tends to sound the most interesting. Having said that, it’s important to incorporate all of these movements when writing a song.

You can see that with a C minor chord, the bass line would be mostly made up of the notes C and E flat, which are two of the three notes in a C minor triad.

The next thing we talked about was the bass line. Although bass lines aren’t as important in classical music, the bass part in general is really important. One thing that Jacky said is that the bass part is meant to shape the harmony, and sort of control how the harmony should be. For example, if I’m using an E flat chord, which is comprised of the notes E flat, G, and B flat, then my bass line should mostly use the notes E flat, G and B flat. This way, the melody can do whatever it likes over the bass line, and it will still sound like it is an E flat major.

He also showed me some ways to ‘spice up’ a bass line. One of them was to add descending and ascending motion. So, if I want my bass note to be E flat (using the previous example), then one thing I could do in the bar BEFORE would be to start from perhaps a B flat and descend onto an E flat at the appropriate time. It might sound a little bit confusing, but you’ll be able to hear examples of this in the song below.

 To answer some of the questions…
  • 1. What went particularly well during your mentoring sessions?

    I think that we were communicating very effectively during our meeting. We were focused on what the other was saying, and the overall vibe of the conversation was very positive. We both provided a lot of valuable insight, and the conversation wasn’t one-sided like some of the conversations I had with my mentor were last year. I think it’s because I already know quite a bit about music, and so I had more ideas to share. Additionally, I also learned and reviewed a lot of information despite the meeting being short.
  • 5. What three strategies could improve the quality of your mentoring interactions?

    In order to improve the quality of my mentoring interactions, I should come to the interactions prepared with questions. This way, even if my mentor doesn’t have much to offer, I can ask my prepared questions in order to draw more information. Another strategy I should use is to prepare a song that Jacky can listen to, so that I can ask him for feedback. Finally, I should come to the meetings with some topics that I want to discuss, or things that I want to learn.

  • 6. What is the action plan for implementing each of the three strategies?

     All of my strategies involve coming to the meetings prepared. The most logical strategy would be to reserve time before each meeting to think about questions and topics that I want to learn. I also need to make sure I’m working on my songs on a regular basis so I can give them to Jacky for feedback.

In terms of my progress, things have been going pretty well. I’ve really started to get the hang of Noteflight, the free music score software I’m using. The first couple times I used it, I found it really time-consuming and I plotted every note of every instrument one at a time. Now, I’ve discovered a lot of keyboard shortcuts and the beautiful copy and paste functions. However, it definitely still does take a lot of time to make even a 30 second original piece of work. Nonetheless, I managed to make my first composition, which you can listen to below.


 


This song is really simple, as it only uses three chords. It’s in E flat major, so the three chords it uses are E flat, A flat, and B flat major triad. If you take a look at the graph below, you can see that these are the I, IV and V chords of the scale. I, IV, V are the most common chords to use in any key. For my next song, I’m planning to use many different chords in a way that’s not so common, because one of my goals for the project was to create music that is relatively unique.

Possible chords to use in a song that’s in E flat major.

The instruments used in this one are oboe, electric bass, drums and piano. This is a really strange combination of instruments to use, and so the sounds may not have blended as well as I would have liked them to. The next time I meet my mentor, I’m hoping to ask about what instruments work best together. I’m also hoping to learn about percussion parts, as the drum beat used in this song was really simple. I might even ask somebody that plays the drum themselves about how to create cooler and more interesting patterns.

One thing that I do like about the song is the bass line. Without Jacky’s advice, the bass line would be rather bland. I added ascending and descending scale movement in the bass to make it more interesting, especially at the end of the song. This is also a technique I hear a lot in some of my favorite songs, so it’s really cool how I was able to sort of replicate this effect.

I’m looking forward to making my next song, as I had a really good time composing and thinking of how to make this one. Hopefully, I can manage to finish it by the next blog post. Anyways, thank you for taking the time to read an update on my progress!