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Composing Music: A New Approach [Plastic Comb]

William Russo , Jeffrey Ainis , David Stevenson
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
Price: CDN$ 32.21 & FREE Shipping. Details
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Book Description

Feb. 15 1988
Aimed at those who have some knowledge of music but not formal training in composition, this concise introduction to composing starts right in with a brief composition exercise, then proceeds step by step through a series of increasingly complex and challenging problems, gradually expanding the student's musical grammar.

"This is a wonderful book for anyone who is developing improvising skills or who would like a fun way to explore music."—Jim Stockford, Co-Evolution Quarterly

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Customer Reviews

4.5 out of 5 stars
4.5 out of 5 stars
Most helpful customer reviews
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Tool Box for Composers Jan. 14 2007
Format:Plastic Comb
The application of the tools presented in this book are up to the composer. Just as one does not teach sunsets to a painter, the author has not taught composers how to feel. This is not a book about lyrics either. But it does give aspiring musicians an incredible palate of tools to build compositions with in a straight forward hands on manner.

I have not found anything better for contemporary music of any genre. This is a classic both now, and for the future. Russo teaches us to understand the musical building blocks of the art and craft of making modern music. He does so by isolating each building block and focusing on it with intensity and clarity to give us an insight into both our own creative process, and the constructive creations of others. From the opening minimalist 5/4 beginnings that seem impossible until you stumble upon the masterpiece that used it, to the involved and complex structures that follow, confidence and skill build through the well organized and thoughtful exercises. It is basic enough for anyone with music reading skills to grasp, yet complex enough to challenge seasoned professionals. You can go through this book 5 or 10 times and get something new every time.

In conclusion, if you have read this far, then buy it.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Clear, logical, complete. Jan. 13 2004
Format:Plastic Comb
The book's author is clearly influenced by minimalism not only in his approach to music, but also to writing and music instruction. His clearly modal approach to both melody and harmony is presented in superbly logical and fluff-free sequence of explanations and exercises. Some of advanced chapters on topics such as mating lyrics with music or writing picture music are brilliant as well.
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4 of 6 people found the following review helpful
By A Customer
Format:Plastic Comb
I see that most people have high ratings for this book, but I cannot give it more than 2 stars for several reasons. First of all, the book does give a ton of exercises, but I didn't find these very useful--most of them were very simple exercises that had restrictions on how you could write the piece. This book does give much information about music theory, and the author does allow you to use this theory to write small (usually 10-15 bar) monophonic melodies, but by the end of the book this was all that I had learned to do. Yes, I did learn a lot of theory but I did not learn how to use the theoretical concept to its fullest potential when I composed a piece. At the end of the book, I found that, since the book gave me no practice at writing for more than one instrument at a time, I was not any better of a composer than I was at the start of the book.
In my opinion, the author should add a CD to the book to illustrate how each concept he teaches is used to its fullest potential in a musical example. A major part of learning to compose is to listen and imitate--without listening, how are you supposed to know how to use this new music theory that you have just learned?
Overall, the book is just a music theory book with a bunch of useless (to me, anyway) compositional exercises. Perhaps this book is for people who already have experience composing for a while. Personally, I am an ameateur and have piano skills and I wanted a book to teach me to compose, but I am afraid it did not help me very much, and I don't think it will help other ameateurs either.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Inspirational Nov. 25 2002
Format:Plastic Comb
This is one of the best "How to" books I have ever read on any subject.
It works on several levels. Even though it takes a "beginners" approach to introducing many topics, it doesn't shy away from "real" music. For example, even the first simple exercise contains something different - 5/4 time. A beginner will simultaneously learn the basics of chord progressions and melody writing, stripped down to the bare essentials, while delving into modern techniques like 12-tone rows and picture music.
The key to the book is the concept of restricting the musical palette by some simple rules, to prevent the budding composer being overwhelmed by the possibilities. Right from the first page, you are working on real composition examples.
Even though the book is not particularly aimed at computer music or sequencing, electronic music enthusiasts should find it useful. A lot of the minimalist techniques are ideal for sequencing. Plus, if your musical background is pretty basic, and you are looking to broaden it with a mix of traditional and contemporary techniques, this book should take you a long way.
By its very nature, a book like this can only touch on some areas. So you will probably want to supplement it with some other material if, for example, you want a bit more detail on counterpoint. Still, it manages to cover a huge amount of ground, with the most detail where it counts most - developing and harmonising melodies, and a very good section on writing music to lyrics (ie songwriting).
One last point - a lot of theory and composition books miss the mark with contemporary musicians because they approach the subject from the purely "classical" angle of cadence and resolution. This book is soundly classical in its approach to harmonisation and melodic development, but uses the comfortable pop/jazz approach to chord progressions, so it shouldn't lose any reader.
Highly recommended!
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5.0 out of 5 stars Composing Music July 3 2011
Format:Plastic Comb|Verified Purchase
It's just what I was looking for! The exercises dive you straight into composing music right away without discussing music theory too deeply. It uses a straightforward approach by applying theory rather than studying the definitions alone. I highly recommend it for anyone wanting to learn how to compose music.
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Most recent customer reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Solid fundamentals
I'm a musician and songwriter with a degree and many years' experience. But when I took on a project to create an opera with a playwright friend I found that my theory was rusty --... Read more
Published on May 6 2002 by chord
5.0 out of 5 stars A Piano Players Dream
Every keyboard player should buy this book. This book contains the most straightforward explanation of diatonic harmony in print. It can transform your keyboard playing.
Published on April 5 2002 by Ron Guffnett
5.0 out of 5 stars Start Here
Russo's book is the best place to begin if you're seriously interested in composing music. His methodology is straightforward, and his rules sensible. Read more
Published on Sept. 24 2001 by Mark D Burgh
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful approach
I found this book a wonderful text. I was afraid that it was going to start to simply, and it did. BUT, it was still a wonderful excercise. As are all. Read more
Published on July 16 2000 by Chris Severen
4.0 out of 5 stars On Composing Music
This book is full of small exercises for getting the beginnner to start composing. Covers most of the techniques a composer will want to know without giving you a headache. Read more
Published on June 4 2000 by Greg Turner
5.0 out of 5 stars EXCELLENTway to get started--and keep going.
"Imagine that you have been captured by the Lorac, a warlike tribe ruled by Edrevol, who will spare you life only if you please him with the music you write for the Imperial... Read more
Published on March 2 2000 by Susan Tait
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