Things I’ve Written for Students but Also for Myself

FRIDAY, May 7, 2021 – 3:51 PM

Things I’ve Written for Students but Also for Myself

Mellow

I wrote this with small intervals in mind, so it’s a teaching piece. But I also like the feel, so I tried to put some special ideas into it.

Bert and Arty Blues

I wrote this about 30 years for a friend and her husband. It’s just a silly little song, upbeat, with perhaps the feel of something from the 1930s. It’s supposed to have a sound from a very different age.

Dark Jazzy Minor

There is a particular atmosphere in certain scenes in movies. You might think of an older movie where people are in a nightclub. The mood is quiet, dark. As always I composed this without a title in mind, but I mostly used jazz minor for the theme. Jazz minor is just a major scale where the 3rd note is lowered to b3. But I also used a bridge that toggles between a diminished and augmented chord, which has a uniquely haunting sound.

Memories

This is one of the shortest things I’ve written. I was in a very sad mood, thinking about people in my life who were really important to me. So it is bitter-sweet. I’d like to expand it someday, and I may. But for now, I’ll leave it just as it is, this tiny little moment in time.

Just a Lonely Night

Mostly written in pentatonic, I wrote this to illustrate a melody with somewhat jazzy sounding inversions of seven chords.

Lydian Soliloquy

I heard a nice electric guitar improv in Lydian and used part of it as a theme. The middle parts uses an octatonic scale.

Variations on a Spanish Theme

Many years ago I was going through a method book and found a series of variations that was sort of interesting, but sort of boring. I took the idea and added a whole bunch of more complicated ideas, all over a very famous chord structure that is very famous in Spanish music, most of all in guitar music. That progression is always Am, G, F and E, those chords. But I did not like the theme. A week ago I rewrote the theme to something I like a bit better.

Variation on a Theme of Chopin

The chord structure hints at a very famous Chopin E Minor Prelude as I illustrate an example of how to use a harmonic structure to improvise a rolling melody.

Le Mystique

I wrote this about a year ago, but I fleshed it out a bit for a more advanced version. It is all about a double harmonic scale, where you start with a major scale and then flat 2 and 6. It’s a scale you won’t hear in traditional music until perhaps the time of Debussy or more modern composers.

Bass Line in C

This is something basic and rather simple that I wrote many years ago. I decided to add a modulation to another key, F major, then added a coda with extra modulations. Finally, I added octaves. It’s no longer easy to play, but it’s a lot more fun.

Indian Dance

There was a little piece by Michael Aaron that my brother and I played called “Indian Dance”, and we both liked it. So I gave it to several of my young students, and they have all picked it as something they like to play.

Using this very simple idea I expanded it, made huge changes to the harmony and greatly changed it in many other ways, using only a bit of the original theme. This has way more notes and is much harder. I have not yet taught it.

9 thoughts on “Things I’ve Written for Students but Also for Myself

  1. For “Dark Jazzy Minor” I think the word / concept you’re looking for is “Film Noir.” Think of Bogart. Think of any film done by the German Impressionists like Leni Riefenstahl, Fritz Lang (HE was the REAL author of Noir!), and that crowd. Lang left Germany *just* before WWII, and ended up here. He gave us German Impressionism, only with an American flavor, and the world called it “Film Noir.” That’s what you captured. Indiana Jones at a bar, alone, drowning his sorrows of this.. and so many other.. failed quests. The ceiling fan slowly turns, *thwap*thwap*thwap*. The smoke lazily lingers. Regrets come out, followed by “Shaddap…. we done allright, all things considered.”

  2. I really like lydian soliloquy. The lydian sound is so un common and hearing it as the primary focal point of a piece is mesmerizing. One if the things I personally love is how unpredictable it is, you can never guess what the next nite it is always goes somewhere special. Enjoyed playing all of these pieces.

  3. I listened to Variation on a Theme of Chopin, of the pieces here I haven’t played. The beginning sounded familiar, that’s how I got hooked. It still hooked me in like a fish the whole way through, maybe sometimes slightly boring. It was just mesmerizing to listen to, an eerie charm is how I would describe the entire feel of the piece. It’s just… fascinating.

  4. To write music that is interesting, not blah-formulaic so that “students can play it”, but it’s interesting, gripping – but students can play it without being super super super advanced – that is a thing almost of genius – rare in any case.
    It is wonderful to hear your own playing of these pieces.

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