Exercises to Practice Your Music Composition Skills

     Having to cope with all the new things you are learning may be challenging at times and this is why I am creating this post. In it, you will find lots of practical suggestions for short music composition studies because doing music composition exercises is a way of making sure that you are working on a particular skill while you are following a structured plan for learning and discovering your musical identity. The more you work on your skills, the better you will understand and internalize the concepts you are working with and ultimately make them yours!

     In sum, my main goal is to plan your learning. As you progress, you will find where your weaknesses and strengths are and hopefully, what you will have to do to continue improving as a composer. The exercises are divided by sections so you can know what the main focus is. These sections follow a similar structure to the one I used to organize the content of this blog – see Index.

     Also, you will find links in the exercises and these will take you to the relevant posts in case you need to check in with the music theory before your start working on them.

Happy Composing!

FORM

  • Write an 8-bar melody where the last four bars are a variation of the first four bars and harmonize it using triadic material
  • Expand the previous material by making a contrasting section, also with eight bars
  • Consider both melodic fragments as A and B, respectively, and compose a musical piece based on that material, with the form A B C A B’ where C is an elaboration and B’ is sequence with variation
  • Compose a musical piece following the structure of a minuet 

DYNAMICS AND TEXTURE

  • Write a musical passage involving at least four instruments and that makes a diminuendo transition but as the dynamics get softer, increase the harmonic tension (consonance-dissonance)
  • Write a musical passage where a contrast occurs in the form of question and answer where harmony questions and only percussion answers 

INTERVALS

  • Write a musical phrase for two instruments containing several perfect fourths (or other consonant interval you wish to experiment with) and then create a contrast with several dissonant fourths (or other dissonant interval).
  • Write a melodic phrase and double it with equidistant intervals (all thirds, fourths, fifths, etc).
  • Write a musical phrase with simple intervals (closely spaced intervals) and contrast it with compound intervals (widely spaced intervals)

SCALES

  • Write a musical phrase based on the Dorian #4 mode from the harmonic minor
  • Write a musical passage using brighter modes and, in a different section, contrast it with darker modes

CHORDS

  • Use the same melody but harmonize it with tetrads 
  • Experiment with quartal harmony using multiple note chords and play around with chord inversions – use a pentatonic based melody
  • Use the previous melody and chords and experiment with chord inversions and different notes on bass when going from chord to chord
  • Write a musical passage harmonized exclusively with chords by perfect fourths – experiment with augmented-perfect and perfect-augmented chords
  • Write a musical phrase using the melodic minor and harmonize it with chords from that scale – experiment with other scales, like the harmonic, diminished, etc.
  • Write a pentatonic musical passage harmonized exclusively with chords by perfect fourths – experiment with augmented-perfect and perfect-augmented chords as well
  • Write a chord progression that alternates clusters with chords by fourths – experiment with chords by thirds

HARMONY

  • Replace previous chords, or only the cadence, with their negative harmonic counterparts
  • Create an 8-bar chord progression based on an interval cycle (fifths, thirds, etc) that works within the same tonality and contrast it with another 8-bar chord succession based on real parallel harmonic movement.
  • Write a simple melody that will be doubled with block chords
  • Use the previous melody and use it as guideline to create a polyharmonic passage

KEY CENTERS

  • Write a bitonal musical passage in Ab and C major tonalities
  • With previously produced material for the tonality of Ab, use it as the home base tonality that contrasts with the material produced for C major that is directly transposed to either close or distant tonalities
  • Again, using the material from the previous exercise, prepare the modulations to and from the respective keys using the discussed methods
  • Use the same musical passage, modulating to the same modal centers but in different tonalities – going from dark to brighter tonalities

RHYTHM

  • Use a polyrhythmic approach to compose the accompaniment for left and right hand of a piano piece of a modal chord succession
  • Write a musical passage that uses polymeter. When the meters meet, use an implied metric modulation to create a contrast between the two sections
  • Extend the previous material by using the same material of the first section but instead of using polymeter, adapt it to a simple meter but with different natural accents
  • Write a ostinato using only sixteenth notes and experiment with different beat accents (accent every three or five sixteenth notes)

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