The sky is the limit with music composition. Once you have learned the ropes for compositional devices and the basic elements of music, you're well on your way to nailing your music work. The good thing about AS91419 is you can choose to write a song or score, whatever suits you and your skill level and/or instrument choices. So, you can totally rock out to a country song you’ve crafted or bop to your melancholy Debussy inspired track. You will need to create three pieces of music, so it’s in your interest to pick contrasting pieces so you can showcase your skill level. Make sure you have embedded a clear intention that fits the mood of the song. To do this you will need to develop, structure, and represent your ideas in an intriguing way. Later we will go through some tips for how to best utilise your compositional devices and elements. For these three musical pieces, you have the option of collaborating with up to 5 other students. So, if you want to do a pop song with a five-part harmony, you're welcome to compose that. This achievement standard has eight credits, so it’s really worth taking the time to really dissect your work so that it’s your best. If you are wanting an overview of the full music year then have a look at this blog here. Or maybe you would like some help with your past papers for those externals? Perhaps you need some extra tips for your performances. Or are you wanting to stretch yourself with NCEA music scholarship?
This brings us to AS91849 which will have you crafting three songs again, but this time they will need to showcase your imagination and how well you can translate this into your craft. You will need to complete your songs with a clear sense of purpose and all three should have a coherent meaning. This means that the songs composed must be well refined, have good structure and have ideas that have well-developed ideas which are expertly communicated. Like the other compositional achievement standard, you can also choose to do this task in a group. Just make sure that it fits your intention for your composition and match the overall mood of the musical pieces. Have a look at the achievement standards here so you can know exactly what is required of you to get the mark you want.
What are the elements of music and why are they important for your achievement standards?
To captivate the listener you need to make sure that their senses are fully engaged. To do this, musical elements are vital to crafting an effective song, that has a lasting impact. So what are some of the elements to help you find your sound?
Get in touch with Rhythm. Tap your foot to the beat and sit in a groove.
This is all about the timing of your sounds. Within this, there is duration and tempo. What’s the difference? Well, duration talks about the length of a sound or how long it lasts, while the tempo is the speed of the beat for the score or song. An example of rhythm indications is Largo. This means that the rhythm is laboured or slow while Andante is steady and at an easy walking pace. Or how about Presto, which is very fast. Other terms to consider are syncopation. This is when you compose something that is off-the-beat and sounds slightly disjointed but in an interesting way. Or what about ritardando which means to gradually slow down the tempo. If you play with rhythm in your musical piece you’re sure to create something interesting to listen to.
Add attention and intrigue with the dynamics!
So often you can really pull a listener in by experimenting with the softness or loudness of a section of music. If you have a clear intention and a good ‘why’ as to your reason to shift the dynamics then go for it! All of these terms are in Italian. Within these, you can also add in a crescendo, where a part or instrument gradually gets louder. Have fun experimenting with this one, it can really add extra emotion and strength to a piece.
Pitch is going to be vital if you have multiple parts in your musical piece.
Maybe you're composing that five-part harmony for one of your musical pieces then the pitch is going to be important for you here. You’ll need to work out where each voice sits and play with how low or high their range can go. This one is all about understanding your instrument. Maybe you're composing a song for a rock track? Is it all very low? Then why not make that bridge much higher for extra impact.
Experiment with the Timbre, see what different instruments playing the same thing can sound different.
The Timbre (also known as the tone colour), is all about how three different instruments could play the same part in pitch but then all sound differently. For example, when you play an E on the piano and sing the quality and sound of that E will be vastly different from your voice. You could really have fun with the timbre when composing your six songs ( this is a requirement for this achievement standard). When you sing you will produce your own overtones, which are notes that are not the main note that you are singing. Overtones are the same for any other instrument and they create a unique musical blueprint. You can achieve an entirely different effect by composing with a clarinet up high, where it’s piercing and intense, in contrast to pitching it low. Here you will hear rich, more muted, smoky tones. And the best part is creating a variety of timbres.
Next up is compositional devices!
These are used to contour music, adding shape, a pattern or a specific technique to establish, showcase and embellish a musical piece or song. This is done mainly through the melody or with a specific motif or section that is used throughout the song or score.
Did I repeat myself? Did I repeat myself?
One of the biggest compositional devices is repetition. Used mostly in a phrase or a motif, if you have a great idea, why not repeat it for impact. Or maybe it could be a leitmotif and represent a certain character in the score. In a song maybe there is a really potent lyric that you always go back to?- give it some new life and repeat it in the chorus. This is perhaps best utilized in genres like pop music where either a phrase in the chorus or a big hook is peppered throughout the song.
Another facet of repetition is a sequence.
This occurs when a melody repeats at a lower or higher pitch. It’s also similar to imitation but it relies heavily on the pitch aspect. This type of compositional device was used a great deal in the classical and romantic eras.
A quirky technique is using what’s called a canon
This is when two or more instruments play exactly the same tune but start at different times. This can create interest and an almost buzzing whirlwind feeling as both parts overlap each other.
How about lyric writing? If you’re making a song, then what makes for a captivating line?
It totally depends on the genre. But if you’re wanting to write a more pop track then using really personal lyrics can create a vivid image. Grab some scrap paper and write down a whole bunch of random words, themes and see if you can align any to ascertain a mood or style. Getting all your thoughts down on paper can really help stretch out your ideas and turn off your inner critic. A great tip is to see if you can write every day for at least 20 minutes. This tip is called ‘morning pages', but you can really do it any time of the day. It’s designed to turn off your inner critic and stray away from judging all your song ideas.
Treat the process of creation like an exploration, like discovering things for the first time. You can go back later in your composition phase and refine and make it perfect and exactly how you are wanting the song to sound. But at the start, cast your net out wide, so that you can discover many different avenues to take your song. Lyric writing can be super frustrating sometimes but just learn to trust the process and see what you can come up with.
Once you are past the ideation phase, make sure that you have a really good grasp of what the song is about and that your words, music, chords, compositional techniques all support that initial vision. A big thing with songwriting is getting your structure looking good. Make sure your chorus is really strong and you have really been descriptive in your verses. Nailing a fantastic bridge is the cherry on top of a good song, and could be the reason your examiner gets an earworm stuck in their head. Think of a different perspective or take on the rest of the song and contrast what you have already crafted.
Have a refresher at looking at those musical elements, compositional devices and songwriting tips and you should be halfway there to finishing your six songs. If you're still wanting extra support and some more tips and tricks to help get you ready for these two achievement standards then try Superprof. Superprof is an online tutoring company designed to help connect tutors with students online. Your first lesson is free so there’s really no reason not to give it a try and see if you can find a tutor who fits. You’ll be writing catchy songs and composing beautiful scores in no time.
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