Andrew Chellman



Part of a lecture by Vancouver composer Rodney Sharman.
Mr. Sharman was the mentor for the 2014 Arraymusic Young Composers’ Workshop. Four composers experimented and composed over the entire month of May. The workshop culminated in a concert of works created during that period.

Rodney Sharman lives in Vancouver, BC. He has been Composer-in-Residence with the Victoria Symphony, the National Youth Orchestra of Canada and the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra. In addition to concert music, Rodney Sharman writes music for cabaret, opera and dance. He works regularly with choreographer James Kudelka, for whom he has written scores for Oregon Ballet Theatre and San Francisco Ballet. He is working on a score for Coleman Lemieux Company, Toronto. Premieres in 2011 include Notes on “Beautiful”, a transformation of music by Stephen Sondheim for pianist Anthony de Mare, and a violin concerto for Jonathan Crow and the Victoria Symphony Orchestra. Sharman maintains a presence on the web at


How to Compose a Song…

Take some piano lessons from Scott Houston “The Piano Guy.” In this video, Scott and his guest, five-time Grammy Award nominee David Benoit, discuss the thought process behind composing music. David Benoit uses his original song, Kei’s Song, as an example.

Scott and David just want to help you to teach yourself piano skills to get you having some fun at a piano as quickly as possible.

In the video David shares some great tips for
composing songs. He shares that typically, he starts composing a new song with his chord selection. Then often he moves to creating the bridge of the song which was the case when he was composing “Kei.” There is a lot of trial and error involved.

When asked where Benoit gets his inspiration from, he confided that composing for him is a balance between piano seat time and time away from the piano. Being away from the piano offers time to reflect and be creative and imaginative. Some of David’s most creative ideas have come while he was on one of his walks. He feels writing in the morning is a good time to devote to seat time. 9:001:00.

The video concludes with a great performance of David Benoit playing “Kei” on Piano.

Scott Houston is the host of The Piano Guy television series on PBS and has taught hundreds of thousands of folks like yourself, how to have some fun on their piano or keyboard. He wants to help you get there too, as quickly as possible.

5 Tips for Teaching Rhythm Composition (ABRSM)

May 6th, 2015 by


“I got rhythm…Who could ask for anything more?” – Ira GershwinTeaching rhythm to students is a real challenge. Some just “pick it up” naturally and others need, in the words of Ian Dury and the Blockheads, “hitting with the rhythm stick!”

So if you have a theory student preparing for an ABRSM exam (or similar), what can be done to inspire them to write a good rhythm worthy of a full 10 marks?

Tip 1: “Follow my leader!”

I like to switch my metronome on at around 80 BPM or better still, I’m now using “Drum Beats+” on my iPad. This really easy to use app generates drum loops. A favourite preset of mine is “Phat N Hairy 90,” probably because it describes me quite well! The age I mean!!!

Firstly, I clap or beat out on a percussion instrument a two-bar rhythm, encouraging them to copy me exactly. We keep going over and over with this same rhythm until they can replicate it perfectly. Then I change the “question” rhythm with new loop and see if they can respond by copying the changes.

Tip 2: Q&A

With the drum beat still looping, I then get them to make up their own rhythmic response. I don’t give them time to think about it because they can often freeze up and then it’s “game over!”

Sometimes, if they struggle with creativity, I will sing food items to generate a rhythm, for example:

Me: “I’d like a tiramisu!”

Student: “I’d like a burger!”

After they’ve built some confidence, I might try to encourage them to use a more complex reply. How about using a take-away menu?:

Me: “Tikka masala and pilau rice!”

Student: “Lamb jalfrezi and naan bread!”

Tip 3: “Write it down, it’s a good ‘un!”

Now comes the tricky bit; writing it down!

Hopefully, the student has been developing some rhythm counting skills so with practice they can learn to write out the rhythms they are hearing. A good starting point is to tap out a steady beat with the foot whilst clapping the rhythm over the top. At a drastically slowed down tempo, the rhythmic values should become more obvious.

A good idea is to get the student to write out the rhythm in a notation programme like Sibelius or using one of the many apps now available, so that they can hear the rhythm performed back to them by the technology. This really helps them to better understand how rhythms sound and if they are making mistakes in their notation, how to pin-point the error.

Tip 4: “Mission Impossible!”

But what if the exam question is in a difficult time signature like 4/2? Easy!

Convert the question into a more usable time signature like 4/4 and then after composing a rhythm in this easier time signature, finally convert the rhythm back to the original time signature to finish!

Tip 5: Leave a tip!

What advice can be given a student to get the best possible marks in the rhythm composition exam question?

• Finish the rhythm on a main beat of the bar (measure), not a sub-division

• Ideally, finish the rhythm on a longer note to give it a sense of finality

• Avoid having longer time values early in the rhythm as this can generate a premature sense of conclusion

• Use similar time values as was given in the question so that the rhythm “glues” nicely together

• Obviously, make sure that each bar (measure) has the correct combined time value!

• Make sure that each bar (measure) is correctly grouped

See other posts by Reuben Vincent


About the Author

Reuben Vincent

Reuben Vincent is a freelance musician working as a composer, producer and private music teacher, based from his purpose built recording studio in Bagillt, Flintshire, North Wales, UK. His main instrument is the piano although he is also known for a “mean” solo on the Kazoo!!!

How to Write a Madrigal

April 18, 2015

Victoria Williams

Bill Hilton

Check out my book!

Here’s a pop piano comping exercise that’s quite fun to play. It’s based on five simple chords (C, Dm, F, G and Am) and a right hand part that just uses the notes C, F and G. It sounds pretty cool and isn’t at all difficult to learn.

Most pop comps you’ll ever play on the piano will be based on fairly simple chord progressions. The only slight hurdle you might have to overcome is making sure you can comp in a variety of difference keys – especially “guitar friendly” keys like E, A, D and G. So once you’ve mastered this sequence in C, try transposing it into some other keys and seeing what you can do.

As with all piano techniques, the trick here is to play over and over again until this stuff just falls under your fingers without you even having to think about it. You need to get to a point where your fingers are doing the thinking for themselves at the keyboard. When that happens, you’ll find you unconsciously begin to change and develop the exercise until you’re playing comps of your own.

If you’re not sure about the basics of chords and how harmony works on the piano, check out some of my earlier tutorials.

Living Symphonies

June 9, 2014

nature video·186 videos

Living Symphonies is a sound installation which aims to portray a forest ecosystem in an ever changing soundscape – reflecting, in real time, the interactions of the natural world. In this film, Nature Video takes a peek under the hood of Living Symphonies, at the science which makes it possible; and asks how projects like these could influence the way that both the public and scientists see with the world around them.

Read a Q&A with sound artist Daniel Jones:…

Find out more about the project:

Toronto Symphony Orchestra·71 videos

Canadian composer Brian Current discusses his work “Three Pieces for Orchestra”, which had its Canadian Première on March 7, 2014, at our New Creations Festival.

The New Creations Festival is supported by RBC, Canada Council for the Arts, and David Broadhurst.

The music in this video is from our TSO Live recording of “The Planets” by Gustav Holst.

Mike’s Master Classes·219 videos

Tom Lippincott’s New Class Modern Jazz Improvisation is a two-part class that applies modern jazz melodic vocabulary to modern-style compositions and explores more contemporary chord progressions.

Part II:…

Both parts 1 and 2 offer numerous examples, exercises, and etudes written in standard notation and tablature to increase fluency when playing over the often challenging tunes of today’s composers.

A suggested prequel for these classes is Part 2 of the Modern Jazz Guitar series (Melody) which covered using modern vocabulary on standard chord progressions.

While the 5-part Modern Jazz Guitar series included in-depth discussions on the roots of the modern style, technique, melody, harmony, rhythm, sound, and equipment, and addressed improvising on standards, which form the backbone of jazz language, the Modern Jazz Improvisation classes will focus on improvising on contemporary-style tunes.

Anyone who hears jazz musicians performing today will notice that, in addition to standards, they often play their own original compositions as well as those of their contemporaries and recent predecessors.  These tunes, while often derived from or inspired by the old standards, are significantly different in several ways.  Current jazz composers have been greatly influenced by the modal movement that began in jazz in the late 1950s and early 1960s, and most of the modern tunes have their roots in compositions by Miles Davis, Bill Evans, John Coltrane, Wayne Shorter, Herbie Hancock, Joe Henderson, and others in that time period.

Part 1 of this Modern Jazz Improvisation guitar lesson thoroughly explores the chord progression from Joe Henderson’s classic tune “Inner Urge” which has, over the years, become what could be considered a “new standard” since so many jazz musicians have worked on mastering it.  “Inner Urge” is a perfect model to introduce modern jazz progressions as it contains chord movement in both the plateau modal and vertical modal styles and is a direct predecessor to many current jazz compositions.

Modern Jazz Improvisation part 1 covers:

• In-depth discussion of tonal versus modal styles of approach to harmony
• Explanation of the terms “plateau modal” and “vertical modal” and the differences in approach to both
• Detailed harmonic analysis of the chord progression for the Joe Henderson tune “Inner Urge”
• Basic example exercise for gaining fluency with finding the chord tones for the above progression
• Examples of numerous techniques for using motivic development to make logical, musical lines:  rhythmic displacement, rhythmic and intervalic expansion and contraction, and intervalic inversion
• Exercises to gain fluency through quickly-moving harmonically unrelated chord changes using techniques such as scale tone voice leading; diatonic 7th arpeggio voice leading; major, minor, and major b6 pentatonic scales; parallel moving chord shapes; triad pairs; and odd note groupings
• Two examples solos on the “Inner Urge” chord progression incorporating all of the above techniques in a musical context, one designed to be played at a medium tempo, and the other designed to be played at a medium-up tempo
• Running time: 114 minutes
• 13 pages of written examples, exercises, and solo etudes, in standard notation and tablature, with close-up views of the demonstrations
• MP3 backing tracks for all written examples and solos, including full-length track for improvisation practice

cunytv75·4,097 videos

CUNY TV’s restoring of the classic public television program, “Day at Night”, which aired from 1973-1974. In this episode, host James Day talks with composer Aaron Copland. They discuss how Mr. Copland became one of the most distinguished American composers in the world, themes and influences which he used to create some of his most memorable works, how his creations have adapted over the years to reflect the changing times, teachers that influenced him as well as important aspects of composition.

CUNY TV is proud to re-broadcast newly digitized episodes of DAY AT NIGHT, the popular public television series hosted by the late James Day. Day was a true pioneer of public television: co-founder of KQED in San Francisco, president of WNET upon the merger of National Educational Television (NET) and television station WNDT/Channel 13, and most recently, Chairman of the CUNY TV Advisory Board. The series features fascinating interviews with notable cultural and political figures conducted in the mid 1970’s. (Taped: 12/20/1973)

Watch more at

Cornelis Jordaan·34 videos

In this very lengthy video I talk about the history of one of my commissions as well as take a look at how I went about composing one of the main themes for solo violin and orchestra.

Skip to 11:25 to jump straight into the analysis 🙂

Thanks so much for watching!

Chord Tones and Passing Tones

The interaction of chords and melodies centers on one basic point: chord tones or passing (nonharmonic) tones. In FIGURE 11.2, each note of the major scale harmonized with its own chord. Since each melody note was found in each chord that supported it, only chord tones were used. FIGURE 11.3, “Amazing Grace,” used more than just chord tones in the harmonization; it used passing tones as well. Now revisit that example and see what’s really going on.

FIGURE 11.4 Chord and Nonchord Tones in “Amazing Grace”

In the example in FIGURE 11.4, the chord tones are highlighted and the passing or nonchord tones are printed normally. Compare the harmony to the melody, and you will see many different points of similarity. In general, for a harmony to work for any given melody, the majority of the melodic tones should be contained in the chord that supports it. There is no steadfast rule of how many tones per bar, but for music to sound consonant, the melody needs to line up with the harmony enough times to make the listener feel as if they’re in the same key. A passing tone does not necessarily have to move by step to and from a chord tone, but if you think of the odds, a triad has three notes and a scale has seven, you’re most likely using a passing tone as the triad takes three-sevenths of the scale with it and leaves three of the other four tones as passing tones. Only one tone will exist as a true non-harmonic tone, but then again, it may sound just fine


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Edmonton Symphony Orchestra·29 videos

Ever wonder how a composer puts together a new piece? In this narrated slideshow, Robert Rival, Composer-in-Residence with the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra, opens up his sketchbook to explain the creative process behind his latest work, Whirlwind. Lucas Waldin conducts the world premiere on September 23, 2012 at the Winspear Centre in Edmonton, AB:…