Tag Archives: composition brief

Writing your Unit 2 Composition Brief

There are three criteria that apply to all of your Unit 2 compositions. Each piece must:

  • be between 2:30 and 4 minutes long.
  • include at least FOUR instrumental parts (one could be a vocal part).
  • use “real” instruments, either recorded or played into Garageband using the keyboard – software instruments. So, no synths.

It is also crucial to write yourself a composition brief to provide a starting point. Your creativity can then set sail and may well develop in many varied and unplanned ways, but the “blank page” situation can be unhelpful, so giving yourself some guidelines is a great way to kick off the compositional process..

So, what makes a successful composition brief? There are three important steps:

1. Choose a musical genre to compose in. You must also find two reference tracks that are in this style. Choose from the following list:

  • Pop song – this can be in any style i.e. R’n’B, acoustic pop, indie, etc.
  • Rock song or Rock instrumental piece.
  • Jazz instrumental
  • Instrumental movie theme
  • Classical instrumental

2. Choose one link to the strand – this year’s strand is The Western Classical Tradition. Click HERE FOR A LIST OF LINKS TO THE STRAND FOR YOU TO CHOOSE ONE FROM. It is important that you pick a link that will fit with your chosen genre/style.

3. Pick TWO Areas of Study from the following list. These will then provide the focus for how your composition develops. Below are some suggested starting points for each Area of Study:

  • AoS1 Rhythm & Metre – Your piece might start by establishing a clear sense of pulse and develop to include: variety of rhythmic grooves, drum fills, syncopation, polyrhythm etc.
  • AoS2 Harmony & Tonality – Your piece might start with a diatonic chord sequence and develop to include chord inversions, 7th chords, modulation, etc.
  • AoS3 Texture & Melody – Your piece might start with a monophonic texture or by using melody with accompaniment and develop to include polyphonic (also called contrapuntal) textures, layered textures, octaves, doubling in unison, harmonised melody, etc.
  • AoS4 Timbre & Dynamics – Your piece might feature strings and include legato, pizzicato and staccato sections. This could also apply to the use of guitars – picking, fingerpicking, strumming, single line melody, use of FX.
  • AoS5 Structure & Form – If your composition is instrumental then you might explore Ternary form or Rondo form, begin by writing a strong A section. If you are writing a song, consider standard song form using verse/chorus structure, possibly with a bridge, middle eight and intro/outro sections.

Now you can consider your initial instrumentation. You must use “real instruments”, these can be garageband software instruments, i.e strings, drums, guitars, piano, woodwind, brass, etc. but not synths. Think about what the typical instruments are in your chosen style, this is where your reference tracks will come in handy.

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Preparing to start your Unit 4 composition

In order to make decision about how to develop a composition it is vital to know what style(s) you are working in.

To begin your composition please find TWO reference tracks on youtube in the style that you would like to work in. 
Please complete the form below with detailes of your two choices..

If you have a clear stylistic aim in mind you can then listen to example of music in that style and analyse the composition in terms of:

  • INSTRUMENTATION – what instruments are typical of the chosen style?
  • RHYTHM – what time signature(s) are common to the style? What tempo would be appropriate? What kind of drum tracks are used, are they live drums, electronic drums, samples, percussion? What are the grooves like – practice copying beats that you like from other tunes.
  • HARMONY – what kind of feel do you want, major (happy) or minor (sad)? How many chords do you hear in your reference track chord sequences?
  • MELODY – what kind of melodies are used? Are they songs with male or female singers? Are the phrases short or long? Are big interval jumps used or small stepwise?
  • TEXTURE – how do your examples create variety in texture? One way to explore this is to look at two similar sections in a song (i.e. verse one and verse two) and listen to how they vary…maybe there is a new guitar part in the second verse, perhaps the drum groove changes, the melody might develop.
  • PRODUCTION/FINAL MIX – are any FX used like delay (echo), reverb or distortion in your reference tracks? Which instruments are loudest, which are quietest? Does this change during the piece?

Click HERE to see your answers..