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The Complete Idiot's Guide to Music Composition (Idiot's Guides) Paperback – October 4, 2005

4.4 out of 5 stars 59 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Michael Miller is the author of several books, including The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Music Theory, The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Playing Drums, The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Singing, and The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Music Composition. He has been using Cubase for a number of years. He used Cubase SX to record the audio CD included with the second edition of The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Playing Drums.
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Product Details

  • Series: Idiot's Guides
  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: ALPHA (October 4, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1592574033
  • ISBN-13: 978-1592574032
  • Product Dimensions: 8.5 x 0.6 x 10.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (59 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #62,200 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By calvinnme HALL OF FAMEVINE VOICE on October 30, 2005
Format: Paperback
Just like this author's previous book, "The Complete Idiot's Guide to Music Theory", information is presented in a very readable way without losing necessary details. The author presents many musical examples and each chapter has exercises with some solutions included in the back of the book. This book is designed to be read from beginning to end, and the exercises are very instructive in that by doing them you WILL learn how to compose music based on formal techniques. This book consists of 18 chapters in 5 parts, with each part showcasing a different aspect of composition. Since Amazon does not show a table of contents for this book at the time I am writing this, I shall summarize for the purpose of completeness:
Part 1 is entitled "Before You Start," and it describes different types of composition, and discusses the tools needed to start composing music.
Part 2 is entitled "Harmonic Composition," and discusses the art of composing music, chords-first. Also described is the creation of a harmonious chord progression, using both standard and extended chords, and using chord substitution to create more sophisticated compositions.
Part 3 is labeled "Melodic Composition," and introduces melody creation techniques, including scales and modes, structural tones, embellishments, rhythm, syncopation, melodic contour, flow, tension and release. Also discussed is fitting chords to a melody and reharmonizing existing chord progressions.
Part 4 is entitled "Developing the Composition," and gives instruction on transforming a composition from something basic to a substantial work. Short melodies are transformed into a full musical piece. The use of repetition, variation, and creating multiple-voice compositions is included.
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Format: Paperback
This is a very good book. It elaborates on the Idiot's guide to music theory specefically in the area of composition. My only gripe is that the first half is very redundant with the previous book. Many paragraphs are identical. I would have been much happier if they had been embellished, or if the two books would have been combined into one larger volume. The book does go into much more detail later on, with topics such as rhythmic patterns etc. Still the first half doesn't even feel like a review as much as it feels like Deja Vu.
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Format: Paperback
On the positive side, the book is very helpful in starting composition. While at times laconic, it covers pretty much all the basic areas of composition, starting with an intro into what you can do and what you will need and going on to harmony, melody, rhythm, and even touching on atonality. It explains the key ideas behind development, the use of phrasing, and even the ranges of common instruments and notes on transposing them.

On the negative side, it often fails to explain things as well as it could. For example, while the book gives a basic explanation of atonality and minimalism, it doesn't really say much about how to really use these techniques. While development is discussed well, actually creating full-length pieces seems to have been glossed over and there is little information on how various musical forms like the sonata or concerto are actually structured (something I struggled with for a long time).

Overall, an excellent introduction, but not really a complete guide in any sense.
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Format: Paperback
This is a well-written introduction to traditional composition. The examples are plentiful and nicely illustrate the concepts being discussed and the organization of the book has been carefully thought through. I only have a few complaints/reservations about recommending the book:

First, the book is very much focused on traditional composition techniques. That's the author's intention, and that's great for most people. However, if you're looking for a book that will help you understand the structure of modern (non-pop) music, there are probably better resources. (That said, if you have *no* background in composition, I think it is wise to read this book before trying to do unconventional things... as in, understand the rules before you break them). The author has little interest in electronica and non-diatonic compositions, so if you're looking to compose NIN- or Slayer-like stuff, then you won't be using many of the tools described in this book (though you will use some of them). There *is* a chapter on non-diatonic/chromatic composition, but the author treats these techniques primarily as a means of "spicing up" a traditional composition, rather than a separate approach to composition all together.

Second, the author's examples and approach assume that the reader has/plays the piano or keys. I am a guitarist, and while I understand that illustrating harmony/melody combinations or counterpoint, etc. is most easily done with the piano (assuming a single musician), it would be nice if the examples were chosen to be a little more generalizable. I also think one would have a very difficult time trying to work the examples in this book with any instrument that cannot play chords.
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