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Speak Your Music

Artist Focus on Clay Ross

Lesson Two: Making It Yours

Clay breaks down how he used source material from the Gullah tradition and West African music to create his original song.

Your First Assignment

  1. Identify the musical “heart” of the song you selected in Part One of this course and use that as a starting point for new musical material. You could:
    • create something at the same speed
    • play around with new material in the same mood
    • use a similar melodic or rhythmic idea
  2. There is no wrong answer, and anything that inspires you can be a point of entry.

Your Second Assignment

  1. Write a new lyric for the chorus of your new song that either expresses a similar feeling or fits with the mood of the original song.
  2. Once you have a chorus or “guiding theme” for your song, write a new verse that will lead up to the chorus.
    • A stretch goal could be to write one more verse (for a total of two) so that you have an A-B-A-B song form.
  3. Finally, make a recording of your new song using your phone recorder, or any digital audio workstation (DAW) software available to you. SoundTrap is a good option that is free through the internet.

Explore Other Parts of Speak Your Music

Introduction | Express Yourself

Mazz Swift, Clay Ross, and Sarah Elizabeth Charles share their backgrounds and processes for creating music.

Artist Focus on Mazz Swift | Lesson One: Finding a Theme

Mazz shares her distinct approach to using improvisation as a way of generating musical ideas to use in composition.

Artist Focus on Mazz Swift | Lesson Two: Tweaking, Tinkering, and Messing with Your Music

Mazz shares her recommendations for manipulating and organizing basic musical ideas in order to explore different compositional approaches.

Artist Focus on Mazz Swift | Lesson Three: Finished! For Now …

This video features the questions that Mazz uses to determine whether a piece of music is done or requires further editing.

Artist Focus on Clay Ross | Lesson One: Building a Frame

Clay introduces his band Ranky Tanky and talks about the origins of their song “All For You.”

Artist Focus on Clay Ross | Lesson Three: A Life of Its Own

Clay explores how “All For You” evolved into new shapes as Ranky Tanky collaborated with other artists.

Artist Focus on Sarah Elizabeth Charles | Lesson One: My Big Idea

Sarah describes how she uses a big question to spark the idea for a new song that explores the relationship between all human beings.

Artist Focus on Sarah Elizabeth Charles | Lesson Two: My Musical Brainstorm

Sarah demonstrates how she creates a musical foundation for her new piece, and then shapes a melody on top of that foundation.

Artist Focus on Sarah Elizabeth Charles | Lesson Three: Growing My Idea

Sarah explains how her collaboration with a musical friend helped to shape the final version of her new piece.

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