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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.

Your Assignment

  1. Watch the video in which Mazz Swift introduces her approach to composition through improvisation.
  2. Note where Mazz has outlined the three different approaches to “notating” music:
    • Playing by ear
    • Creating a graphic score
    • Using a digital audio workstation (DAW)
  3. After watching Mazz’s video, follow the steps she has outlined to begin your original piece of music:
    • Record an improvisation (instrumental or vocal) using your phone, computer, or other recording device.
    • Play back your improvisation and select three ideas that you want to use in your new piece of music.
    • “Notate” or learn the three chosen ideas by either a) playing by ear, b) creating a graphic score, or c) using a digital audio workstation like GarageBand or SoundTrap.
    • Note: If you are interested in getting started with SoundTrap, visit the website to create a free account that will allow you to record and start editing your music in just a few steps.

      Replay parts of the video as many times as you need in order to complete this assignment.

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 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 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.

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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