Music Continuation Studies

After retirement, I decided to buy another guitar and learn how to play classically (i.e. no singing involved). I further have a small collection of music synthesizers, including a 76-note keyboard synth, my practice piano. Yamaha’s internal samples were usable, but did not correspond to the sound of a piano I would actually want to play. Thanks, Owen, for the Ivory piano samples. I prefer the Bösendorfer samples from the Ivory set.

To get sustainably current, I resumed my instrumental playing, using private lessons in guitar and keyboard to get me started, then joining community college classes and performance groups to keep my involvement moving forward. Due to the inadequacy of my music IQ, I also began to study things musical. Parts of my music appreciation study notes can be seen in articles here.

I use self-study materials to fill in blanks in my memory and training.

  • Text: Tonal Harmony; Kostka, Payne
  • Text: Counterpoint; Kennan
  • Ear Training Software: Practica Musica (Mac)

I took an online course in classical composition, Prof. Peter Edwards’ ‘Write Like Mozart’, offered through the Music Conservatory of the National University of Singapore. I recommend it. It covers, over six compressed weeks, roughly the first two hundred pages of the material presented in the Kostka/Payne text, together with a little counterpoint. I can now write like Mozart (when he was two). The course also introduced me to MusicXML and to the free NoteFlight web-based music notation and playback software, to go along with my Mac software: MainStage, GarageBand, Logic Pro X, and iTunes.

The subject of harmony is so rich, and offers so much opportunity for varied forms of expression, that I cannot conceive why the musical world went off the tonal harmony track at the beginning of the 20th century. What were they thinking? A brief experimental period might be condoned. But to make atonal music the very last word on serious music, so that it has preoccupied musical academia for well over a century, seems utterly preposterous. What a loss.

Hopefully, a new generation of composing talent will decide to boycott academia and learn their music from studying past masters, current jazz idioms, and any other sources of music that express the power of tonality. Then, they can set out to create in their own musical space. It is the only hope I see for creation of new serious music that non-academics can understand and appreciate.

Musical scores form an essential guide to active listening, enhancing our comprehension of complex music by giving us visually both a wider and deeper view into the music than the average ear can assimilate by itself. Scores for much of the complex music we listen to are freely available for online viewing at IMSLP. Also available there are classic texts about music. For example, Rimsky-Korsakov achieved fame as an orchestrator; view his text: Principles of Orchestration.

Other miscellaneous overview books that I have found of use are Schoenberg’s Style and Idea, Copland’s What To Listen For In Music, and Levitin’s This Is Your Brain On Music (Thanks Owen). A classic general music reference is Grove’s Dictionary (Ver. 2, 1904, available from

I don’t know much about composers of serious music. My favorite composer is Brahms, so I do know a little about him. His name will appear elsewhere in my musings here. I also like other serious (classical) music from all time periods, jazz and various jazz-fusion genres, much popular music of all periods (particularly pre-WWII and 60s-70s), rock of the 60s and 70s, and select folk/world music.

It seems a great time to learn some more about music, because I have the time and inclination, and because of the availability of many learning resources, thanks to computers and the Internet. Such a shame I waited so long to enjoy it on my own terms. Don’t let this happen to you.

I suspect the one resource I will need that I don’t have is someone standing behind me with a whip to ensure I do my daily reps. Time to man up.