Composing Career Bootcamp

πŸ“š There's More to Storytelling Than Theory

🎬 scoring Sep 26, 2023

Coaching students often ask me how I use theory to navigate the many emotions that music needs to convey for effective storytelling.

Theory is a great way to discover new tools, but what theory won’t do is build your emotional vocabulary. To do that, you need to connect emotional language to the tools you learn.

Here’s what to try:

When you listen to a chord progression, don’t just study what it is—ask yourself what each transition between chords evokes emotionally.

If you associate a mode like Lydian with comedy (or any other emotion), explore what makes Lydian feel that way. Is it the unexpectedness of a sharp 4? Or the general brightness of the scale?

The conclusions you draw from these studies informs how you think about emotion in music. Your perception of funniness, anger, or sadness might differ from another composer—and that’s the beauty of it.

Once you know what it is about a progression or mode that yields an emotion, break out of the academic study of theory. Use those raw tools as weapons in your emotional toolkit. It’s this approach that’ll help you uncover your musical voice.

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