Method Book Updates

I recently made some updates to my Ukulele Method Book. I combined the Practice Instructions and Fretboard pages into one document so they are easy to print onto one double-sided page that can be used as a bookmark and reference throughout the book. I added the scales and chords used for each key, and I integrated “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star” in the corresponding key as its own lesson into each unit.  I also added three new units and the Strumming Rhythms Index. I also added a new unit to my Guitar Method Book.

Check out the links to free PDFs on the “For My Students” page.

Music Lesson Method Books

Since I’ve been teaching more private lessons lately, I took some time to work on my method books.

In my Guitar Method Book I made the chord symbols bigger and more detailed, added some minor key progressions, and started to incorporate bar chords. I also included a fretboard and practice instructions.

Guitar Chord Practice Instructions
Guitar Method Book 1 Fretboard
Guitar Method Book 1 Unit 1: Major and Minor Chords
Guitar Method Book 1 Unit 2: Common Chord Progressions
Guitar Method Book 1 Unit 3: 12-Bar Blues
Guitar Method Book 1 Unit 4: Sus2 and Sus4 Chords
Guitar Method Book 1 Unit 5: Major Bar Chords, Root on the E string
Coming soon: Unit 6: Minor Bar Chords, Root on the A string.

I also created some Advanced Guitar Exercises.

Advanced Guitar Exercises Introduction: “Chromatic” Exercises
Advanced Guitar Exercises Unit 1: Major Chords, Scales, and Modes
Advanced Guitar Exercises Unit 2: Minor Chords, Scales, and Modes

I recently started writing a Ukulele Method Book.

Ukulele Practice Instructions
Ukulele Method Book Fretboard
Ukulele Method Book Unit 1: The Key of C Major
Ukulele Method Book Unit 2: The Key of G Major
Ukulele Method Book Unit 3: The Key of F Major
Ukulele Method Book Unit 4: The Key of D Major
Ukulele Method Book Unit 5: The Key of Bb Major

I also transcribed some simple songs that can be played on ukulele or guitar.

Frosty the Snowman (in C Major and G Major)
Jingle Bells (in C Major and G Major)
Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer (in C Major and G Major)
Twinkle Twinkle Little Star (in C Major and G Major)

Finally, I cleaned up my Music Theory Method Book and sectioned it into units like my other books.

Music Theory Method Book Unit 1
Music Theory Method Book Unit 2
Music Theory Method Book Unit 3
Music Theory Method Book Unit 4
Music Theory Method Book Unit 5

Links to free PDFs of all of these materials (along with my Snare Drum and Drum Set method books) can be found on the “For My Students” page.

Movie Mumble Theme: Hybrid

From August of 2017 through all of 2018 I had composed/arranged custom themes for the Movie Mumble podcast (hosted by Nerds That Geek). Since January of 2019 I’ve been using an orchestral version of the theme (Movie Mumble Theme: Orchestra) for almost all of the episodes. Now that it’s been four years, I figured that it was time to write a new version of the theme. I wanted to incorporate my influences and personal style preferences, as well as utilize what I had learned at Berklee in my Film Scoring Masters program.

I used elements rock music, percussion ensemble, orchestral music, world music, and electronic music. For “rock music” I used distorted electric guitar, bass guitar, and drum set. For “orchestral music” I used low woodwinds, horns, low brass, timpani, tam-tam, choir, and strings. For “world music” I used wind instruments (zurna, xiao, ney, duduk, and didgeridoo), tanpura, and various percussion instruments (from India, the Middle East, Africa, and Southeast Asia). For “electronic music” I used a bass synth with an arpeggiator and wavetable synthesis.

Movie Mumble Theme: Hybrid can be heard for the first time in this month’s episode (January 2023).

A Winter Carol for piano and orchestra

Seasons Greetings!

I composed A Winter Carol a few years ago for a contest, and I recently cleaned up the orchestration and made a new mockup. If you are interested in performing it with your orchestra, let me know and I can send you a score to look over (if you don’t have access to a piano, we can figure out an alternative). If you have a concert band (or some other ensemble), let me know and I’ll do an arrangement to suit your ensemble.

A Winter Carol showcases the two best parts of winter: sitting inside where it’s warm (maybe with your favorite warm drink) while watching the falling snow, and playing outside in the snow.

Happy Holidays!

Berklee Online, Summer Semester, Final Projects

These next two tracks were the final projects from my Berklee Online Summer Semester.

Captain America: The Winter Soldier – Fight Scene was the final project in Synthesis, Sampling, and Sound Design in Film Scoring to score a three-minute film clip. Previously I’ve only done action scenes with orchestral instruments (and on those I’m probably guilty of Mickey Mousing), so I wanted to score an action scene with intense electronic sounds that is relentless (as opposed to having an orchestra hit on every punch). All of the percussion sounds and most of the synthesized sounds I used in my score are samples from the clip. For the Winter Soldier, the synth rhythm and percussion groove are based on a paradiddle (RLRR LRLL) which is reflected in the sound choices as well as the panning (his robotic left arm is stronger and metallic, so the right-hand part is a sample of him punching Captain America with his human hand, panned to the right and the left-hand part is samples of two different “metallic punch” sounds panned to the left). I also used filter cutoff automation to lighten and darken the sounds as he moves around (also at one point both sounds go to a higher octave). Black Widow’s percussion sounds are made up of the two footsteps she takes as she is running up to him, the sound of her kicking, and the fast repeated notes are the sound of the little disc that she throws on his arm. I used a reversed sample of the sound of the shield being punched to lead up to the actual sound in the clip. Captain America’s rhythm was made from different sounds made by the shield. When their fight starts, I panned of all Winter Soldier’s rhythms to the left, and put Captain America’s on the right so there was a clear separation of those two parts. I added chords on the right with my “distorted guitar sound” that I used in a previous lesson, and I added a bass line on the left. I kept the music mostly going relentlessly except for a few key moments where I stopped, and every time I did, I used automation to bring all of the filter cutoffs down and slowly bring them back in leading into the next downbeat. Since there was some music in the clip that I had to work around (sections with three slow bass drum hits, a whailing sound when Winter Soldier jumps up onto a car, a big BRAAAAAM as Captain America is running up, some soft staccato strings during the fight, and something like a zurna during the fight), I brought down the original volume of the clip, so that all you can hear is my music, except for a few key sound design moments that I was consciously working around as I was scoring (The explosion at the very beginning, Winter Soldier cocking his gun, Black Widow’s decoy phone conversation-the explosion-Black Widow running up to Winter Soldier, Winter Soldier firing his gun as his arm is temporarily deactivated-pulling the disk off-reactivating his arm, Black Widow getting shot, Winter Soldier punching Captain America’s shield, Winter Soldier punching the ground, Winter Soldier’s knife cutting through the side of the van, the shield hitting Winter Soldier’s arm, Winter Soldier hitting the ground after Captain America throws him).

Iranian Scenario was the final project in Stylistic Adaptations in Film Scoring to score a scene that takes place in a country of our choice. Once we chose a country, we had to research the native music of that country in order to incorporate it into our cue. I wanted to use a mix of Persian and Western instruments because it takes place in Iran but the main character is a Western woman who works in the American Embassy.

This movie takes place in Tehran just before the 1979 revolution.
0:00: MX in on a LS of a Western woman walking down a busy city street.  She doesn’t look totally out of place, but she doesn’t look like she belongs.
0:21: She goes through the gate of the American Embassy, which is guarded by two Marines in dress uniform.
0:27: She sits at her desk and looks deep in thought. She is obviously either a diplomat or an intelligence operative.
0:36: We hear the sound of a large angry crowd chanting what are apparently anti-American slogans.
0:41: CUT to the crowd.
0:49: The woman rushes out of her office and goes out a side entrance to a back street. She runs down the street avoiding the crowd and…
1:05: enters a local coffee shop (think hookahs) and meets a man wearing traditional Arab robes. He is agitated, but glad to see her, and they have an intense conversation.  During the course of this conversation…
1:19: his robe opens slightly to reveal a 9mm Beretta in a holster.
1:26: They leave the coffeeshop and go hurrying down the street away from the mob.
1:33: Dissolve to sunrise over the mountains in Northern Iran, and the woman and the man are looking out over a deserted valley.
1:44: MX OUT.

Berklee Online, Summer Semester, Week 11

These next two tracks were from my Berklee Online Summer Semester, Week 11.

Haunted Spaceship was the assignment in Synthesis, Sampling, and Sound Design in Film Scoring to “create a one-minute evolving ambient soundscape using granular synthesis and ring modulation … use any of the devices, processes, and/or techniques from this lesson that interest you most in your soundscape.” I used Logic’s Flex Time to slow two drum loops down to 5 BpM. I staggered them and then panned them on either side and added a little Ringshifter which gave them a buzzing quality. My center line is from Alchemy with two simple lines moving back and forth chromatically. I used automation to control the size, density, num taps, and tap spacing to gradually go from all the way up to all the way down so that the sound gradually degrades throughout the piece. I also added Ringshifter to this line to give it extra bite.

Medieval Scenario was the assignment in Stylistic Adaptations in Film Scoring to “Adapt the … Kyrie VIII from Mass VIII, Gregorian Chant (Brébeuf Hymnal) … and create a cue to the scenario given … create your own variation of the chant melody by extracting a phrase or by doing your own melodic variation and developing that … the resulting music should have a contemporary sound, but incorporate some element of the musical styles of the late Middle Ages or Renaissance … the ensemble should have a large, big-budget sound, and must use some element or elements of Medieval music.” I wanted the opening to be pretty big and mostly high, since it’s an aerial scenery shot. Throughout the cue I used mostly open perfect 4ths and 5ths with an occasional triad (especially at a half cadence). For the travelers I used timpani quarter notes to represent them walking, a men’s choir (three part harmony) for the three monks, a  men’s choir melody for the lead monk, one of each woodwind for the family, and harp playing arpeggios for the jongleur (I used harp instead of lute or guitar because I figured they might get buried in all the orchestration). At this point they are tired and possibly starting to give up hope that they will ever find their destination so I used the relative minor. When they see the spire I went full tutti with the orchestration (including chimes for church bells) and returned to the relative major because their hope is renewed. The music dissolves and becomes more peaceful as they arrive at their destination. I used the three-part male voices singing reverently as the monks walk down the main aisle in the cathedral.

0:00: MX IN on an establishing aerial shot of the moors in central England. It is the fifteenth century. The camera pans down to a dirt track and at…
0:17: we see a handful of travelers. It is a diverse group of people walking behind a cart pulled by two oxen with a horseman guarding the rear. As we get closer, we see the group is led by a monk with a shaved head. There is a family of parents and two small children, a jongleur carrying a stringed instrument, and three more monks.
0:31: they come over a rise and in the distance we see the spire of a large cathedral, indicating their destination.
0:40: cut to the group arriving at the gates of the walled city
0:47: cut to the monks entering the cathedral, walking down the main aisle and kneeling at the altar.
1:03: MX OUT at as they pray.



Berklee Online, Summer Semester, Week 10

These next five tracks were from my Berklee Online Summer Semester, Week 10 in Synthesis, Sampling, and Sound Design in Film Scoring.

Eye was an exercise to “create your own vocal chop … put any other instrument parts along with it if needed to help us feel the melody … make sure the vocal chops are the feature.” The source sound was from a vocal track a friend of mine did for a secret project I’m working on, and I sampled a section from when he says the word “eyes” (I cut the ‘s’ off, so the sample is just “eye”).

Tormented was an exercise to “process your sample with a variety of effects … apply modulation … use any tool that we have covered so far to process the sound … create a short sequence with the sound by itself.” I used a different part of the previously-mentioned project with my friend where he sings “tormented”.

KtFA BTAS was an exercise to “take a vocal sample and use any combination of Pitch Shifter, Pitch Correction, and Vocal Transformer to create a new and compelling sound … use any additional effects to make the sound even more interesting … create an eight-bar sequence using your new sound.” I used a longer clip from the same project, and I reversed the words so they wouldn’t be recognizable. I put it on four different tracks (SATB), each with different combinations of extremes of changing the pitch and formant and combining those with Robotize.

De Profundis Excerpt was an exercise to “create your own vocal or choose a vocal sample … set up your vocoder … create a MIDI chord progression … create an eight-bar sequence with your vocoded vocal part.” I used a recording of my wife speaking the first four lines from De Profundis (from a previous project). I had automation gradually move the Formant Stretch and Formant Shift from low and narrow to low and wide to high and wide to high and narrow. I also added a “cathedral” reverb because it seemed fitting.

Alien Religious Service was the assignment to “Create a one- to two-minute piece using vocal synthesis and processing as the main feature … use any of the devices, processes, and/or techniques from this lesson that interest you most … use your own perspective on composing with vocal synthesis, sampling, and sound design.” I used a verse and chorus (or chorus and verse since it plays in reverse) from the same project that I’ve been using. I have one instance running through the vocoder at the center. I used the chord progression from the song (also in reverse) for the MIDI notes for the vocoder. I added some effects (chorus, phaser, reverb, and delay), and used a “middle of the road” setting for the vocoder. Since the melody has a lot of space, I created a “call and response” effect to fill in the gaps. I created far-left and far-right parts, and used automation to bring those parts in during the rests. The reversed vocals, vocoder, and the call and response created the overall effect of a religious service for aliens.

Berklee Online, Summer Semester, Weeks 8 & 9

These next four tracks were from my Berklee Online Summer Semester, Weeks 8 and 9 in Synthesis, Sampling, and Sound Design in Film Scoring.

Two Beats was a Week 8 exercise to “load a preset kit available within your drum sampler … tweak at least four of the individual sample’s settings to your taste … create a 16-bar drum loop in the four-on-the-floor style … add a drum fill in the eighth and sixteenth bars with your new version of the drum kit featuring the newly affected sounds … duplicate your drum kit to a new track … create another 16-bar drum loop in hip-hop style using syncopation in the kick drum … remember to add drum fills at bar eight and at the end of the 16-bar loop to help with the loop’s turnaround.” I added a fadeout to the snare/rim shot because it was ringing out way too long and I like a dryer snare drum. I used the EQ to fatten up the bass drum and snare drum a little bit. I brought the levels of the toms up and the snare down so they would match a little better. I reversed the clap sound and used it to lead into the snare hits on 2 and 4.

My Amen Brother Edit was a Week 8 exercise to “import the audio file of the “Amen Brother” drum break … chop up the sample on the downbeats of the music … lay out the slices on the separate pads … change at least four of the sample slices … create a 16-bar loop, remembering to add drum fills around the eighth and sixteenth bars.” On my main bass, I boosted the low end, on my main snare I boosted the middle. I also used EQ on everything to bring down the ride (since it’s in every sample and can get grating). I took one of the snare samples and one of the bass samples and reversed them (and used those for one of my fills). I took another snare and bass sample and did a low pass filter with some resonance and used those for another fill. I added stereo delay and a phaser and added them to one of my “Ride and Snare ghost note” samples and used that in another fill.

Winter Soldier Groove was my Week 8 assignment to “construct a 16-sound sample drum kit, which can include any sounds you find inspiring and interesting … you may include drum sounds, synth sounds, found sounds, etc. … create an eight-bar drum loop … create three variations of the eight-bar loop, making a total of 32 bars.” Since I wanted to start working toward my final project (scoring a fight scene from Captain America: The Winter Soldier), I decided to make a kit that relates to the film clip and the music I’m planning to do for it. I went through the entire clip and sampled all of the sounds that I thought were interesting. I ended up with over 60 samples of punches, kicks, crashes, and other sound effects. Eventually I picked out four bass-like sounds that I liked (mostly punches), then I found hits that had more treble in them, so they worked better as snares/drums (some of them have a metallic aspect to them because of the Winter Soldier’s robotic left arm). Then I picked four small metallic hits for hi-hat type sounds. The last four sounds are specialty sound effects (a gun cocking, electricity, a whirling sound, and the sound of the Winter Soldier’s arm). It was interesting creating the groove, because first of all I had a variety of basses and snares to use. It was also great to have four different hi-hat like sounds to use simultaneously, and make rhythms that one person alone on a drum set couldn’t do by themself. I also liked utilizing the sound effects for most of the fills, as opposed to traditional toms.

Alien Zombies was my Week 9 assignment to “create a one- to two-minute piece using wavetable synthesis and distortion.” For this assignment I wanted to get away from thinking how I normally do and just focus on timbre and tension. I was inspired by a synth patch shown in class where the LFO was drawn to produce a “short short long” rhythm, so I created some LFOs of my own for different variations and speeds. I started with a patch that reminded me of sounds I’ve heard in the “Annihilation” soundtrack and then added a higher “bubbling” synth sound. For the transition I added a driving bass part that gradually fades in and a Shepard tone to create a build into a suspenseful cutoff and a bar of silence. The B section starts with a distorted guitar-like synth sound, then the bass from the end of the A section returns, followed by a higher synth sound, a “robotic” wobble bass sound, and a high “glassy” synth for more contrast to all of the lower sounds. The Shepard tone returns, leading to another suspenseful cutoff, and the very first low “Annihilation” pulse returns momentarily before fading out. I wanted to go for a horror vibe, that would work in a story about aliens, but since the second half reminded me of the music from the first “Resident Evil” movie, it turns out that the aliens are also zombies.

Berklee Online, Summer Semester, Week 7

These next two tracks were from my Berklee Online Summer Semester, Week 7.

Acoustic Guitar Build was the assignment in Synthesis, Sampling, and Sound Design in Film Scoring to “create a one- to two-minute sample-based piece … choose a sample or multiple samples that are of importance to you … create a multi-layered instrument … manipulate the sample using filters, LFOs, envelopes, detuning, reverse, or effects.” I sampled my acoustic guitar by recording one note from each string all at the 2nd fret (low to high, F#, B, E, A, C#, F#), and then then bent the pitches up or down to fill out the basic chord-playing range. I wanted to capture the individual timbres of the different strings (without having to sample every chromatic note), which adds to the sound of voice-leading when playing chords. I recorded them each at soft, medium, and loud dynamics, as well as snap pizz I kept one version of this “instrument” unedited so that it would sound more like an actual guitar, but I also made a version with just the snap pizz sound reversed. For the bass part I used the technique I had used before where I added an arpeggiator to play quarter notes on a repeated note with stereo delay, but this time I had 8th notes on the left and dotted 8th notes on the right so it creates an “8th and two 16ths” rhythm. I added my clean multi-layered acoustic guitar with an arpeggiator, and I voiced the chords the way they would be on an actual guitar. Next I used a “vocal ah with harmonic sweep” pad that I had made for an earlier exercise (a sample of my wife’s voice from a piece I wrote years ago). The next layer is the reversed guitar snap pizz sample instrument with a ping pong delay to create some syncopation and complexity. In the B section the chords change and the bass rhythm in the stereo delay switches to 8th note triplets, the guitar arpeggiator switches from 16th notes to 16th note triplets, the reversed snap pizz guitar switches from dotted 8ths to quarter note triplets, and I took out the harmonic sweep pad and replaced it with a layered sample (consisting of a vocal ah, a clarinet and viola swell, and a low brass hit instrument I created for an earlier exercise). The first phrase is softer so the brass hits don’t get triggered until the second phrase. The return to the A section has the chords from the A section, but with the triplet rhythms of the B section, the “harmonic sweep” pad from the A section, the layered instrument from the B section, and in the second phrase the sampled guitar has now reached the velocity level where all the notes are triggering the (unprocessed) snap pizz. samples, for a percussive, climactic ending.

Deadwood Main Title was a two-part assignment (completed in Week 8) in Stylistic Adaptations in Film Scoring to rescore the opening main title sequence from the HBO series, Deadwood: “prepare an audio draft of your cue outlining the basic themes, instruments, and groove (if any) and receive feedback … for the following week you will submit a final version with a full score … watch the main title several times, and if you have never seen the show, watch at least the first episode in order to get a sense of the story, tone, and pacing of the action … then decide if there are any specific instruments that you would like to use, such as acoustic guitar, fiddle, banjo, harmonica, jaw harp, mandolin, etc.” Since the tone of the show is very dark and serious, I didn’t feel like piano would fit as well as it does in other westerns (piano works well in WestWorld, especially because the player piano is a metaphor for the hosts, but this is a very different show). I also thought that banjo would be too “light-hearted” and I didn’t have access to harmonica, jaw harp, or mandolin, so I focused mainly on acoustic guitar and fiddle. The A section uses the chord progression Dm Em Am Dm, and the B section uses E minor blues. In my first draft the A section (Intro) had a picked acoustic guitar playing arpeggios, a second acoustic guitar playing low power chords, and the bass played by a low string section.  At the B section I added “guitar percussion” (hitting different parts of the guitar to get percussive sounds) and the fiddle played the melody. At the return of the A section (Interlude) I added a strummed acoustic guitar, and for the final B section the fiddle melody went up an octave, and I added a lower rhythmic fiddle part. After the climax (where the Deadwood title card is shown), I removed the fiddles, strummed acoustic guitar and the guitar percussion for the final B section (End). Since one of the comments in my professor’s feedback was that the “melody is a bit static … it could use a little more interest (shape) in choice spots … pay attention to how often it comes to rest on the note E, which on the one hand anchors it, but on the other hand makes it a bit static.” I re-wrote the melody and gave it more of an arc, and made sure that E was only used once at the very beginning of the melody, once for the climax of the melody, and then to end the melody. I also added a second fiddle harmonizing the melody underneath, which was another of his suggestions (the second fiddle part uses E a few times). He also said that I should add more instrumental colors and textures. I added some fast string arpeggios in the A section, and for the bass I took out the low string section and instead used an acoustic bass that doesn’t come in until the second A section. In the second B section I added a body percussion rhythm and at the climax when the title card is shown I added a vibra-slap and bass drum hit for extra emphasis.

Berklee Online, Summer Semester, Week 6

These next two tracks were from my Berklee Online Summer Semester, Week 6 in Synthesis, Sampling, and Sound Design in Film Scoring.

Acid House Bass was an exercise to “create a TB-303 bass line … choose a subtractive synth and create a 16-note sequenced bass line … loop the sequence … make sure to automate the filter cutoff and resonance over time to change the timbre.” I automated the cutoff so that it would have a predictable, planned rise and fall, and then performed the resonance on my modwheel. Using the modwheel as opposed to turning a small knob made it a little easier for me to play a rhythm.

Terminator Drive, Stranger Glass was the assignment to “write a two- to three-minute piece of music using four arpeggiated parts that work well rhythmically together … use the film clips in this lesson to inspire you and incorporate any of the approaches and techniques that were mentioned … you are welcome to add synth pads or percussion, or any other instruments that you want, but make sure the arpeggiated parts are a significant element in the score.” I was inspired by the ostinato from the first Terminator film, the undulating bass from Drive, and the arpeggio from Stranger Things. I adapted the 13|16 ostinato from Terminator into 4|4 by adding a group of 3 and changed it into 10|16 by taking away a group of 3. I did the 4|4 version in my A section and then the 10|16 in the return of the A section at the end. I used arpeggiators with increasing layers of notes and range to build my moving lines. I was also inspired by Philip Glass, so in the B section I used one of his arpeggios (I can’t remember what it’s from), using a step descent bass progression that is 5|16 + 5|16 + 5|16 + 6|16. Throughout the entire piece there is a bell sound with an arpeggiator to make it pulse in a group of three 16th notes, tying everything together.


Composer for Film, Television, Video Games, Theatre, and the Concert Stage