This time last year I started a fabulous free online class called Write Like Mozart. This class is offered through the Coursera, a conglomeration of high quality online classes offered by major universities around the world. Write Like Mozart is taught by Peter Edwards of the National University of Singapore. The class is being offered again starting this week (January 13, 2015), and it is a great time to join in. Because the videos are all online and the assignments are not due until the following week, it is no problem to join the class late. I encourage anybody with at least a high school or College Freshman year understanding of music theory to partake.
As an educator, I found that the Write Like Mozart class offered me new ways of teaching music theory. Some of the key approaches within this course are:
- The theory is learned by composing.
- Harmonic possibilities are derived from variations on previously learned harmonic progressions.
- Increasingly complex harmonic progressions are derived from expansions of the more basic harmonic progressions.
- Significant time is spent on how to write keyboard accompaniment to melody.
The last two points offer solid processes for helping the student or composer create and flesh out interesting harmonic motion. Two of my students who participated in this class last year were successful at writing convincing new works based upon these processes.
And I will admit that, even as a seasoned composer, I learned a trick or two in this class.
A lot of information is covered in this class. It really is university level, and relative newbies should take advantage of the student led forums to ask questions and submit homework for criticism. High school students could easily get lost and would benefit by having a mentor take the class along with them to help them understand what is going on.
I recommend this course to young and experienced musicians alike. Young musicians will gain more solid understanding of the function of harmony, rules of voice leading, and structure of music. Experienced musicians will take the class and wonder why music theory wasn’t taught to them this way in the first place.
Over the next 6 weeks, I will be posting the notes I put together for my students from when I last took the class last year. Hopefully they will be useful to those taking the class now and in the future.