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New Ways Of Composing
by Larry Heyl - CC BY

Technology has brought about fundamental changes to music composition. I remember when you sat down at a piano and notated a piece on score paper. Then after the score was completed the composer would transpose each part to it's own page. These manuscripts would be distributed to the musicians.

Composers like Billy Strayhorn got so good at this workflow that they could write a piece on the score with all the parts transposed and then write out the parts and have a piece ready to play in a few hours. On Brooke Gladstone's NPR podcast "Take The A Train", we learn Billy Strayhorn would compose in his head and he would only write the composition down after it was done.

https://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=100731586

Needless to say, not all composers have the talent of Billy Strayhorn, and most of them were glad to use music notation programs, like Finale, to transpose their parts. And the musicians were also happy to play from printed scores instead of manuscript.

Music notation programs were an important technological advance for composers. They are not, however, a great composition tool. There is something about a pencil and eraser that makes it easy to change and improve a composition. I prefer waiting until a piece is done before I go to the computer.

I do compose in my head sometimes, but unlike Billy Strayhorn, I've never written an entire piece before I wrote it down. In fact, I've been known to work on a melody or a change and then when I wake up the next morning it's gone. So I turn to technology.

This article describes my new way of composing. Every composer has their own way of composing and they can each devise their own new way.


My Toolbox
---

Pencil and paper - Although I don't write out complete scores anymore I still always have blank paper and manuscript paper ready for jotting down ideas.

Electric piano - Not every composer works at a keyboard but many do. Not everyone has a piano. I have quite a few. I use my Roland Go:Piano for composing because it's convenient, fits in small spaces, and is battery powered with rechargeable AA batteries. I also use this piano for performing and rehearsing because it weighs 9 lbs and it's battery powered.

Speaker - The Go:Piano has built in speakers but for the best sound I play it through a JBL Eon One Compact. I never realised how good this piano sounded until I played it through this speaker. The Eon One Compact is also battery powered or it can remain plugged in for convenience.

iReal Pro on a tablet - I use a Kindle Fire for it's great sound and low price but to install iReal Pro on a Kindle you have to install Google Play first. Most people already have a phone or tablet that will work fine.

metronome - For practicing parts at different tempos. I also do this with iReal Pro. Sometimes I just want clicks. Sometimes backing tracks.

Zoom flash recorder - Again, any recorder, phone, computer, or tablet will work. I use my Zoom H4 because of the high quality built in mics, battery power, and I already own it.

Finale - Finale is supported on Windows and Macs. There are many alternatives including free alternatives and online alternatives. Finale has a free alternative called Note Pad and a cheaper alternative called Print Music.


My Workflow
---

I write by playing piano. Sometimes chords first, sometimes melody first. I use pencil and paper to notate the chord change. When I have the start of something I'm happy with I record it. Otherwise I can easily forget part of the song I'm working on.

I can do this over a period of days. Playing the piece. Singing the piece. Trying new things. Recording parts I'm happy with. Sometimes a piece falls together in one writing session. More often I continue working on it tomorrow.

iReal Pro has an edit feature where you can enter your own chord changes. After I enter the chord changes iReal Pro has algorithms that play the bass and drum parts. (If you play a horn ireal Pro can also play the piano parts.)

I practice with a metronome and with iReal Pro. Playing the bass and drums backing tracks makes it easier for me to focus on the piano parts and learn the exact rhythms that I want. Improvisation is great and I do improvise during the composition process. My goal, however, is to complete a part with every note and rhythm defined and repeatable. My real composition space is the interface between my fingers and the keys.

Since I write jazz songs they usually have a form that is from 12 to 32 bars in length. The melody and the chord change is called the head. When I am happy with the head I practice it until I am able to play it from memory without mistakes. I continue improving the piece throughout this process, recording it frequently.

It helps to listen to the recordings to hear places that need improvement. So the recordings help me remember what I played yesterday and they also give me a listener's ear on the song.

After I am happy with the head part of the piece I transcribe it to Finale. Transcribing other people's work can be hard. Transcribing your own work is much easier. The hardest part, for me, is making sure all the rhythms are correct.

Jazz is often written in a rhythmic style called swing. Jazz rhythms often have a delay element where it sounds like the musician is playing behind the beat. Jazz vocalists often milk a part singing in what, at first, sounds like free time.

It can be tricky to notate these rhythms in Finale so that they sound like the piece I just wrote and memorized. This is the reason that I learn the piece before I start notating the piece. It is too easy to get used to a rhythm that is close but not exactly right after repeated listenings on Finale.

After I notate the piece I sometimes find ways to improve it. In particular I can get lazy with my left hand rhythms while I'm working out a melody. If I have an idea for improving the left hand rhythms I will notate that idea and then play through the new notation. After I am comfortable with the new rhythm I decide if I want to keep it. If I don't actually like it better Finale supports undo.

As I build out the piece beyond the head, adding harmonies, counterpoint, alternative melodies, solos, and background parts I work back and forth between the Finale notation and the piano and voice. I always focus on the music first and the notation second. The notation should derive from the music. For reading musicians this is sometimes hard to grasp because throughout all their music training they are handed a piece of sheet music and then they derive the music from that. This is exactly topsy turvy from the way a composer writes a piece.

Anytime I add a new part I always go to the piano or voice first. I play until I get something I like. I practice it. I record it. I listen back and I improve it. And then, finally, I notate it. So it's just like the workflow described above, done for each new part.

The exception to this, in my workflow, is writing homophonic harmonies. Since the rhythms are already there I am dealing with note choices so I work with the notation and the piano at the same time adding harmony parts to a melody.

I also use Finale to play just the harmony parts over the bass or just the harmony I'm working on and the melody over the bass. Finale has a mixer that allows me to solo just the parts I want to hear. By leaving out the other instruments it makes it easier to hear the new harmonies.

My goal in writing each harmony part is to write another melody that sounds good played alone as well as when played with the melody or the whole band. Playing just the single harmony part with the bass makes it easy for me to hear that part's melody.

When I have a section where it is listenable I seek knowledgeable advice. I play, sing, or play the finale version for people who will give constructive comments. When you play your music for most people they try to be polite and say things like "that's nice" or "I like it". Try to find people who will go beyond that, actively listen, and point out the parts that work for them and the parts that don't.

I do not rigidly adhere to this workflow. It is my general practice.


Your Toolbox
---

You may not play piano. You may be more comfortable writing on your own instrument. You may want to write melodies on your horn and write chord changes on guitar. Or, like Billy Strayhorn, you may prefer composing in your head.

Every composer and every musician has a different skill set and a different approach to music composition.

You still need a toolbox. Probably at least this.

Pencil and paper

An instrument or your voice

A metronome (could be your phone)

A recorder (could be your phone)

A notation program (could be online)


Your Workflow
---

You will develop this by exercising the practice of composition. The important thing is not to follow a particular workflow but to be aware of what your workflow is. Develop your own workflow thinking about what you do in those terms. Document it if it helps. It certainly helped me.

Creative work is still work and sometimes creative people have to deal with time constraints and deadlines just like anyone doing any kind of work. An established workflow makes it easier to complete tasks on schedule. An awareness of your workflow makes it easier to start projects and easier to finish them.

As the famous composer Sly Stone said, "It's your thing. Do what you wanna do."


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Hairy Larry Rocks New Links

(1) Bebop Beatniks Live At Blues Fest September 24, 2023 - YouTube
Posted on Wednesday September 27, 2023

Bebop Beatniks
Live At Blues Fest
Craighead Forest Bandshell
Jonesboro, Arkansas
September 24, 2023

Songs
---
00:00 African Violet
11:24 Thanks Mr. Cloud ...
12:14 The Blue Crane
21:20 The dance floor is open ...
21:42 Low Earth Orbit
31:08 Honky Tonk Jazz ...
31:54 Sail Boats
38:37 In the audience ...
39:15 Freddy's Blues
45:34 Silence ...
45:19 Malaysia
55:53 Introducing the band ...

All songs by Larry Heyl

Personnel
---
Tyler Remagen - sax and flute
Hairy Larry - piano and vocals
Jeremy Jackson - bass
Alex Washam - drums
Conley Hunt - percussion and vocals

bebopbeatniks.com
deltaboogie.net
hairylarryland.com
Permalink

Hairy Larry Live at Craighead Forest Bandshell on 2023-09-24 : Free Download, Borrow, and Streaming : Internet Archive
Posted on Wednesday September 27, 2023

Bebop Beatniks
Live At Blues Fest
Craighead Forest Bandshell
Jonesboro, Arkansas
September 24, 2023

Songs
---
00:00 African Violet
11:24 Thanks Mr. Cloud ...
12:14 The Blue Crane
21:20 The dance floor is open ...
21:42 Low Earth Orbit
31:08 Honky Tonk Jazz ...
31:54 Sail Boats
38:37 In the audience ...
39:15 Freddy's Blues
45:34 Silence ...
45:19 Malaysia
55:53 Introducing the band ...

All songs by Larry Heyl

Personnel
---
Tyler Remagen - sax and flute
Hairy Larry - piano and vocals
Jeremy Jackson - bass
Alex Washam - drums
Conley Hunt - percussion and vocals

bebopbeatniks.com
deltaboogie.net
hairylarryland.com
youtube.com/hairylarry
Permalink

Blues Fest - September 24, 2023
Posted on Thursday September 14, 2023

Blues Fest
Craighead Forest Bandshell
Jonesboro, Arkansas
Sunday, September 24

2:00 Hairy Larry and The Flying Hungarians
3:00 Butler and Holmes
4:00 Bebop Beatniks
5:00 Anna and the Tanks
6:00 Houston Steele and the Band Of Steele

Free and open to the public. Picnics permitted. Bring blankets and lawn chairs for your comfort.
Permalink

Bebop Beatniks Play Larry's Composition Recital On September 10, 2023 - toobnix
Posted on Thursday September 14, 2023

Bebop Beatniks
Larry Heyl Composition Recital
ASU Band Room
September 10, 2023

Songs

00:00 African Violet
14:30 The Blue Crane
23:30 introducing the band ...
24:24 Low Earth Orbit
33:32 Sail Boats
42:22 Freddy's Blues
52:35 Malaysia

All songs by Larry Heyl

Personnel

Rike Robinson - trombone and vocals
Tyler Remagen - sax and flute
Cody Daugherty - trumpet
Sophie Hacker - guitar and vocals
Craig Collison - drums
Jeremy Jackson - bass
Conley Hunt - percussion and vocals
Hairy Larry - piano and vocals
Permalink

Bebop Beatniks 2023 09 10 - Larry Heyl Composition Recital - YouTube
Posted on Wednesday September 13, 2023

Bebop Beatniks
Larry Heyl Composition Recital
ASU Band Room
September 10, 2023

Songs

00:00 African Violet
14:30 The Blue Crane
23:30 introducing the band ...
24:24 Low Earth Orbit
33:32 Sail Boats
42:22 Freddy's Blues
52:35 Malaysia

All songs by Larry Heyl

Personnel

Rike Robinson - trombone and vocals
Tyler Remagen - sax and flute
Cody Daugherty - trumpet
Sophie Hacker - guitar and vocals
Craig Collison - drums
Jeremy Jackson - bass
Conley Hunt - percussion and vocals
Hairy Larry - piano and vocals

Permalink

Bebop Beatniks Live at ASU Band Room on 2023-09-10 : Free Download, Borrow, and Streaming : Internet Archive
Posted on Wednesday September 13, 2023

Bebop Beatniks
Larry Heyl Composition Recital
ASU Band Room
September 10, 2023

Songs

00:00 African Violet
14:30 The Blue Crane
23:30 introducing the band ...
24:24 Low Earth Orbit
33:32 Sail Boats
42:22 Freddy's Blues
52:35 Malaysia

All songs by Larry Heyl

Personnel

Rike Robinson - trombone and vocals
Tyler Remagen - sax and flute
Cody Daugherty - trumpet
Sophie Hacker - guitar and vocals
Craig Collison - drums
Jeremy Jackson - bass
Conley Hunt - percussion and vocals
Hairy Larry - piano and vocals

Permalink


HairyLarryLand Tumblr

Bebop Beatniks Live At Blues Fest Craighead Forest Bandshell Jonesboro, Arkansas September 24, 2023
Posted on Wednesday September 27, 2023

Bebop Beatniks
Live At Blues Fest
Craighead Forest Bandshell
Jonesboro, Arkansas
September 24, 2023

Songs

00:00 African Violet
11:24 Thanks Mr. Cloud …
12:14 The Blue Crane
21:20 The dance floor is open …
21:42 Low Earth Orbit
31:08 Honky Tonk Jazz …
31:54 Sail Boats
38:37 In the audience …
39:15 Freddy’s Blues
45:34 Silence …
45:19 Malaysia
55:53 Introducing the band …

All songs by Larry Heyl

Personnel

Tyler Remagen - sax and flute
Hairy Larry - piano and vocals
Jeremy Jackson - bass
Alex Washam - drums
Conley Hunt - percussion and vocals

bebopbeatniks.com
deltaboogie.net
hairylarryland.com
youtube.com/hairylarry

Bebop Beatniks Larry Heyl Composition Recital ASU Band Room September 10, 2023
Posted on Wednesday September 13, 2023

Bebop Beatniks
Larry Heyl Composition Recital
ASU Band Room
September 10, 2023

Songs

00:00 African Violet
14:30 The Blue Crane
23:30 introducing the band …
24:24 Low Earth Orbit
33:32 Sail Boats
42:22 Freddy’s Blues
52:35 Malaysia

All songs by Larry Heyl

Personnel

Rike Robinson - trombone and vocals
Tyler Remagen - sax and flute
Cody Daugherty - trumpet
Sophie Hacker - guitar and vocals
Craig Collison - drums
Jeremy Jackson - bass
Conley Hunt - percussion and vocals
Hairy Larry - piano and vocals

Livestreamed to Youtube from my Samsung Galaxy S10

bebopbeatniks.com
deltaboogie.net
youtube.com/hairylarry


Posted on Tuesday July 25, 2023

Bebop Beatniks At Beatles ParkWalnut Ridge, ArkansasMay 27,...
Posted on Wednesday May 31, 2023



Bebop Beatniks At Beatles Park
Walnut Ridge, Arkansas
May 27, 2023

Songs

00:00 We are Bebop Beatniks …
00:23 The Blue Crane
08:53 What a wonderful audience …
09:00 Candles
16:43 I’m going to rap …
17:04 African Violet
28:24 When Conley was a percussion student …
28:48 Low Earth Orbit
38:17 OK, here’s a swing song …
38:25 Sailboats
45:11 Crates is the companion piece to Candles …
45:20 Crates
53:36 One more song …
53:46 Malaysia

Personnel

Hairy Larry - piano, vocals
Alex Washam - drums
Conley Hunt - percussion
Rike Robinson - trombone

All songs by Larry Heyl
https://bebopbeatniks.com/
https://deltaboogie.net/
https://www.youtube.com/hairylarry/

Bebop Beatniks On The Twitch PorchApril 16, 2023Northeast...
Posted on Wednesday April 19, 2023



Bebop Beatniks On The Twitch Porch
April 16, 2023
Northeast Arkansas

Songs

00:00 The Blue Crane
08:45 Playing With Aries …
09:34 African Violet

Personnel

John Shepherd, guitar
Alex Washam, drums
Hairy Larry, piano and vocals

https://bebopbeatniks.com
https://hairylarryland.com

Bebop Beatniks On The Twitch Porch April 2, 2023 Songs 00:00...
Posted on Wednesday April 05, 2023



Bebop Beatniks On The Twitch Porch April 2, 2023 Songs 00:00 Stardust by Hoagy Carmichael, public domain 08:27 African Violet 17:05 Sail Boats 24:26 Malaysia 33:37 Low Earth Orbit 42:37 The Blue Crane


Something Blue

Jungle
Posted on Friday September 08, 2023

Something Blue – Jungle – September 9, 2023 This is Hairy Larry inviting you to enjoy Something Blue every Saturday night at ten. This week we’re featuring Roberta Flack, Herbie Hancock, Dianne Reeves, and Bill Evans. For more about the … Continue reading

DJ Hairy Larry Presents Lisa Ahia Singing My Romance
Posted on Saturday September 02, 2023

DJ Hairy Larry Presents Lisa Ahia Singing My Romance From The Archives Of Something Blue 2023-09-03 Thanks Marty, today we’re going to hear a female vocalist accompanied by a female pianist recorded in 2011 at Bebopalooza! This Saturday I have … Continue reading

Darkness
Posted on Friday September 01, 2023

Something Blue – Darkness – September 2, 2023 This is Hairy Larry inviting you to enjoy Something Blue every Saturday night at ten. This week we’re featuring Taper’s Choice and Circles Around The Sun. For more about the show visit … Continue reading

DJ Hairy Larry Presents Larry Donn And Wildfire Willie Playing Wild One
Posted on Saturday August 26, 2023

From The Archives Of Something Blue August 27 2023 Thanks Marty, today we’re going to hear a rockabilly star from Sweden playing with The Great Larry Donn. I had recorded Larry Donn before at Blues Fest so I knew how … Continue reading

Serenity
Posted on Friday August 25, 2023

Something Blue – Serenity – August 26, 2023 This is Hairy Larry inviting you to enjoy Something Blue every Saturday night at ten. This week we’re featuring Myriam Alter, Joe Henderson, Gary Burton, and NJHB. For more about the show … Continue reading

DJ Hairy Larry Presents NJHB Playing Cold Fusion
Posted on Saturday August 19, 2023

From The Archives Of Something Blue 2023-08-20 Thanks Marty, today we’re going to hear one of my compositions recorded at HairyLarryLand. NJHB is the house band for the New Jazz In Jonesboro concert series. We were starting up the concerts … Continue reading

Tracks
Posted on Friday August 18, 2023

Something Blue – Tracks – August 19, 2023 This is Hairy Larry inviting you to enjoy Something Blue every Saturday night at ten. This week we’re featuring Soulive, Joe Lee, and Will Bernard. For more about the show visit the … Continue reading

DJ Hairy Larry Presents Joe Lee Playing Winter Blues
Posted on Sunday August 13, 2023

From The Archives Of Something Blue 2023-08-13 Thanks Marty, today we’re going to play an original blues featuring Ronnie Coletta and Joe Lee. “Joe Lee Swings On” was my second album project with Joe Lee. It’s a jazz album with … Continue reading

Division
Posted on Saturday August 12, 2023

Something Blue – Division – August 13, 2023 This is Hairy Larry inviting you to enjoy Something Blue every Saturday night at ten. This week we’re featuring LaMP, Ernie Hendrickson, and Jazz Thursday Jam Sessions. For more about the show … Continue reading

DJ Hairy Larry Presents Paul Nunis Playing Kokomo Blues
Posted on Sunday August 06, 2023

From The Archives Of Something Blue 2023-08-07 Thanks Marty, today we’re going to hear The Bluescaster playing acoustic blues at KASU Jazz Thursday. Paul Nunis is The Bluescaster. I met him at Blues Fest. He played so well I immediately … Continue reading


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