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Composition Using Modes & Melodies of the World | Summer 2022

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Course Information

Elaine Correa

Composition Workshop - Concession

Are you an instrument player, vocalist, composer, or music producer?

Wanna expand your playing, composition, and improvisation by learning the theory behind melodies, harmonies, and scales across the globe?

Then come attend this 5-day course on international music composition theory that creative Latina musician Eliane Correa put together just for you!

When: Mon 4th - 8th July, 18:30-20:30 BST

Where: SOAS University of London

Delivery: in-person

Topics include but are not limited to:

🎵 Modes in Ethiopian music and their integration in jazz & improvisation

🎵 Microtonality in Arabic scales

🎵 Horn lines in salsa & Cuban music

🎵 Modulation in Brazilian music and gospel-style chord substitutions

Western notation will be provided, but we can accommodate musicians who are more comfortable learning by ear. Participants may also bring their instrument to apply what we are learning on the go, although this is not obligatory.

So what are you waiting for? Snatch your ticket to a magical summer below! 10/10 you WON'T regret.


Course Code

Composition Summer 22

Course Leader

Elaine Correa
Course Description
DAY 1: Modes & scales

- Ethiopia: Learn about 4 traditional Ethiopian scales — Ambassel, Tezeta, Batti, and Anchihoye — in the context of traditional music integrated with jazz (Mulatu Astatke).

- Microtonality in Arabic music: An overview of maqam. Look at some scales used in dabke music from the Middle East, and how they've been brought into hip-hop and electronic music.

IN CONVERSATION: Deconstructing cinematic music — are we preprogrammed to associate certain Western cinematic music scales with a purpose or feeling in ways that are not necessarily universal?

DAY 2: Harmony

- Modulation in Brazilian Bossa: Dissect, analyse, and learn a bossa nova's harmonic structure.

- Substitutions & altered chords in gospel music: Look at how particular features of jazz harmony are applied within gospel music, and analyse different voicings.

- Some applications of South Africa's most common chord progression

IN CONVERSATION: How do we, as composers, go about picking a chord progression? How universal is the purpose of any particular chord progression? As composers, how do we navigate accessibility in the context of complex harmony?

DAY 3: Melody

- Mambos & champolas: Interlocking horn lines in salsa and timba music

- Singing tango: Learn & dissect the vocal melody of a tango song from the classic songbook (no Spanish required, we will only look at the melody and intention, not lyrics). Listen to, observe and compare versions across decades.

- Call & response in various traditions worldwide – its purpose and its effect on the arrangement.

IN CONVERSATION: What makes a melody catchy? What's the relationship between the melody and the power of a song?


DAY 4: Rhythm

- Unwriteable rhythms: understanding “the pocket” in Gnawa music (Morocco), Batá music and the Rumba Clave (Cuba), Culo'e Puya (Venezuela) and Cumbia Villera (Argentina).

IN CONVERSATION: What are the different roles of rhythm? How does our experience and memory affect our understanding of rhythm?


DAY 5: Improvisation

In this final class, we discuss the role of improvisation in different social/cultural contexts and what we can learn from them. You will think about the role of improvisation in the music you want to make or learn, and pick an existing piece of improvisation (solo) to listen to, analyse, and (optionally) transcribe and learn. You will then create a short piece of music using a feature you learned during our course. Ultimately, you will share and discuss the improvisations you've learned and the songs you've created.

IN CONVERSATION: What is cultural appropriation and how do we avoid it? How to generate positive change?

StartEndCourse Fee 
Composition Workshop - Concession