Composition Year One

Unit of Study - Composition 101

The following applies to Year One Bachelor of Music students.

Unit Outlines

Unit NameFoundational Harmony / Music In Contemporary Practice
Unit CodeCOMPOS 101
Unit DescriptionIn this Unit students will:
• Utilise instruments in various families in typical composition methods.
• Write music for all instruments using correct engraving techniques for all family types.
• Utilise basic arrangement principles to arrange music for accompanying instruments.
• Compose simple melodies and compositional pieces.
• Analyse written music for instrumentation and composition tools.
Award(s)Bachelor of Music
Unit Duration1 Semester (12 weeks)
Year LevelYear 1, Semester 2
Unit CoordinatorCaleb Garfinkel
Teaching StaffCaleb Garfinkel
Credit Points10 credit points
Mode of Deliveryx Face to face
x E-learning (online)
o Intensive/block mode (where the unit or a face to face component is delivered in a block)
x Distance/independent learning (un-timetabled)
x Full-time
x Part-time
o External
x Fast track
Student Workload
Delivery/ Contact Hours
Number of timetabled hours per week
• Lecture – 1 hour
• Practical Session – 1 hour
• Tutorial – n/a
• Personal Study recommended - 6 hours
Total hours per week - 8 hours
Resource Requirements• Personal computer and internet access
• MIDI Keyboard or USB interface
• External Technical Assistance if required
Resources Provided• Noteflight Online Music Notation Software
• Online streaming video and additional referencing videos.
• DVDs are available upon request and given/posted to students
• Library resources (see prescribed or recommended texts below)

Unit Aims

Composition 101: Instrumentation and Orchestration aims to introduce students to the characteristics, capabilities and notation techniques of common orchestral and band instruments, developing knowledge and applied understanding of their range, application, and common uses in compositions and contemporary music. Students will develop an awareness of the overall sound and playing characteristics of individual instruments within instrumental groups, increasing their skills in writing music for performance by professional musicians. Students will develop social, interpersonal and communication skills through writing and applying lyrics and preparing music for performance. This unit also introduces students to the role of electronic and computer-generated sound in contemporary music. Knowledge gained in this unit will be illustrated through the composing and orchestrating of musical works in a range of common styles and forms. In addition, students will extend music technology skills software in incorporating notation software as a resource for writing compositions.

Learning Outcomes

On successful completion of this unit, students are expected to be able to:

  1. Demonstrate knowledge and understanding of the four main instrumental families and their roles in orchestral and common musical environments.
  2. Demonstrate understanding of the capabilities, ranges, timbral characteristics and strengths of common orchestral instruments.
  3. Compose simple melodies for instruments of all orchestral families in conventional musical notation, employing appropriate expressive and engraving techniques.
  4. Construct a musical composition that demonstrates effective pairing and blending of instruments from differing instrumental families.
  5. Develop creative insights to pair and combine alternate instrument combinations including electronic and computer-generated instrumentation for contemporary composition methods.
  6. Analyse recorded and written musical scores for instrumental attributes and typical musical conventions, researching and evaluating the harmonic and melodic applications of the featured instruments.
  7. Display social, interpersonal and communication skills in writing original song lyrics, knowledge of negative or positive outcomes and social responsibilities, including poetic and lyrical techniques and the ability to communicate a musical message or idea to listeners.

Teaching Outline

Year 1
Semester 2
• String family techniques, characteristics, textural use, writing technques and considerations, bowing, harmonics and double stops.
• Woodwind characteristics and writing techniques, breathing and transposition, variations and expression. Layering, orchestral roles and ensembles.
• Brass characteristics and textures, playing techniques, transposition, ranges, variations, mute use, expressive techniques, layering and scoring considerations.
• Percussion types, pitched and unpitched, writing and scoring techniques, layering and use in ensembles.
• Piano, chorphonal and and fretted instrument writing, voice types, frequency considerations, rhythm chart and rhythmic interpretation.
Composition and Arranging Devices
• Melody writing, assigning harmony, scales and chord theory.
• Lyric writing and editing, presenting material for bands and contemporary ensembles.
• Score analysis techniques.
• Orchestral layouts, ensemble and band layouts.
• Electronic textures and considerations, sampling and synthesisers as orchestrating tools.

Student Assessment

Assessment TypeWhen assessedWeighting
(% of total unit marks)
Learning Outcomes Assessed
Assessment 1
Composition and Arranging Folio
Type: Compositions Demonstrations
Length: 6x8-16 bars
6 small, 8-16 bar composition examples demonstrating key writing techniques of each instrument group.
Week 3 - 8 30%
1, 2, 4
Folio 1Folio 1A: Melodic devices (8 bars)
Vary a motif and write a short piece, employing motific variations for a stringed instrument.
Week 35%1, 2, 4
Folio 1B: Close Position Voicing (16 bars)
Arrange a melody and counter melodies for 2 instrument groups in unison and 4 part close position voicings.
Week 45%1, 2, 4
Assessment 2: Instrumentation Quiz
Word Length: 9 Questions, 500 words min, 2 hours
Short answer open questions on areas covered in lectures on instrumental families.
Week 510%1, 2
Folio 1 ContinuedFolio 1C: Reduction & Elaboration (2x8 bars)
Reduce a melody sequentially to a pitch sketch, and develop another into a decorated melody.
Week 65%1, 2, 4
Folio 1D: Spread Voicings (16 bars)
Arrange a melody and harmonic accompaniment using a combination of drop 2, 3 and 2&4 spread voicings.
Week 75%1, 2, 4
Folio 1E: Setting Lyrics to Music (16 bars)
Set a given poem to a melody, with a simple harmonic and rhythmic accompaniment.
Week 85%1, 2, 4
Folio 1F: Two Voice Writing (16 bars)
Arrange a given piece for 2 instruments, using harmonic tools and tertiary melody writing techniques.
Week 95%1, 2, 4
Assessment 3: Score Analysis and Discussion
Type: Written, Online Forum Discussion
Word Length: 500 words
Written analysis of instrumentation in an assigned work, to be posted in unit forum for interactive discussion with class members.
Week 1020%1, 2, 6
Assessment 4: Composition
Type: Major Composition
Length: 32-64 Bars
Compose a 32-64 bar piece that utilises at least one instrument from each instrumental family (4 min), demonstrating
Week 1240%1, 2, 3, 4, 5
Assessment 1: Composition and Arranging Folio
Type: Compositions Demonstrations
Length: 6x8-16 bars
6 small, 8-16 bar composition examples demonstrating key writing techniques of each instrument group.
Week 3-830%
1, 2, 3, 4, 5
Appropriate writing, textural and compositional techniques discussed and researched through the unit.

Prescribed and recommended readings:

Library Resources
Online Resources (books/video)
A subscription to Oxford Music Online and to Grove Music Online which includes:

  • The Grove Dictionary of American Music (2nd ed.).
  • The New Grove Dictionary of Jazz (2nd ed.).
  • The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians (2nd ed.).
  • The New Grove Dictionary of Opera.
  • The Oxford Companion to Music.
  • The Oxford Dictionary of Music (2nd ed.).

Plus updated content bibliographies, specially-commissioned articles only available online.

A subscription to JSTOR Journals and books
A subscription to video tutorials

Reference Materials

Cooke, M. (2001). Film music. Grove Music Online. Oxford Music Online. Oxford University Press. Web. Retrieved from:

Owen, B., & Ord-Hume, A. J. W. G. (n.d.). Orchestrion. Grove Music Online. Oxford Music Online. Oxford University Press. Web. Retrieved from:


Recommended Reading List

Blatter, A. (1997). Instrumentation and Orchestration (2nd ed). New York, NY: Schirmer Books.

Korsakov, R. (1964). Principles of Orchestration (Dover ed.). New York, NY: Courier Corporation.

Assessment Overview
The orchestration subject is assessed through a series of closedopen questions and creative assessment tasks. These relate to questions and assignment tasks that require creativity or allow freedom of application, through the form of short answer questions and discussions, and compositions.

Closed Questions relate to questions that have a single correct answer. This is applicable through the quiz assessments and refer to questions about instrumental notation that have a single correct answer, including transposition, instrument types and roles.

Open Questions relate to questions whose answers allow freedom of application or creativity in responses, limited to text answers in analysis assessments. These include questions relating to the aesthetic and perceived role of an instrument in a piece of music, understanding of an instrument’s general playing style and ability, and depth of analysis of music overall. See the Written Assessments Rubric to see how marks are applied.

Creative Assessments refer to compositional tasks which are wholly assessed on the strengths, effectiveness and originality of a student’s musical scoring. These tasks contain a degree of finite responses, such as theoretical and notational accuracy, however as a whole are largely focused on students’ comprehension of effective writing practises for all instruments in a wide variety of styles, utilising this knowledge in composing original works of harmonic and melodic interest. See the Creative Assessments Rubric to see how marks are applied.

#Course Learning Outcomes

On completion of the course the student should be able to:
Unit Learning OutcomesAssessments
1 A broad knowledge of the applied, theoretical and historical basis of the discipline1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 71, 2, 3, 4
2A depth of disciplinary knowledge in a professionally applicable specialisation3, 4, 5, 6, 71, 4
3An understanding of the processes of musical scholarship and research1, 2, 5, 63, 4
4The ability to work both independently and collaboratively in diverse and complex musical settings3, 4, 5, 6, 71, 2, 3, 4
5Effective written, verbal and interpersonal communication skills3, 4, 5, 6, 71, 2, 3, 4
6Critical thinking and analytical skills appropriate to a range of contexts including further study5, 6, 73, 4
7The ability to apply specific musical skills to a wide range of professional contexts4, 5, 6, 71, 4
8The capacity to apply technological and creative solutions to contemporary musical practices4, 51, 4
9The ability to incorporate knowledge from the business and legal fields to a portfolio career in the music profession.6, 71, 3

#Graduate Attribute
Successful completion of this unit will contribute to the attainment of the following graduate attributes:
Unit Learning OutcomesCourse Learning OutcomesAssessments
1Deep disciplinary knowledge1, 2, 3, 4, 71, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 71, 2, 3, 4
2The ability to apply knowledge and skills in innovative ways4, 5, 6, 73, 4, 5, 71, 4
3A commitment to lifelong learning1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 71, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 71, 4
4Effective communication skills for diverse contexts3, 5, 6, 74, 5, 6, 71, 2, 3, 4
5The capacity to work independently and collaboratively3, 4, 5, 6, 71, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 71, 2, 3, 4