World Music Composition Styles


Authored by Phillip Sheeran


Course Code: OCOMP-493

Next semester starts September 23

12 Weeks

Level 4

Level 4

3-Credit Tuition


Non-Credit Tuition


A wide knowledge of musical cultures can add depth and flavor to compositions in any genre, and is a key component to writing effectively for film, television, and commercials. The ability to evoke another time or place through the use of specific musical elements is a vital professional skill for any writer.

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World Music Composition Styles is designed to give you a compositional toolkit of world music concepts and ideas that can be used as a starting point for composing in world styles or for spicing up your own music with world flavor. This course will focus on compositional elements in a variety of genres from around the world, including Ireland, Spain, Turkey, Mali, India, Japan, Cuba, Brazil, Argentina, and Australia. It examines the defining characteristics of what differentiates one genre or style of music from another through comparison and extensive analysis of melody, ornamentation, rhythm, harmony, timbre, tempo, and instrumentation. The course takes an in-depth look at the classification of instruments in each style, how they are categorized by type, body shape, and material, how sound is initiated, and how they are played.

This music composition course also includes a technology component designed to teach you best practices in world music production using your digital audio workstation. At the end of each lesson, you will be asked to create and sequence a short composition of music inspired by the style of the country covered.

By the end of this course, you will have a much broadened your exposure to different musical styles, and the necessary skills to incorporate these styles effectively into your own compositions.

By the end of the course, you will be able to:

  • Recognize characteristics of rhythm, melody, ornamentation, time signature, harmony, and instrumentation in different world music styles
  • Identify and classify instruments into major categories and sub-categories, including instrument shape, material, and sound initiation
  • Analyze world music styles using defining characteristics
  • Apply production tips and techniques in the sequencing of world music match-ups using a sample library
  • Create a fusion piece using characteristic elements and instruments of different styles
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Overview Syllabus Requirements Instructors
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Lesson 1: World Music and Instrument Classification

  • What Is World Music?
  • Styles and Genres
  • Instrument Classification
  • Aereophones
  • Idiophones
  • Membranophones
  • Chordophones
  • World Music Production: Samples, MIDI, and DAW's

Lesson 2: Celtic Music from Ireland

  • Roots of Celtic Music
  • Melody in Celtic Music
  • Ornamentation in Celtic Music
  • Harmony in Celtic Music
  • Tempo and Rhythmic Accompaniment
  • Instrumentation in Celtic Music
  • World Music Production

Lesson 3: Flamenco Music from Spain

  • Roots of Flamenco Music
  • Harmony in Flamenco Music
  • Melody in Flamenco Music
  • Rhythm, Tempo, and Form
  • Instrumentation in Flamenco Music
  • World Music Production: Miking a Nylon String Guitar

Lesson 4: Middle East: Sufi Music from Turkey

  • Origins of Sufi Music
  • Melody in Sufi
  • Melodic Structure and Form
  • Harmony, Tonality Keys, and Modulation
  • Tempo and Rhythm in Sufi
  • Instrumentation in Sufi Music
  • World Music Production

Lesson 5: West Africa: Music from Mali

  • Roots of the Mande People and Manding Music
  • Harmony in Manding Music
  • Melody in Manding Music
  • Rhythm, Tempo, and Meter in Manding
  • Instrumentation Used in Manding
  • World Music Production

Lesson 6: South Asia: Music from India

  • Origin of North Indian Classical Music—Raga Music
  • Harmony in Raga Music
  • Tempo and Rhythm in Raga Music
  • Melody in Raga Music
  • Instrumentation in Indian Music
  • World Music Production

Lesson 7: East Asia: Traditional Japanese Music 

  • Origin of Gagaku, Hogaku, Sankyoku Music
  • Harmony and Modes used in Japanese Music
  • Melody in Traditional Japanese Music Hogaku, Sokyoku
  • Rhythm, Tempo and Form in Sankyoku Music
  • Instrumentation in Sankyoku Music
  • World Music Production

Lesson 8: Caribbean: Music from Cuba and the Caribbean 

  • Harmony in Caribbean Music
  • Melody in Caribbean Music
  • Tempo and Rhythm in Caribbean Music
  • Harmony in Caribbean Music—Son
  • Instrumentation in Caribbean Music
  • World Music Production

Lesson 9: Latin America: Music from Brazil 

  • Harmony in Brazilian Music (Bossa Nova, and Baião)Extended Harmony
  • Melody in Brazilian Music
  • Tempo and Rhythm in Brazilian Music
  • Instrumentation of Brazilian Music
  • World Music Production

Lesson 10: Latin America: Tango Music from Argentina 

  • Origin of Tango Music
  • Harmony in Tango Music
  • Melody in Tango Music
  • Tempo and Rhythm in Tango Music
  • Instrumentation in Tango Music
  • World Music Production

Lesson 11: Oceania: Music from Australia and Oceania 

  • Origin of Aboriginal Music
  • Melody of Oceania Music
  • Temp and Rhythm of Oceania Music
  • Instrumentation in Aboriginal Music
  • World Music Production

Lesson 12: Orchestral World-Fusion—Cross-Fertilization

  • Harmony
  • Melody
  • Tempo and Rhythm
  • Instrumentation and Orchestration
  • Fusions—Continents Collide
  • Summary: Characteristics of World Music Fusion


Prerequisites and Course-Specific Requirements 

Prerequisite Courses, Knowledge, and/or Skills
Completion of Music Composition for Film and TV 2 or equivalent knowledge and experience is required. Students should have intermediate abilities in a Digital Audio Workstation (DAW) of their choice.

  • Ability to read notated music with a knowledge of harmony
  • Ability to record MIDI in a DAW (Logic Pro, Pro Tools, Ableton Live, etc.)
  • Send MIDI to a software instrument that triggers samples then record, mix, and export the resulting sequence as an MP3 file
  • Ability to import and export MIDI and audio files


  • No textbooks required


  • DAW suitable for scoring to picture and/or orchestral mockup production, such as Logic Pro, Cubase Pro, Pro Tools (Studio or Ultimate), or Reaper
  • Students are required to create notation and submit it in PDF format. Options include:
    • Notation software (recommended option), such as Finale, Sibelius, Dorico, MuseScore (free), etc.
    • Handwritten notation captured by a digital camera or a scanner can be used in lieu of notation software.
  • Sample libraries covering a wide range of instruments from around the world beyond those typically found in a standard Western orchestra, such as one of the following: 
    • East West RA, Silk, and Stormdrum 2 or 3 (all included in the EW Composer Cloud subscription)
    • UVI World Suite
    • Best Service Ethno World 6


  • MIDI keyboard controller
  • Audio interface
  • One of the following studio monitoring options (both recommended):
    • Studio monitors (pair), such as JBL 305Ps or better, as well as an audio interface and necessary cables
    • Over-ear studio headphones, such as Sennheiser HD 600, Sony MDR-7506, Philips SHP9500, Audio-Technica ATH-M50x, etc.
  • Recommended: Printer, if you would like to print out examples used in the course.

Important Technical/System Considerations

  • Secondary storage drive (SSD or 7200 RPM HDD) with at least 500 GB of free space

Student Deals
After enrolling, be sure to check out our Student Deals page for various offers on software, hardware, and more. Please contact with any questions.

General Course Requirements

Below are the minimum requirements to access the course environment and participate in Live Classes. Please make sure to also check the Prerequisites and Course-Specific Requirements section above, and ensure your computer meets or exceeds the minimum system requirements for all software needed for your course. 

Mac Users

PC Users

All Users

  • Latest version of Google Chrome
  • Zoom meeting software
  • Webcam
  • Speakers or headphones
  • External or internal microphone
  • Broadband Internet connection


Phillip Sheeran


In his 30-year music career, Phil Sheeran has been a composer, guitarist, and recording/mixing engineer, but composing and producing world music–inspired compositions has always been the heartbeat of his work.

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Phil established himself as a renowned Brazilian-Latin jazz guitarist, co-leading the Seattle-based Brazilian jazz group Beija Flor with vocalist Samia Panni.

Phil has recorded 10 internationally released albums and two Latin House Club Mix LPs. His albums have hit No. 17 on Billboard's Contemporary Jazz chart and charted top five in the nation for airplay. On the jazz side, he has shared the stage with Bela Fleck, Andy Narell, Gregg Karukas, and worked in the recording studio with Tommy Brieklein, Brandon Fields, Harvey Mason, and Brazilian musicians Nico Asumpçao and Carlos Goméz, just to name a few. He has also received NAMA nominations for Best Jazz Artist, Best Jazz Recording, and Best Electric Guitarist.

Arranging and orchestrating music for film trailers, television, and multimedia projects, Phil’s work can be found in numerous productions by Miramax/Disney, A&E, Fox Sports, Warner Brothers Entertainment, Super Bowls XLV and XLVIII, Sci-Fi, Biography, MTV, and Telepictures. He holds a BFA in music from Cornish College of the Arts. Read Less

Ricardo Monzon


Ricardo Monzon is a professor at Berklee's Percussion, Ensemble and Music Therapy departments. He is an accomplished drummer, percussionist, and studio musician who has toured and performed with the Boston Pops Orchestra, recording two albums, the Latin Album and the  “Chris Botti in Boston” concert/video/CD with Sting, John Mayer, Josh Groban, and Yo Yo Ma, 2010 nominated for Best Pop Instrumental album and Best Long Form Music Video. He has played for six years with Stan Strickland’s Express Yourself “EXYO” program for inner city kids, presented at the Wang Center. He closed Boston’s Puerto Rican Festival for five consecutive years with artists like Luisito Rosario, Paquito Acosta and Frankie Ruiz Jr. He has performed with Al Jarreau, Harry Belafonte, Oscar Castro Neves, Matthew Nichols, Abe Laboriel, George Duke, Aretha Franklin, Greek tenor Mario Frangoulis, Tata Vega, Donna Summer, The New York Voices, Stanley Clark, Lenny White, Mary Wilson of the Supremes, Dan Moretti, the Epic Brass Quintet, Deborah Henson-Conant, Myanna, Bernard Purdie, Jethro Da Silva, the Greg Hopkins Big Band, and the Orquesta Sinfonica de Guatemala. He has shared the stage with Zoro, Horacio “El Negro” Hernandez, Giovanni Hidalgo, Terri Lynne Carrington, Dave Samuels, and Lincoln Goines.

What's Next?

When taken for credit, World Music Composition Styles can be applied towards the completion of these related programs:

Related Degree Majors


Contact our Academic Advisors by phone at 1-866-BERKLEE (U.S.), 1-617-747-2146 (INT'L), or by email at

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