World Music Composition Styles

Author: Phillip Sheeran | Course Code: OCOMP-493

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.

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.

The 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, youÂ’ll 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

Lesson 1: World Music and Instrument Classification

What Is World MusicStyles and GenresInstrument ClassificationAereophonesIdiophonesMembranophonesChordophonesWorld Music Production: Samples, MIDI, and DAW's

Lesson 2: Celtic Music from Ireland

Roots of Celtic MusicMelody in Celtic MusicOrnamentation in Celtic MusicHarmony in Celtic MusicTempo and Rhythmic AccompanimentInstrumentation in Celtic MusicWorld Music Production

Lesson 3: Flamenco Music from Spain

Roots of Flamenco MusicHarmony in Flamenco MusicMelody in Flamenco MusicRhythm, Tempo, and FormInstrumentation in Flamenco MusicWorld Music Production: Miking a Nylon String Guitar

Lesson 4: Middle East: Sufi Music from Turkey

Origins of Sufi MusicMelody in SufiMelodic Structure and FormHarmony, Tonality Keys, and ModulationTempo and Rhythm in SufiInstrumentation in Sufi MusicWorld Music Production

Lesson 5: West Africa: Music from Mali

Roots of the Mande People and Manding MusicHarmony in Manding MusicMelody in Manding MusicRhythm, Tempo, and Meter in MandingInstrumentation Used in MandingWorld Music Production

Lesson 6: South Asia: Music from India

Origin of North Indian Classical Music—Raga MusicHarmony in Raga MusicTempo and Rhythm in Raga MusicMelody in Raga MusicInstrumentation in Indian MusicWorld Music Production

Lesson 7: East Asia: Traditional Japanese Music

Origin of Gagaku, Hogaku, Sankyoku MusicHarmony and Modes used in Japanese MusicMelody in Traditional Japanese Music Hogaku, SokyokuRhythm, Tempo and Form in Sankyoku MusicInstrumentation in Sankyoku MusicWorld Music Production

Lesson 8: Caribbean: Music from Cuba and the Caribbean

Harmony in Caribbean MusicMelody in Caribbean MusicTempo and Rhythm in Caribbean MusicHarmony in Caribbean Music—SonInstrumentation in Caribbean MusicWorld Music Production

Lesson 9: Latin America: Music from Brazil

Harmony in Brazilian Music (Bossa Nova, and Baião)Extended HarmonyMelody in Brazilian MusicTempo and Rhythm in Brazilian MusicInstrumentation of Brazilian MusicWorld Music Production

Lesson 10: Latin America: Tango Music from Argentina

Origin of Tango MusicHarmony in Tango MusicMelody in Tango MusicTempo and Rhythm in Tango MusicInstrumentation in Tango MusicWorld Music Production

Lesson 11: Oceania: Music from Australia and Oceania

Origin of Aboriginal MusicMelody of Oceania MusicTemp and Rhythm of Oceania MusicInstrumentation in Aboriginal MusicWorld Music Production

Lesson 12: Orchestral World-Fusion—Cross-Fertilization

HarmonyMelodyTempo and RhythmInstrumentation and OrchestrationFusions—Continents CollideSummary: Characteristics of World Music Fusion

Phillip Sheeran

Author & Instructor

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

Phil works in Los Angeles, arranging and orchestrating compelling, edgy music for film trailers, television, and multimedia projects. His work can be found in numerous productions by Miramax/Disney, A&E, Fox Sports, Warner Bros Entertainment, Sci-Fi, Biography, MTV, and Telepictures. He holds a BFA in music from Cornish College of the Arts. He is trained in classical and jazz studies with Gary Peacock (bass), Ralph Towner, and David Burgess (guitar), as well as composition/orchestration, arranging, and performance. He studied extensively with Brazilian guitarist Romero Lubambo in Rio de Janeiro.

You should be able to read notated music with a knowledge of harmony. You should be able to record MIDI in a Digital Audio Workstation such as Logic, Pro Tools, SONAR, Live, or similar program, send that MIDI to a software instrument that triggers samples, record, mix, and export the resulting sequence as an MP3. You should also be able to import and export MIDI and audio files.


MIDI KeyboardAudio and MIDI Interface (internal or external)A printer is recommended, so that you can print out music examples used in the courseSpeakers or headphones for your computerA built-in microphone or an external microphone plugged directly into your computer (via built in ports or an external audio interface).
PC Web Browser: Firefox (Recommended), Chrome, Internet Explorer 10 or higherMac Web Browser: Firefox (Recommended), Chrome, SafariFlash Player: current versionQuickTime: current versionAdobe Reader: current versionWorld Music Sample library, such as East West Quantum Leap (EWQL) "RA" or the equivalentFinale (full version) or Sibelius (full version). Note that you will need to submit scores as PDF files. Finale Notepad, PrintMusic, and Finale Guitar are not sufficient for use in the course. You can also opt to handwrite scores, scan them, and submit them as PDF files.Digital Audio Workstation (DAW) software, such as Logic, Reason, SONAR, Digital Performer, etc., to sequence your scores and submit them as MP3 files.
Windows Vista SP2 or higherIntel Pentium or higher4 GB RAMSecondary 500 GB or larger, 7200 RPM internal or external hard drive for storage and streaming of sample library
OS X 10.7 or laterIntel Processor4 GB RAM500 MB free space recommendedSecondary— 500 GB–1 TB or larger, 7200 RPM internal or external hard drive for storage and streaming of sample library


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  • Level
  • Duration
    12 Weeks
  • 3-Credit Tuition
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  • Non-Credit Tuition Add 6 CEUs
    $1,200 + $25

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