004 Making My Own Music – Funk (for solo piano)

Making My Own Music

In this episode, I talk about my composition “Funk (for solo piano)” composed for a composition class at Penn State as an exercise in using perfect fourths.

I mention a web page I found with a tremendous amount of information about recording: TweakHeadz Lab.

I then talk about musical intervals, the distance between two notes.

  • two people playing identical note – unison
  • minor second (1 semitone) – Jaws theme
  • major second (2 semitones) – Do-Re-Mi
  • minor third (3 semitones) – Greensleeves
  • major third (4 semitones) – Oh When The Saints
  • perfect fourth (5 semitones) – Here Comes the Bride
  • aug fourth / dim fifth / tri-tone (6 semitones) – Maria (West Side Story)
  • perfect fifth (7 semitones) – Twinkle Twinkle Little Star
  • minor sixth (8 semitones) – In My Life – Beatles, guitar part
  • major sixth (9 semitones) – NBC Theme, My Bonnie Lies Over The Ocean
  • minor seventh (10 semitones) – Somewhere (There’s A Place For Us)
  • major seventh (11 semitones) – Somewhere Over The Rainbow – 1st and 3rd notes
  • octave (12 semitones) – Somewhere Over The Rainbow
  • minor ninth (13 semitones)
  • major ninth (14 semitones)

Most western music is based on major and minor chords. These chords are built on stacked thirds. Many chords alternate between major thirds and minor thirds:

  • Major chord: C – E – G. C-E is a major third, E-G is a minor third
  • Minor chord: E – G – B. E-G is a minor third, G-B is a major third

My favorite chords are the extended chords that are built on alternating major and minor thirds – major 7ths, major 9ths, minor 7ths and minor 9ths.

I created a short “bumper.” In the episode, I forgot to mention the purpose of the bumper is to separate the parts of the podcast where I talk about the song of the week and all of the other topics. I played electric guitar on the bumper and used an Em9 chord.

Because the piece is short (1 1/2 minutes), I play it, talk about it and then play it again.

For my music minor at Penn State, I took a composition class. We had to write a piece using a lot of perfect fourths. I created this piece for solo piano for that exercise.

Below is a link to a PDF of the sheet music. You can click on it to view, or right click to download it to your computer:

Funk (for solo piano) sheet music - right click to download

I use the same basic chord throughout the piece like the one above: D-G-C-E-A. Going up, the intervals between the notes are a perfect fourth, a perfect fourth, a major thirds, and a perfect fourth.

“Funk” refers to the rhythms. In my jazz bands, we played a number of funk songs that had a lot of 16th note beats, and a lot of syncopation.

One of the things we learned in composition class was to compose things on instruments that are too hard for us to perform. I tried to do this for piano on this piece. It should be playable by a good piano player than can handle funky syncopation.

The form of the piece is A B C B A. The A section is the short introduction. The B section rocks between an Amin9 chord and a Bb 6/9 chord. The 4ths/3rd chord is the same between the 2 chords. All of the notes go down 1 whole step, but the bass goes up one half step.

The C section is like a jazz piano solo. It consists of 3 parts: the chords (using both hands in the middle of the piano), the bass part (in the left hand), and the solo part (in the right hand).

The chords for the C section are Bmin9 / Bbmin9 / Amin9 / Bb 6/9. The third and fourth chords are the same from the B section, and I am able to incorporate the dissonant closed chords in the same part of the measure during the solo.

I appreciate your feedback. Email me at tom@makingmyownmusic.com or call (631) 213-5023 to let me know if you’ve played this on the piano, and if you have any suggestions how I can improve the sheet music. Also leave feedback if you are skilled at playing jazz piano and want to assist me in recording jazz pieces.

For the next episode, I am going to try to complete a jazz quintet piece called “Sleepy” that I composed in college.

You can play the podcast using the play button below, or right-click on the “Download” link to save it to your computer.

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About Tom Snively

I am a freelance composer and compose and record music in my home studio. I record electronic music such as new age, video game, dance and trance and non-electronic music such as smooth jazz, rock and classical music. Contact me for the following: Commission me to write and/or record your song for you. License one of my songs for your use. Have me record a saxophone part for your song.

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