I don’t use a musical template…

… when I arrange solo guitar pieces or when I compose and score music. While I do have a well-developed knowledge of music theory I don’t necessarily take the technical path to harmony and structure when creating music. I do experiment until I hear what I want.


This doesn’t mean that I haphazardly stick notes atop one another over and over until something takes shape. Theory does have an important function as my foundation. It’s similar to writing a story – you need knowledge of a language, its vocabulary, its grammar, to write an original piece of fiction. Your characters may speak in slang, or have unique speech mannerisms that are part of the narrative – you can make this happen by understanding the workings of the language. Simple and complex sentences can alter the flow and feeling of sections of the story. By understanding the language you can fashion the components of the story to make it realistic and interesting.

The same thing applies to composing and arranging. Having a thorough knowledge of how the music fits together allows me to imagine possibilities while composing in terms of voicings, counterpoint, rhythm and phrasing. While I do experiment with what I include and how/where it’s included, I can usually achieve what I’m after in a piece after a couple of attempts.


I do credit my awareness of music theory to having had the opportunity to study with Dr. Donald Reinhart while in high school. ‘Doc’ was a very capable arranger and didn’t hesitate to throw the 17- and 18-year-olds in his class into the deep end when it came to arranging dense harmonies. Quite honestly, I was musically immature at the time, and thought playing barre chords on guitar was an advanced technique. While I can’t actually quote any hard and fast concepts that Doc conveyed throughout the year, I actually gained a very basic understanding of the possibilities in chord inversions and rhythmic structures that does remain with me to this very day. One aspect that remains with me is my aversion to playing guitar chords that contain octaves – I always try moving the octave to another note that will add more color and substance to the voicing.

My first guitar instructor Tom Giacabetti similarly overwhelmed me with chord inversions but also included a system that allowed me to build altered chords (#9, b5, etc.) from major7, minor7 and dom7 4-note voicings – as with Doc, I learned the process of building these voicings and worked with all the possibilities. Some were immediately useful to me, others sounded horrendously awkward – as I matured musically they all made sense.

Snapshot - 2

Here’s a video clip of a recent performance of my arrangement of the Lennon & McCartney tune All My Loving: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GHwJj5njMcA&list=PL035F657F1E000CF0&index=1. While the melody remains the same as my original chart (G major) the chord structure winds around and resolves to E minor.

While I haven’t placed any music in video or film yet, I do have selections to stream. One of my compositions Magnificent is on Soundcloud:  https://soundcloud.com/matt-richards-65/graciously?in=matt-richards-65/sets/compositions-soundtracks. There’s also a very different piece, Her Dark Heart: https://soundcloud.com/matt-richards-65/her-dark-heart?in=matt-richards-65/sets/compositions-soundtracks.

I’ll be back with more soon….


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