How to Write Music

How to Write Music
By Jay Fuchs

This is how I like to do it.

Step 1: Set a performance date.

There is no reason to write music unless someone will hear it. Nothing inspires creativity like a deadline. I recommend you finish your final draft a week prior to the performance date so you have time to make the very valuable last minute changes. These last minute changes will often produce “magic”.

Step 2: Decide how long your composition will be.

You can always change this, but it’s good to have a general idea of how much time you have to work with.

Step 3: Choose the instrument or instruments you will be writing for.

You may even want to choose the exact performers. Each instrument and each performer has specific qualities you want to embrace and utilize for their unique expressive potential.

Step 4: Choose the expressive character you want your music to have.

Not “happy” or “sad” but stronger, more specific things like “joyful”, “playful”, “suspenseful”, “awkward”, “heart-wrenching”, “majestic”, “ponderous”, “thrilling”, “humorous”, you get the idea.

Step 5: Create a musical gesture that reflects your chosen expression.

Now it’s getting fun. Imagine what your chosen expression would sound like to you, and then create it. This is where your skill with the “language of music” is most useful. The better your musical skills are the better equipped you are to use them to communicate in musical terms.

Step 6: Choose the shape (form) of your composition.

The shape of a composition reveals itself to the listener over time. As the composer, you are in charge of this. Make sure your shape is clear.

Step 7: Build your chosen shape using your musical gesture and variations of it.

Just like with step 5, your skill in using the “language of music” is crucial for this step. Key to this step is maintaining musical momentum. Keep the listeners interested. If the music is interesting they will keep listening. If it’s not interesting, well…

Step 8: Have your new music performed.

This is the most important step! The answers to all of questions regarding whether the melody should go up or down, whether the chord should be major or minor, whether this phrase should be repeated, whether the drums are too loud, will be revealed during the performance.

Step 9: Review how successfully your new music fulfilled its objectives.

Only the listeners can tell you this. Study their reactions. Ask questions.

Step 10: Decide what musical skills and knowledge need improvement in order to improve this composition and make your next compositions better.


To summarize how to write music, follow these steps:

  1. Set performance date.
  2. Set the composition length.
  3. Choose the instrument(s).
  4. Choose the expression.
  5. Create a musical gesture.
  6. Choose the shape.
  7. Build it.
  8. Have it performed.
  9. Make improvements.

To Better Express Yourself, Learn the Language of Music. –Jay Fuchs

Jay Fuchs, Ph.D. (Dr. Jay) is the Head of the Music Theory Department at McNally Smith College of Music. He is also the co-creator of Corridor and co-founder of American Pop Academy. He is also the performing partner of celebrated singer, actress, and television personality, Erin Schwab.

Creating Assignments for Your Students

Corridor student assignmentWe are very excited to announce Corridor’s newest feature. Teachers can now create assignments within Corridor! This saves teachers hours of grading by hand, allows teachers to build Corridor specifically into their curriculum, guide student learning and pace, and provides students with clear goals and benchmarks to strive toward.

Here’s how it works:

set a date for assignments in corridorTeachers select an assigned date, due date, and a lockdown date. A lockdown date is when a student score is locked into the assignment. Until that lockdown date, students can replay level as often as they like to build up their scores and ability. A core component of building musical skills is practice, and we believe that students should be encouraged to keep practicing to reach mastery.

create a classroom in Corridor

You can separate your students into classes, grades, or any other way that you’d like. The organization method is completely up to you.  All students within that class/grade will be able to log in to Corridor and see their assignments.

Dotted rhythms in CorridorStudents can replay levels as much as they’d like to continue to improve their score. Students can also track their own progress through Corridor’s star system. We typically recommend that a 3-star rating is an “A”, a 2-star rating is a “B”, and a 1-star rating is a “C”.

Why this is a game changer for music teachers:

Teachers can quickly see how well all their students are doing in a particular tLearning Rhythms in Corridoropic. Instead of spending hours outside of the classroom grading homework by hand, all your assignments within Corridor will be automatically assessed, giving your students instantaneous feedback!

You can also guide your students to specific levels that align with your class objectives. If you want to focus on ear development, notation reading, keyboard application, rhythm, chord building, or a combination of skills, you have complete flexibility to direct your students.

Want more information about creating a teacher portal in Corridor? Click here.

Click here to learn music for FREE!

We hope you love using Corridor! We are adding students and teachers to our platform every day.

New Feature in Teacher Portal

We want to make using Corridor as easy as possible for educators.  We believe that a teacher’s time is much too valuable to be bogged down in administrative and redundant tasks. We want teachers to be available to teach instead!

Corridor TeacherWe’ve added a new feature to our teacher portal.

 Now, you can simply copy-and-paste in your students’ email addresses to add them to your roster. Your students will automatically receive an email with a clickable link. They can follow that link and easily create an account and join your class.


YCorridor Music invitationou can also easily track to see if you have any students who have not yet joined your class. You can also send them a reminder to get started using Corridor!


Tracking Statistics

Corridor Statistics ViewWhen your students have joined
your Corridor class, you can easily see how well they are doing. We have detailed information on each student, as well as a quick visual overview.


Corridor Stars ratingsYou can see which levels your students have completed, how accurately they are answering, and how quickly they are answering questions.




Want more information about the teacher portal?   Watch this video.
Teacher access to Corridor starts at just $7.99 a month, making it an affordable and incredible tool to help teach your students music theory, ear training, and keyboard skills in a fun, online environment.

CLICK HERE to start your teacher account today!

7 Free Tools Every Musician Should Use

Ever since Napster, the world has become conditioned to want free music. Even though Napster is nowhere near the household name it used to be, there are new platforms that have taken its place, such as Youtube, Spotify, and Pandora. These websites do pay artists some royalties, but admittedly not very much.

It can be hard for artists to get fans to buy their music. (Don’t worry, it is possible to make a career as a musician though! Check out this new book by Ari Herstand  about making a living in the New Music Business. This is HIGHLY recommended reading!)

So…let’s turn the tables! Musicians, let’s get equipped with some free resources. There are many great tools out there, ready for you to use. Here are seven of them that you might not know about:

1.  Free DAWs

ProTools First

DAW stands for Digital Audio Workstation, and is the software that allows musicians to easily record, edit, play virtual instruments through MIDI, and compose.  One of the industry standards, Pro Tools, has a free version called Pro Tools First.  It has a some minor limitations that still incentivize purchasing the full version, but someone who doesn’t need to track more than 16 inputs at once will find this a wonderful tool.  MuLab is another free DAW that handles all the full features of a DAW you’d like while also offering hundreds of quality presets already built in.  Audacity is a great alternative for audio recording and editing. It doesn’t have the MIDI capabilities of these other DAW’s, but it has robust audio editing features. All three DAWs work on both a Mac and a PC.

2.  Free Samples

Cymatics image

There are some great resources out there for free sounds. Cymatics has incredible vaults of free samples and foley (sound effects) that they just give away! These are extraordinarily high quality sounds that normally would cost hundreds. I’m shocked that they give it away like this, to be honest.  They also have DAW presets for Logic and Ableton, that are top notch. Another incredible resource is, which has user-uploaded samples, with a searchable database.  You can find almost anything you’d imagine here! Looking for that particular sound effect for your sound design project?  These are the first places I’d start.

3.  Neil Patel’s Blog

Neil Patel image

This dude is absolutely brilliant. Widely regarded as the #1 marketer in the world, Neil Patel is constantly giving away invaluable advice and insights about how to maximize web visibility through social media and blogging. His marketing strategies can apply to virtually any field, including promoting your music. I personally guarantee that you will become a better, more informed, and creative promoter of any project, product, or artist by going through his free resources.

4.  MuseScore

MuseScore Image

Would you like to professionally notate and engrave your music, but don’t have the cash on hand for Finale or Sibelius?  Check out MuseScore.  MuseScore is an open source platform, similar to Audacity, available for both Mac and PC, and will allow you to easily create fantastic looking scores.

Are you writing more music this year? Read our blog post about being a creative musician in 2017.

5.  Corridor

Corridor Free Music Education

Of course, we’re going to give ourselves a little shoutout here.  We’ve built the best way to learn chords, chord progressions, melodies, rhythms, notation, ear training, and keyboard skills, and it’s free.  We believe that to truly learn music, you must be able to see, hear, and play every concept.  Through Corridor, you will learn to play by ear, learn about chords through chord symbols and notation, and apply every musical concept to an instrument. We have tutorial videos, interactive games, and work on any device. We might be crazy for doing it, but we want you to be the best musician and artist you can be…for free!

Click here to learn music for FREE!

6.  MailChimp


Few things are more impactful and important for a musician’s career than being able to easily connect with your fans.  Through MailChimp, you can customize emails from the ground up (no coding skills required), easily build a subscriber list, and quickly send out emails to your fans. MailChimp is completely free up to 2,000 subscribers.

7.  Sound Exchange

Sound Exchange

A lot of people know about ASCAP and BMI, but Sound Exchange is a company that specifically collects royalties from online streaming sources, such as Spotify and Pandora.  It’s easy to register your songs, and it sure is fun to have a check show up in your mailbox from time to time.

What are some of your favorite free resources for musicians? Share them in the comments below!

About the author
Dan Musselman is a co-creator of Corridor, has earned a Ph.D. in music composition, and is a professional keyboardist. He has written five music textbooks, is the music director for The Voice finalist Kat Perkins, and has released four albums under his name.


Corridor is the new, FREE way to become a skilled musician.

Corridor is making some BIG changes in music education! We are free for anyone who wishes to learn more about music theory, who want to develop their ability to play by ear, and who want to hone their keyboard skills.

Click here to learn music for FREE!

What is Corridor? Corridor is an interactive, game-based music theory, ear training, and keyboard program created by top music education professionals, based on the idea that to learn music you must see it, hear it, and play it. It is FREE through ad support for all users.  With a small cost of $2.99 a month, users can upgrade to a premium account to remove the ads.

Watch our video

Corridor is also a revolutionary and affordable resource for teachers. Beginning at just $7.99 a month, teachers can provide ad-free accounts for all their students, while also gaining the ability to easily monitor and assess their students’ progress.  Many teachers, whether they are private instrument instructors or classroom teachers, find it difficult to get their students to put in practice time outside of when they meet together.  Because Corridor is fun and easy to use, students are more engaged and excited to learn while on their own.  Corridor provides instant feedback to the user, and ensures that accurate information and abilities are being established.  It is easy to use and manage for the teacher, and fun and effective for the student.

Want to know more? Watch this video:

Click here to learn music for FREE!

Have questions? Send us an email to [email protected]


About the Creators of Corridor

Our entire team consists of professional musicians who have decades of gigging and education experience, and we are committed to becoming the number one music theory resource in the world. It is our goal to be the most comprehensive, most fun and engaging, most widely available, and easiest to use platform for learning how music works. We believe that Corridor will transform music education and help musicians everywhere become more skilled artists.

Based out of Minneapolis, Minnesota, our team is passionate about music education and about equipping future generations of musicians.

Dan Musselman, Content Creation and Marketing

Dr. Dan Musselman is a Music Theory, Ear Training, Composition and Keyboard faculty member at McNally Smith College of Music in Saint Paul, MN.  He earned his Ph.D. in music composition at the University of Minnesota. Dan has released five albums, which have appeared on over 200 radio stations internationally, in addition to collaborating as a studio musician on many other recordings.  Dan also composes music for commercials, and his music has been used in advertisements for companies such as Best Buy and United Health Group.  Additionally,   Dan is an active performer with several groups including his role as the music director for The Voice finalist Kat Perkins.  For more information, please visit

Jay Fuchs, Content Creation and Education Oversight

Dr. Jay Fuchs is the Head of the Music Theory Department and a member of the Composition Faculty at McNally Smith College of Music in Saint Paul, MN. He holds a Ph.D. and M.A. in Music Theory and Composition from the University of Minnesota, and a B.A. in voice from Minnesota State University Moorhead. He studied composition with Pulitzer Prize winning composer Dominick Argento at the University of Minnesota. Over the past 25 years Jay has made a successful career as an educator, entertainer, author, composer and music director. Finally, Jay is the performing partner of Erin Schwab, celebrated musical entertainer, actress, and television personality.

Jay and Dan have also authored a combined eight music textbooks and are the Co-Founders of American Pop Academy.

Aaron Scherbing, Tech Lead

Aaron is a senior-level mobile and full-stack software developer with nearly a decade of experience.  He has worked with large companies such as Garmin International and Emerson Process Management as well as start-ups like RespondCivil and Yodelay for iOS. Aaron is a guitarist and is a regular musician for River Valley Church, one of the 100 largest and fastest growing churches in the country.

Ready to learn how music works?  Start Corridor today!

Click here to learn music for FREE!




Top 5 Funniest Videos if you Know a Little Music Theory.

We went around Youtube and put together the top five funniest videos that utilize music theory that we could find. Some of these videos are funny no matter who you are, and some of them get the most laughs if you’re a music nerd like me. Did we miss some that should have made the top five? Add them in the comments below!

1. Music Theory class

Why it’s funny:
We’ll admit, sometimes music theory can be taught in a bland fashion. (Hey music teachers: don’t make music boring!  Use this to help you out.) Here’s a cute critter falling asleep and looking generally befuddled while someone talks nonsensical music theory.
Theory knowledge required for maximum hilarity: Low.



2. How to read music

Why it’s funny:
Because it’s true! In a dry yet hilarious explanation, this video shows some of music’s stranger idiosyncrasies, such as infrequently used clefs, inconsistent tuning pitches, transposing instruments, and breathing articulations. (Credit to Julian Cianciolo for the great video!)
Theory knowledge required for maximum hilarity: Medium.


Want to up your musical creativity in 2017?  Read this blog post for some tricks and tips to maximize your creativity this year.

3.. Metallica – National Anthem at the 2015 NBA Finals
(Jazz Ballad Version)

Why it’s funny:
This is pretty hilarious to anyone, as long as you know that Metallica is a heavy metal band, and not a jazz duo. Seeing James Hetfield and Kirk Hammett play a surprisingly tasteful and sophisticated re-harmonization of the American Nation Anthem is definitively worth watching. (Just to be clear, the audio has been overdubbed, but with an extraordinarily high attention to detail. Kudos to the people over at Endless Noise for their great work on this!)
Theory knowledge required for maximum hilarity: Medium.



4. Music Theory Song (Chestnuts)

Why it’s funny:
Who doesn’t like humor put to Christmas music??? Some of the terms here get a little more advanced, such as “mediant” (which is the third note of major scale) or “V of V” (cliff notes: this is a major or dominant chord built on the second degree of a scale).
Theory knowledge required for maximum hilarity: High.


5. Axis of Awesome – Four Chord Song

Why it’s funny:
There are a lot of really well-known songs that use the same four chords in the same sequence. Everything from Journey to Disney to Beyonce to Offspring in here. Lots of pretty ridiculous costumes in here are the icing on the cake. (Credit to Axis of Awesome)
Theory knowledge required for maximum hilarity: Low.

Did we miss some that should have made the top five? Add them in the comments below!

About the author
Dan Musselman is a co-creator of Corridor, has earned a ph.d. in music composition, and is a professional keyboardist. He has written five music textbooks, is the music director for The Voice finalist Kat Perkins, and has released four albums under his name.

This is What Top Music Industry Execs, Performers and Educators are Saying About Corridor

Even though we launched just two weeks ago, we are getting rave reviews from some well-respected music industry executives, performers, and educators.  Here’s what they’re saying:

Cory Wong. Guitarist, Producer.
(Ben Rector, Vulfpeck, Brandon Heath)
— Corridor is a great comprehensive learning program that is really simple to use and interface. It gives you the essential toolkit for understanding music theory and harmony.



Craig Rice. 4-time Emmy Nominee.
(Former manager of Bobby Brown, Diana Ross, Stevie Wonder)
— Corridor Music is a very effective and progressive way of learning music that a person can take with them wherever they go.  I recommend it.


Hermon Mehari. Trumpeter.
(2016 Carmine Caruso International Trumpet Competition Winner)

— Corridor provides an intuitive and step-by-step way to learn music fundamentals for anyone. Just as important is the ability to track and keep record of personal achievement, so that learners are always inspired and motivated to keep pushing for growth.


Bill Finn.  (Composer, Educator.)
(Director of Soundcheck Music School and Performance Program)
— My students are all super engaged and Corridor has proven itself an awesome tool to get them to understand the basic concepts we have been discussing.  I love the ‘see it, play it, hear it’ method!

Click here to learn music for FREE!
What do you think of Corridor so far?  Drop us a line at [email protected] and let us know!

About the author
Dan Musselman is a co-creator of Corridor, has earned a ph.d. in music composition, and is a professional keyboardist. He has written five music textbooks, is the music director for The Voice finalist Kat Perkins, and has released four albums under his name.

6 Ways To Be A More Creative Musician In 2017

As a musician, few things are more important than developing our own creativity.  Our ability to write meaningful songs, to construct inspiring instrumentals, or to find innovative ways of adding post-production nuances depends on our ability to think outside the box and find new, unique sounds.  Here are 6 ways you can up your musical creativity this year.

1.  Write on an instrument that you don’t usually play.

We often get into musical ruts, as we depend on the muscle memory that we’ve formed on our instruments.  Many of our songs, many of our solos, and many of our mixes end up sounding the same (for better or for worse), because we keep going back to what we know.  Try mixing it up!  If you’re a guitarist, try writing your next song on piano.  If you’re a songwriter, try writing an instrumental that still conveys a story. If you’re a producer, try a new sound library that you haven’t used before. Putting yourself into a new situation will force you to be a creative problem solver.

2.  Get better at what you do play.

One of the most memorable master-classes I’ve ever attended was by jazz pianist Benny Green.  Benny is one of the hardest-swinging, most burning pianists out there.  He was asked during this master class what the next step is in his musical journey, and his answer amazed me.  He wanted to be a greater technician on his instrument.  He said that he has all sorts of ideas in his head that he can’t get out, because his hands and muscle memory can’t keep up.  Woah!  So, don’t let your lack of technical ability on your instrument or knowledge of your DAW hold you back! 

3.  Listen to music that is new to you.

This is a simple one – get out of your comfort zone!  Listen to a genre of music that doesn’t naturally appeal to you, but listen to it with open ears.  Listen for nuances, the grooves, the musical phrasing, the chord progression, the instrumentation…whatever catches your ear.  Take the best ideas of the genre and brainstorm how you can apply it to your own music.

4.  Have a jam session – but listen to another band mate more than you listen to yourself.

Hold a no-agenda jam session with some of your friends…but don’t focus on yourself!  Let your ear wander around the room and try to lock in with new things:

What sort of range is the keyboard playing in his or her right hand?
How might you change what you’re playing based off of the rhythm pattern of the bass guitar?
How might you change what you’re playing based off of the rhythm pattern of the bass guitar?
* What is the drummer’s non-dominant foot doing?
* When is the vocalist breathing?
* What is the picking pattern of the guitarist?

5.  Pseudo-transcribe your favorite artist.

One of my favorite things to do is pseudo-transcribe.  Let me explain.  Imagine you just went to a concert to hear your favorite guitarist of all time.  The venue, however, was very strict about not allowing recording devices.  Mid-concert, your favorite guitarist plays the most incredible, creative, inspiring riff you’ve ever heard…but you have no way of recording that exact moment.  So, you try to burn it to your memory.  You listen intently, focus on every note, and you hum the riff to internalize it.

Then, when you get home two hours later, you pull out your guitar and start trying to figure out what you heard.  But, unless you have a photographic memory, chances are good you won’t be able to recall that riff exactly, note-per-note.  Instead, you end of up transcribing the impression that this riff had on you.  You recall the general idea without the specifics, and in turn you end up personalizing the riff.  It’s now a part of your own musical vocabulary!

6.  Learn music theory and develop your ear.

The more you know about musical concepts, and the more quickly and accurately you can connect your ear to your brain, the more creative you can be.  Think about being a poet—the more words you know, the more innovative and intricate your rhymes and stanzas become.  Unfortunately, there’s only so much you can do with a limited vocabulary. 

When it comes to music, the more tools you have in your toolbox, the better.   You can learn about which chords tend to go together, so you know when to break that tendency for maximum impact.  You can apply less-often used scales to form inventive melodies.  You can dive into chord structures that broaden the harmonic landscape of your music.  There are endless possibilities!

I would love for you to make Corridor a part of your musical journey this year.  I believe that using our program will help you become a more creative and skilled musician.  Better yet, Corridor is FREE to all users, making this invest in yourself a no-brainer.  I honestly believe you will love it.

Click here to learn music for FREE!

Invest in yourself and try new things this year! Think outside the box, hone your craft, and here’s to a creative 2017!

About the author

Dan Musselman is a co-creator of Corridor, has earned a ph.d. in music composition, and is a professional keyboardist. He has written five music textbooks, is the music director for The Voice finalist Kat Perkins, and has released four albums under his name.