On my in-depth learner contract as well as last week’s in-depth post, one of my main goal was to find an online resource that will help me compose and write music neatly and efficiently. After much researching, as most websites require some form of money, I found an all-free website called flat.io. (Link: https://flat.io/dashboard ). This website is great because it allows you to compose for multiple instruments, perfect for the type of orchestra composition I decided to take on, and can even playback the piece you compose online! A picture of the website is down below.



    1. Note that the picture doesn’t have any real composition yet. This past two weeks, I have mainly focused on analyzing famous orchestra composition, meeting with my mentor, and playing around with this new website to get a read on all the available functions. However, I will definitely have at least 8 – 12 bars of composers in the style of the romantic period by next week, if not more.

The main part of my progress was my analysis that I worked on before I met my mentor. Basically, I analyzed the orchestral piece Symphonie Fantastique by Berlioz in the Romantic era. I chose this piece as my first analysis as I recently played this with my orchestra, so I already knew the piece well, and because it is one of the famous pieces that has a story behind it. I completed two things with my analysis:

    1. What is the story behind this masterpiece?
      1. The story behind this piece is Berlioz putting the emotions he felt from a women he admired when he was composing the songs. Their is a episode for each of the 5 different movements, but overall, it’s about how his “love at first sight” with a women he sees acting one day, turns into mad obsession, which eventually gets him hanged at the gallows.
    2. What instruments were repeatedly being used for certain parts?
      1. E.g. the drums were used as a march and to keep rhythm, the violins led the melody with the flutes, etc.
      2. Complete analysis of just the first page is here:
      3. IMG_0309

         *My own annotations / music from http://imslp.org/ 

  1. I have also approached Ben Sigerson, an experienced and gifted student composer, for some quick tips on composition. He told me:
    1. Stick to the melody even if it means that I repeat the melody line for different instruments
      1. My thoughts: Using different melodies is actually quite common in the 21st century as it is viewed as artistic, however personally, I think this makes the music messy to the ear. Furthermore, I am trying to follow the techniques and styles of different classical periods which mainly follow the same melody throughout the whole orchestration.
    2. Be aware of your harmony and chord progression
      1. My thoughts: I completely agree with this as having proper harmony arrangements set the whole tone for the piece. I have learned this when studying with my mentor prior to the start of in-depth, however, I will need to brush up my skills.
    3. Write music that you want to hear
      1. My thoughts: This makes sense because I have to hear my music the most in order to properly edit and revise over and over again. Also, if the music isn’t pleasing to me, it would be hard to please others with the piece.


  1. My goals to be completed by next week include the following:
    1. Analyzing an orchestral composition with my mentor in the baroque era
    2. Composing an original orchestral composition in the romantic era, with noteable techniques that Berlioz (composer of Symphonie Fantastique) used
    3. Approaching various players in my orchestra with ranges of music notes to see the comfortable level/range of notes different instruments can play
    4. Learning to transpose music (essential for wind and brass instruments)


Over this week, I had my first mentor meeting with Manti Poon. For the first meeting, we just discussed how I was hoping to progress and learning from this experience, and how he could assist me in doing this.



We also listened to the recording of Symphonie Fantastique and made notes. I tried to use Cornell notes, but it got really messy at the end when I was in a rush to jot more ideas down. On the left column is the movement number and instrument, and on the right column is a description of what the instrument plays and brings to this piece. I also included dynamic often observed in Berlioz’s music. Below:


*My own annotations


*My own annotations

Some questions we discussed together:

How did your mentor gain their experience/expertise?

    1. I didn’t quite realize how much music experience he had gained in his 35 plus years of studying, playing, and teaching. As a young child, he has put in countless hours towards practicing viola everyday, and later went on to study music as his major. He has a Bachelor in Viola. From there, he started to teach children, and played in the orchestra (VSO, OIS, etc.) for at least 15 years which has increased his ear for pleasing tunes and harmony arrangements in music. His experience in composing and transposing orchestral pieces will provide great insight in his mentorship.

What were those experiences like for your mentor?

    1. Manti said that obviously, carving a path in music is difficult. There’s a lot of effort that goes into playing an instrument, and requires numerous hours and hard work. But he also said that there’s nothing else he would rather do. Starting from a very young age, he was quite passionate, and never doubted his abilities to succeed. I believe this confidence and dedication is what brought him success.

What wisdom have you gained from your mentor so far?

    1. One piece of wisdom gained from my mentor is that “nobody can just sit down and write music” (Manti Poon). He told me that inspiration for new compositions will come to me during the most unexpected times, therefore, forcing myself to be inspired will only create music that is displeasing.
    2. Another piece of wisdom my mentor shared is that “starting is half the work completed” (Manti Poon). Composition may seem daunting at first, especially trying to compose an orchestration off the bat. But since I have experience in music already, taking my time, relaxing, and just trying new combinations or playing around creating different sounds can also inspire me.
    3. The last wise nugget is “there is no perfect composition” (Manti Poon). Some orchestra pieces are very famous, and rightfully so, as the arrangements and harmony progression is just amazing. However, these works could still be revised and edited. Composition is a life long process, it doesn’t just stop after all the notes are written down on a page.

What have you learned so far, in terms of facilitation strategies, that might contribute to your own development as a mentor?

    1. I was pretty stressed out near the beginning, because composition is a big project to take on. However, my mentor created a very relaxing atmosphere by giving me helpful tips and telling jokes (he has great music puns), which helped me discuss my questions and analyzations with ease.  I was quite comfortable around him later one, especially since I do regularly meet him for one hour viola lessons every week. My mother sat beside us and listened in our conversation as well.
    2. As a mentor, I really appreciated that he didn’t just take over. From his experience, he could have easily given me all the answers that I wanted, but instead, he guided me step by step into finding the answers myself.
      1. For example: Me: Why does Berlioz use this melody line over and over again but keep the originality and creativity every time?
      2. Mentor: Well, in which parts of the piece do you hear the melody? Who is playing it?
      3. Me: Well all the instruments play it, but at different times. Also you can hear this as the melody, but also as the background beat with changed notes.
      4. Mentor: I think you just answered your own question.