Creating Music Thru Composition with Dr. Kuo

An interview with MMW master piano teacher Dr. Ying Kuo.

Chung Ying Kuo picture

What are the basics of music composition?

The basics of music composition include nice melodies, reasonable harmony, counterpoint,
clear musical form...etc. For me, the basics of music composition are the sounds. Whatever sounds I feel are beautiful would be a music material to me.

What got you interested in music composition?

I feel music is a universal language. We can actually try to understand the composer’s mind and thought, even historical background through their compositions. And the music is the kind language I use the best, so I feel I can tell a lot of stories around me by using musical

Which famous musician would you like to compose a song for?

To be honest, there aren’t any famous musician that comes to mind. However, I would like to compose pieces for the musicians around me. In addition by listening to their performance, I am able to determine what they are good at and what they could possibly do. So I can compose a musical story that relates to someone's daily life based on their likes, skills and interests.

What age is a good age to start learning about music composition?

Age isn't really a great determiner of when a child is ready to start learning music composition.  However,  I would say if the student has a clear mind to express what they want and has basic skills they can compose.  They need to have the ability to read basic notes and understand articulation. Articulation covers skills such as staccato, legato , slurs, and pauses. If they can hear and understand how to apply articulation in a piece they are ready to compose music.

What computer programs and technology do you use to compose music?

I mainly using Finale, Logic, Reason, Audacity, MAX/MSP to compose the music.

What is your favorite music you've composed and why?

I love all my pieces because every piece present a different time in my life.
However, there is an interesting piece that stands out as extra special.  It's called, Heartbeat and I applied my son’s ultrasound heartbeat into a computer program.  Therefore I was able to make the flute vibration as my son’s heartbeat.

If you have one message to inspire upcoming musicians what would it be?

Experience everything around you and carefully listen every kind of sounds that appears in your life.

If someone wants to learn how to compose music can they do it during weekly piano lessons?

Yes, they could. My students usually begin with simply harmonic structure and filling with few notes.

Tell us about your education & experience with music composition?

I began learning music composition in the 7th grade at school.  I studied the basics of music
theory such as form, harmony, and counterpoint, which have been really helpful in my career.
Tainan University of Technology:
I was in the five-year music composition program at Tainan University of Technology.
National Taiwan University 
I received my B. in Composition from the National Taiwan University.
Soochow University
I earned an Master of Arts in Composition from Soochow University.
Texas Tech University 
I was fortunate enough to earn my Doctorate of Composition from Texas Tech.
 University of Rochester in Paris 
I also had the privilege of studying abroad at the University of Rochester in Paris as part of a research grant. There I learned a lot about advanced theory and analysis of contemporary music.
I'm very fortunate that some of my compositions have won an awards.
Awards Granted: 
The piece “Rowing with Straggling Hair” is 2006 Selection Winner of Concert of Contemporary Vocal Works at International Society for Contemporary Music- Taiwan Section.
The piece “Review” is 2006 Selection Winner at International Workshop on Computer
Music Audio Technology’s computer music collection.
The pieces “Rowing with Straggling Hair” and “Wave” is 2005 and 2004 Honorary Mention of literary and Artistic Creation Award at the Ministry of Education and National Cultural Association.

Lesson Availability with Dr. Kuo

If you are interested in learning composition or piano lessons from Dr. Kuo please email us at or call us at 480-706-1224.

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