Composition Lessons

General Teaching Philosophy

I believe that learning to play an instrument is an extraordinarily personal endeavor. Music is a whole-brain task, and every student, no matter how "talented," will connect with some aspects of music intuitively, and find themselves challenged by others. Accordingly, music lessons need to be very personal, and adjusted to help the student lean into their natural strengths and grow to overcome their difficulties. In my experience, the number one factor that determines whether a student succeeds is the quality of the teacher-student relationship, and so I strive to know my students well enough to guide them through their educational journey in a way that feels intuitive and brings them joy and excitement rather than frustration and boredom.

Although having goals is important, students who don't enjoy the journey burn out quickly, so it's important to me that students value the process of learning, not just what it gets them. In a sense, learning music can be much like a meditation practice, a way to center oneself and grow as a person, and I encourage students to see their studies as a journey of self- discovery as much as much as the acquisition of external knowledge. I have had the joy of seeing students not only learn music theory or piano technique, but also gain an exquisite awareness of themselves and the workings of their own minds and bodies.


I meet with so many people who have so much latent musical imagination and talent and don't even realize how close they are to being able to bring their musical ideas to life. Unfortunately, most people don't know what it is they don't know, and even if there is a lot of disparate information available online, it can be really difficult to piece it together in a logical sequence without the guidance of someone who has already taken that journey.

I have spent years teaching people music theory and notation, score analysis, instrumentation and orchestration, and basic electronic synthesis, production, and mixing, as well as ear training, music history and repertoire familiarity, and simply the art of composing music that flows in a compelling way. A lot of music theory education gets caught up in a meaningless spiral of labelling chords for no reason, so I try to focus all of my intellectual, academic material on actionable lessons. Yes, we can label what this composer is doing, but why? What makes it work the way it does, and most importantly, what lesson can we take from that and apply to our own music?

The most common problem that students run into isn't theoretical or academic, though. It's simply: "I came up with this little bit of music that I like, but I don't know what to do next!" If you've gotten that far, your intuitive musical abilites are probably so much more developed than you realize. Let me give you a few new tools, and you'll be able to take them and run.


Music composition is not easily undertaken by someone with no musical experience whatsoever, just as poetry is not easily written by someone lacking a basic grasp on a language. That being said, you don't need some fancy, extensive educational pedigree to learn to compose. The background for a successful student often sounds something like this: "I took piano lessons for a few years as a kid, and now I just sort of mess around and come up with little things, but I don't really know what I'm doing."

The important thing is that you have immersed yourself in music in some way, whether that be formal training or just aimless experimentation, or even just very active music listening. If you have no musical experience at all, I recommend taking piano lessons for a little while first. (I teach piano as well and would be happy to teach you "pre-composition" piano.) I also recommend that new students have basic keyboard skills and basic understanding of music notation, but I am always impressed with students' ability to quickly fill in the gaps and skip the years of academic study that I went through. I am happy to start from square one with any motivated student.

Finally, I recommend that you have already started composing! One of the first requests I make of new students is to hear something they've composed, even if they aren't satisfied with it, even if it's incomplete. You will learn more from your first uninstructed compositions than from any lesson I can prepare for you.

Required Materials

All students should have access to a piano or electronic keyboard of some kind, as well as some musical staff paper. If you are interested in composing digitally (whether that be "purely" electronic music, or digital emulation of acoustic instruments), you will need a MIDI-capable keyboard, a computer, and some kind of Digital Audio Workstation (DAW) software, such as Logic, FL Studio, Pro Tools, Reaper, Digital Performer, Reason, etc. It will be up to you to learn how to use your DAW of choice. (There are many free online resources for this.) I can give you insights into the technical possibilities of your DAW, but I may or may not know the organization and layout of the one you have chosen. My lessons focus on higher-level aspects of composition and apply no matter what system you are using.

Lesson Format

I teach 50-minute weekly lessons, either remotely through Discord or from my home in Southeast Portland. Shorter time slots are simply not effective for composition and theory. (Even 50 minutes can fly by!) Students often end up settling into a cycle in which they spend a few weeks learning a new formal concept and working on analysis and then spend a few weeks working on a new composition and getting feedback from me, but the format is up to you. I have structured and refined a "learning path" that I am happy to go through with students who don't know where to start, but I like to check in with students regularly, give them options, and ultimately let them decide which of the many branching paths of music composition they want to pursue.

Remote Learning

For remote composition and theory lessons, I teach using Discord, a free digital communication platform that offers instant messaging, voice calling, and video calling from person to person or in shared servers. If you are a new student and have never used Discord before, please make an account and familiarize yourself with it before your scheduled lesson time. Lessons are often scheduled back-to-back and I cannot extend your lesson to compensate for time lost due to lack of technical preparedness. Reliable internet connection is very important to keep remote lessons running smoothly. Headphones must be used to elimate echo and a decent external microphone is preferred. A webcam is welcome, but not required, as visual instruction will primarily be done through screen sharing.

COVID Safety

In order to protect my students and their families, I ask that everyone entering my home be up to date with their COVID-19 vaccinations, or wear a mask for the duration of their time inside. I also ask that students and their families please contact me to reschedule their lesson if they are not feeling well.

Contact Me

(916) 960-6882

If you want to get in touch with me, you're welcome to call, text, or email me. You can also find me on Instagram (sort of, I'm extremely inactive), YouTube, Discord, and Itch. If you can't get ahold of me right away, I should be able to get back to you within 24 hours on weekdays.