The Contemporary Music Course for Beginners, Composers & Arrangers

(aka The Writing Musician)
by Clive Cockburn, T.V., Film, Commercial and Rock Opera composer, guitarist and pianist.
Price: $100 New Zealand, $75 U.S. as of this writing.

Review by Michael Leppert
Playing and writing music is great fun and most homeschooling families have a high regard for music in all of its aspects – as listeners and as practitioners, from amateur to full-blown professional composers, players and teachers. Probably the most satisfying musical activity there is, is being able to write songs, compose original pieces or arrange the compositions of others and this web-based video program brings a complete course right into your home via the Internet.

The student has 12 months from initial enrollment, to cover the 120 lessons contained in TCMC and it can also be used by music teachers as an instructional platform. If used in this manner, it is totally suited for children ages 10 or older, who require some extra instruction and explanation.  However, if used by a self-motivated child of 12 or older, who may already have adequate grounding in music theory, this program is excellent for self-guided study – or teacher-led, too, of course. But if used without a teacher, it does require self-initiated practice of the concepts demonstrated in the course. Interval practice, for instance, requires many hours of application before the student is adept; no amount of teaching in the world can replace desire. The Contemporary Music Course offers the basic instruction and, as with any learning situation, the student must supply the devotion and time. A non-musical parent can guide his/her child through the exercises presented in the video and provide a rudimentary groundwork for further study.

[The course can be purchased for more than one 12-month registration, of course, as much of the earliest material presented requires practice and repetition. Its low price makes this idea completely reasonable.]

The Contemporary Music Course teaches basic music theory and composing/arranging techniques for a basic rock band format – keyboards, guitar, bass and drums and also features instruction on sight-singing and sight-reading. Because both of these skills take years to perfect, the sooner one learns the basics, the better.

The Contemporary Music Course has written exercises, such as naming the notes on the treble and bass staves, and then the student stops the video, fills in the answers and continues with the program providing the answers. There are a goodly number of such exercises, from basic theory all the way to advanced work in writing simple harmonic arrangements using parallel and contrary motion, and other harmonic studies.

The program also provides a pdf of blank music manuscript paper, which can be printed out as needed, so the student needn’t purchase manuscript books, just to fill with exercises – a great money-saver in itself! There are other pdfs in the program that include a variety of written exercises, eliminating the need for a textbook.

The creator of TCMC, Mr. Clive Cockburn, is a successful and very experienced player and composer, whose entire life has been centered around professional music creation. He played classical piano and then rock guitar in a successful band in Australia. He worked with the band in Australia and his native New Zealand for a number of years and after his rock days were over, he switched to “commercial” composition for films, T.V., product commercials and his own full-on rock operas. Mr. Cockburn also studied at the highly-regarded Dick Grove School of Music in Los Angeles and he brings his full knowledge to his instructional program. The Contemporary Music Course is very affordable and is the perfect gift for a young musician beginner or one who is ready to take an advanced step in skill level development. Please visit the website,, for more information about this excellent program. MjL