Languages for All
Short Courses
Your basket
Your account

Composition for Choirs

Course Times & Enrolment

(Code MU185-101) • (0 classes) Course location to be confirmed •
Sorry, this course is cancelled

Course Summary

This course outlines the basics of writing unaccompanied music for choirs and vocal ensembles. Students will study a range of approaches to writing for choral ensembles and will compose their own individual works for performance by vocal ensemble, the Reid Consort.

Course Details

Pre-requisites for enrolment

Students should be able to read musical notation and have a basic understanding of Western music theory (Grade 5 Theory or equivalent experience).

Students should expect to undertake work at home, to gain the most from this course.

Content of Course

Students will study a range of methods for writing for unaccompanied choirs and voices, the limitations and potential of the voice, and the basics of Western tonal harmony and chord structure. Studying a broad range of styles, students will be guided in writing their own folksong arrangement for ‘a cappella’ (unaccompanied) choir or free composition using a set text. Students will have a chance to sing each other’s works and provide collaborative feedback, as well as receive feedback on their works as part of a final session with a professional vocal ensemble.

Teaching method(s)

Weekly seminars will introduce examples of choral compositions written in a range of contemporary and traditional styles, with discussion on musical scores and notation. The effectiveness of such methods will be explored, including a basic introduction to practices of voice leading and spacing. Time will be provided for individual composition and practice, with one-to-one discussion with the tutor to review their compositions.
Students are expected to participate in classes by discussing the music reviewed and working both together and individually on composition assignments. Work will be assigned to be completed outside of class time as required. Students will use Western musical notation either in hard manuscript copy or in notation software (Sibelius or Finale). Feedback can be provided (within reason) between sessions via e-mail.

Learning outcomes

On completion of this course, students will be able to:

1. demonstrate an understanding of the capabilities and limitations of the voice;

2. discuss a range of approaches to writing for voices in classical music;

3. demonstrate rudimentary approaches to voice leading and setting text to music.

4. use Western musical notation to write works clearly for vocal ensemble;

5. apply these approaches in the composition of their own works for choir.


Core Readings

Recommended Reading:

Butterworth, A., 1999. Harmony in Practice. London: ABRSM.

Class Handouts

Printed excerpts for weekly tasks will be provided from scores/works studied.


If you have questions regarding the course or enrolment, please contact COL Reception at Paterson's Land by email or by phone 0131 650 4400.

Student support

If you have a disability, learning difficulty or health condition which may affect your studies, please let us know by ticking the 'specific support needs' box on your course application form. This will allow us to make appropriate adjustments in advance and in accordance with your rights under the Equality Act 2010. For more information please visit the Student Support section of our website.