Magazine article Acoustic Guitar

Roll of the Dice

Magazine article Acoustic Guitar

Roll of the Dice

Article excerpt

Aleatoric or "chance" music, as it is more commonly known, is music in which some part of the composition is left to chance by either the roll of the dice or, as in the case of composer John Cage, the I Ching. While this may sound like a strange approach to songwriting, it is an excellent way to free yourself of the Tve-writtenthe-same-song-again blues, a complaint I often hear from students. While there is no set order to the exercises provided here, there are a few items you will need to gather before you begin: several sheets of blank paper, dice (six-sided is best), a newspaper or magazine, scissors, something to write with, and tape or a glue stick. Feel free to start from the lyric exercise first, should that be your preference.


Choose six genres of music that you like and assign each the numbers 1-6 to correspond with a six-sided die. You can also use "in the style of' and list six favorite players or songwriters instead. Create similar lists for key signature, chord type (i.e. major, minor), and chord pattern (I-IV-V; I-vi-IV-V; ii-V; etc.). In each case, refrain from your "go to" chord type or style-you already know how to write that song.


You may be tempted to roll again if you don't like the first outcome. Fight that urge and go with the result anyway; remember this is about breaking out of your comfort zone. Create a playlist with samples of the genres or bands you choose so you have references to work from. Include at least one style or band that demands a complete departure from your norm, like speed metal, flamenco, or polka (depending on your tastes).

This process can be used to determine any number of song and arrangement elements, from the tuning of the guitar to the number of lines in a verse. Experiment and see what works for you or for the song you are using it for. …

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