Rudolf Schramm

A Comparative Study of Josef Schillinger’s Approach to Musical Composition and of the Traditional Academic Approach


Rudolf Schramm

When a new book on the subject of harmony, counterpoint, fugue, melody writing, musical form or orchestration appears in print, it is proper to make a comparative analysis. If the new book turns out to be an improvement over existing method, it will be worthy of serious consideration as educational material for students of music. So far no one book has succeeded in teaching all of the above mentioned or anything resembling a complete method or system of composition. It is therefore rather difficult to compare the newly arriving book “A SYSTEM OF MUSICAL COMPOSITION BY JOSEPH SCHILLINGER’ published by Carl Fisher, Inc.. with any other system.

A general comparison with other previously published books on all branches of musical theory would bring out the following points of difference.

  1. Schillinger adequately covers all branches of musical theory necessary to the successful composition of music; others do not.
  2. Schillinger actually teaches’ how’ to compose as a rational science to any person who can think intellectually; others do not.
  3. The difference between Schillinger and other theorists lies in Schillinger’s entirely new concept of presenting all his findings and facts in a basic, fundamental order, and in showing the simple, as well as the complex natural patterns music, may adopt.

Jimmy Heath and the Schillinger System

Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz

“During the 70’s Heath began to pursue writing intensely. He learned the Schillinger System of Musical Composition from one of its prominent adherents, Rudolf Schramm”I became one of Rudy’s students,” “It was all about a numerical system that helped me find all kinds of different chord sequence you might not think of intuitively on your own. I with him at Carnegie artist studio and studied with him for two years, as a result I wrote my first extended piece,  an Afro-American suite of evolution [1973], with African percussion, a big band, strings and a choir he took me to the next step.”

Downbeat May 2014

Joseph Schillinger The Real Father of Electronic Music

In the 1930’s Joseph Schillinger wrote that years from now  Orchestral instruments will become obsolete. The author of The Schillinger System of Musical Composition and The Mathematical Basis of the Arts stated that sonically the instruments in the orchestra have flaws. The combination of these instruments was the best they had at the time to cover all frequencies and they did not do that effectively. He was a friend of Lev Theremin and he wrote the first piece for the Theremin. He was also involved in the conception of the Rhythmicon. He envisioned the onset of instruments that could electronically create any frequency and timbre. He believed that this would make our antiquated orchestral instruments obsolete. He wrote an article ELECTRICITY, A MUSICAL LIBERATOR. In it, you can hear his own thoughts.

As a researcher and teacher of the Schillinger System, I can see not only Schillinger’s vision of electronic instruments but also his composition theory that can be realized with the various function generators and computer implementation.

Through the years, for various reasons, Schillinger has become a side note. Schools that taught the System have distanced themselves from their own history and other teachers called the theories their own. Schillinger had the vision to see where music was going and his theories will take music to areas we have not even dreamed of.

4 Steps to Become an Effective Music Composer

“Find a job you enjoy doing, and you will never have to work a day in your life.”  –Mark Twain

The Composer’s Code

Weekend warrior composers are under the belief that their music scores just happen. They sit down and wait for the masterpiece to show up. In a rare glimpse of the world of a composer,  this rarely happens. We can name those special composers on one hand. The rest of us struggle to write, complete and produce a quality piece of music for a deadline.  These are 4 steps that music composers do daily:

1. Work Regular Hours

Composers show up to work a 9-5 or later, like everyone else. Surprised? Their musical compositions do not just happen. They have a product to create and a deadline to deliver.

 2.  Dressed at their desk for a full day.

Working at a home studio does not mean working in pajamas. There is a shift in your mind when you show up to work in your studio dressed. The plus side is every day can be casual Friday!

3. Limit Distractions

It is enough to combat your own procrastinations. Have a clean studio, turn off email notifications, and your phone. If you had employees you would want them to concentrate only on the job while they are at work. Hold yourself to the same standard.

4. Create Your Routine 

When you step in your studio you are ready to work. Turn on your studio.Have all your tools and research materials ready. Pour a cup of coffee and start your day.

These 4 steps will speed up your process and make you productive and more successful.

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Philip DiTullio is the Joseph Schillinger scholar of our times noted by the Artist Recording Collective. He has spent 10 years completely immersed in the Schillinger System of Musical Compositions establishing pathways, where none had been previously found. He brings his students a unique way around composition and sound. His philosophy is teaching the logic of music, which crosses all genres. He has forged his own musical journey and invites his students to explore their own adventure


In the Beginning there was Rhythm

“Begin with the End in Mind”

 Stephen Covey

In music that beginning is Rhythm.

In this series of posts, we will explore the science of rhythm.  We will discover where science and mathematics meet music.

Where is the Science of Traditional Music Theory

It is hard to believe that you can find many articles, YouTube and Ted Talks videos exclaiming the connection between science/math and music. Sound is scientific, it is governed by the law of physics. Sound can be measured in many different ways frequency (pitch), amplitude (loudness), and timbre (tone color/wave shape).  Why is this fact so amazing?

The reason is the notation system that is used was devised in the 16th Century.

Why Traditional  Music Notation has Prevented Further development of Music Styles.

The scientific process must use a systematic form of notation so that theories can be continually tested and proven and expanded. Traditional music notation is not and has never been a scientific process. It was developed over the years by trial and error. Traditional musical notation has been a source of confusion because of its non-scientific process which has lead to stifling music development.

Traditional music notation influences the way music is written. It is biased toward certain rhythm families and virtually non-existent for others. Traditional notation is efficient for rhythms of 2, 4, 8 or 3, 6, and 9, however, limitations arise with rhythms of 5, 7 and 10.
Confusion begins in the early music learning process because of this non-scientific logic, for example, the symbols we use to represent note durations are given qualitative names such as quarter notes, half notes, eighth notes etc.. and they are not a quarter, half or eighth of anything. It would have been easier to name these notes Fred or  Margaret, at least we would think they had any mathematical value.

Let’s Simplify

What do we need to do to measure rhythm?

Reduce it to its lowest common denominator. Instead of giving note values confusing mathematical names like quarter, half, and eighth lets say that the fastest duration is 1.

Here is the terminology:


t = 1      where   1 = 1/8 note  

(1 is the fastest duration it could be 1/4,  1/16 etc..)

T = measure /bar

t = 1          1 equals 1/8 note

   T = 6      1 measure equals 6 (1/8) notes

           2      1      1       2

T = (2 + 1 + 1 + 2)


Next, we will look at how we organize rhythms in Style Families


The Composers Manifold-Rhythm

The Schillinger System presents us with every possible choice of every possible element we use in composing. That can be very overwhelming.

That is why many Systems can be devised from the Schillinger System. Those Systems are determined by the Manifold of choices that are chosen prior to composing.

This Manifold is the pre-composition planning that makes it possible to explore areas and styles of music that have yet to be explored.

Let’s explore what the elements are in a Composition Manifold.

The Determinant is the number of divisions in a measure. This very different than the Traditional  Time Signature. The top number in the Traditional Time signature is similar to the determinant.

 The middle term in the Power Series t/t  is the determinant. The whole numbers on right are the number of bars and the fractions on the left are the note durations within the bars.

Music Without Schillinger

Joe playing theremin

A question was posed during one of our Thursday evening Speaking Schillinger Lectures, that had us all in a buzz. At first what seemed like an innocent remark caused a bit of a controversy. Would the state of music composition and education be any different had Schillinger not been born? You know kind of “It’s a Wonderful Life” but Schillinger playing the George Bailey character.

So the knee-jerk reaction is to say no difference. His teachings and System was just an annotation in the history of music and music education.  Then the layers of the onion get peeled back one argument or Schillinger influence at a time. What if:

Gershwin never met Schillinger?

Glen Miller never wrote Moonlight Serenade?

Schillinger House/Berklee College of Music never opened?

Westlake School of Music Never was opened.

Rudolf Schramm, Bob Bianco, Richard Benda, Charlie Banacos never taught the Schillinger System?

Nathan Van Cleave, Leith Stevens, Franklyn Marks, Robert Emmett Dolan, Vic Mizzy, Lyn Murray etc.. never went to LA and Film Composers were never influenced by Schillinger.

Muhal Richard Abrams never learned the Schillinger System? Would the AACM ever have formed?

Charles Stepney never learned the Schillinger System would Earth Wind and Fire, Minnie Ripperton, the Dells, Ramsey Lewis and all his work ever been produced.

What if I never met Lou Pine and Jerome Walman?

Well There is a start.  We will investigate these questions and more

Thinking Out Loud.