Fun with Numbers

Take it from Mike Barna of North Olmsted, Ohio: When you’re composing, the muse can appear in many different forms—including, as Barna found out, as objects as inanimate and abstract as the calendar on the wall. “It was Friday the 13th recently, so I decided to compose a little lick in the spirit of the ominous date,” says Barna of his submission below. “The phrase alternates between 7/8 and 6/8—two time signatures that combine to equal 13/8—thereby putting the number 13 to use rhythmically. And the three sextuplets in bar 2 add a nice, evil ‘6-6-6’ to the mix. Tap [T] notes where indicated and play the rest of the notes legato using hammer-ons and pull-offs.”

To create a truly spooky vibe, Barna plays this lick on a nylon-string guitar while eerie harmonies swell in the background. “The accompaniment,” says Barna, “consists of alternating tritone voicings and augmented chords all contained within the whole-tone scale. I liked the results so much, I went on to compose a 13-minute suite based on the lick and its related numerical and harmonic ideas.” To hear Barna’s haunted Reader’s Challenge submission online, visit