Tip #9 – Fun with Retrograde

Want to do something sonically and acoustically creative, but not exactly sure on how to develop a melodic theme? Try using retrograde techniques!

As the name implies, retrograde means doing something backwards. Think of it like a mirror copy of the original. For example in practice, take a small (or large – whatever you prefer) melodic idea:

Now, copy and write the new melody in the following measures as if you placed a mirror across the bar line. Notice how the pitches and rhythm reflect over the bar line in backwards to ow it was originally written.

While retrograde typically involves repeating backwards the phrase on both levels of pitch frequency and rhythm, a composer can experiment by dropping one of them. What if we took the rhythm factor out of retrograde, and just had the pitches go backwards? It would look something like this:

And now the other way around: only keeping the rhythm in retrograde.


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Author: Bryan M. Waring

Bryan Waring is a graduate of USM's School of Music with a B.M. in Performance – Composition and is now attending Belmont University for a M.M. in Commercial Media – Composition & Arranging. During his time at USM, he studied violin with Dino Liva and composition with Dr. Daniel Sonenberg, as well as has premiered several pieces during the semiannual Composer's Ensemble concert series. In 2017, Bryan was a writer for the original musical theater work of "Molded By The Flow," directed by Paul Dresher and Rinde Eckert. Outside of school, Bryan has been involved with writing music for videogame developers at Portland's CI2 Lab, collaborating with the King Tide Party, and studying with Larry Groupé (Straw Dogs) in San Diego. Now living in Nashville. Along with composing, Bryan teaches music to children, receiving the Master Teacher Award for his work at ESF Camps; and does audio engineering for live ensembles. Besides talents in music, Bryan is a team-player in any competitive work environment; equipped with skills in leadership, organization, mathematics, creativity, communication, and managing. On the side, Bryan has worked as a model for several skilled artists in the New England area. Among his other accomplishments include obtaining the rank of Eagle Scout in April 2013 with a project of building a side parking area with guide rails for Webb Mountain Park in Monroe, CT.

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