Tip #229 – Deciding Between Open-Fifths or Octaves

Sometimes, the piece of music you are writing doesn’t call for complex chord choices or complex chord voicings. It might be because of the style you are going after, or it just might match the mood better if you reduced to simplistic voicings.

DO NOT THINK THAT BECAUSE YOU AREN’T USING COMPLEX VOICINGS THAT YOUR MUSIC ISN’T ADEQUITE. The value of your piece isn’t based of of how challenging it is – but on how invested you are in it. If you believe all it needs is some simplistic voicings, go for it!

Now, two common reductions for harmony is to double the root at the octave, or just to play the root and the fifth.

If you were to choose between the two, which one would it be? What would be the advantages of each?

When doubling the root at the octave, you lose harmonic color because it is reduced down to one pitch class. However, the doubling reinforces the sound and makes that makes that singular color more bold.

Open fifths, as we have talked about previously in posts about power chords, will have a but more harmonic color because it uses two different pitches. Also, the sound will be denser, since the pitches are more closer together than octaves.

Try both and see what fits!

Thank you so much for taking the time to read! Feel free to comment, share, and subscribe for more daily tips below! Till next time.

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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