Tip #74 – Harmonizing an Appoggiatura Over a Diminished Chord

In the very rare case that you will ever need to do such a thing, let’s dive in a take a look at the steps you would take to actually make a “good” 4-way close harmonization of a melody that exhibits an appoggiatura over a diminished chord.

In the example above, we see that the Bb is an appoggiatura. It is a dissonance on a strong beat caused by a leap in one direction, and resolved in the opposite.

In four-part writing harmonization, the appoggiatura over the diminished chord will replace the next lowest chord member. It that case, the Bb‘s nearest close chord member from below is the Ab:

Also, take notice that it is a whole-step away, too. Next, you would harmonize using the tones of the Ab diminished chord, but omitting the Ab pitch.

From there, you can harmonize the rest of your passage in 4-way close, drop voicing, etc.


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Tip #73 – A Reminder for Subtle Influences

Over the past few months, I have detailed of aspects of certain genres and styles, from their unique scales to chord progressions, form, treatment of melody, motifs, rhythm, etc.

While you as the composer can certain take these bits of advice to compose something uniform – say, like in the style of an “authentic” delta blues song for example – there is nothing forcing you to.

You very much can Frankenstein your piece by having subtle influences to a composition, but not let it be overbearing. For example: your entire composition could be classical in nature, but have a blues based melody. A country song you are writing could have a Latin percussion beat in the backing rhythm for some spicy flavor. Or your next electronic club hit could sample some passages from Renaissance era vocal counterpoint.

Be creative, but keep in mind that a little goes a long way!


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Tip #72 – Adjusting Tempo

Today is going to be a short tip that might sound obvious, but could be the helpful reminder in your compositional processes.

Before sending a score to print, exporting stems, or formatting a sound file of your composition – play around with the tempo.

You might be thinking about this and go: “that’s stupid.” However, you might be able to find a new and interesting feel for your composition just by increasing/decreasing the bpm by a noticeable amount of notches.

If you are making demos of songs that fit I the EDM style, you can make multiple copies of your song in different tempi to get a variety to consider before an official release.


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Tip #71 – Understanding Half-Swing

Take a look at the image below:

You might have recognized instantly that the top staff is a notation of straight/even eighths, and that the third staff is of a triplet swing rhythm. Also, you might have figured-out that the last staff at the bottom is a “jagged” and pretty square swinging rhythm.

But what about the second staff??

That is the approximate (and that term is used VERY loosely) of a “half-swing” feel that is roughly in between the straight eighths and common triplet swung eighths.

Be aware; this is a feel for a performer to play. While the notion is good for programming purposes in a DAW, do not ever give someone a piece of sheet music written this way. Simply indicate this feel to a performer, or learn it yourself. You might be surprised as to hose loose and flowing it really is for your composition.


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Thinking Out Loud – Limiting Composing Ability By Singing

A melody should be unique, a “stand-alone,” and sing-able. What grabs the attention of the listener and makes a lasting impression enough so that they are still humming one the piece is over is the melody. So, should melodies be composed directly from singing?

Not always.

While singing can most certainly aid in the compositional process with finding smooth lines that are easy to replicate vocally, there are some drawbacks.

Believing that melodies should be vocal oriented, “sing-able,” or otherwise logically good according to what a voice can do places a large limit on a composer.

For those that are terrible vocalists (remember, a voice is an instrument like any other – the ability to sing is as inbred as the ability to play the saxophone from birth; hence, it must be learned and developed) they already have the limitation of composing melodies that are constrained by range, intonation, vocal gymnastics, etc.

For trained vocalists, while they can certain accomplish more, they are still limited by what they already know. In other words, the melodies sung are merely a regurgitation of pieces performed in the past that are carved in their vocal muscle memory. And that goes for any instrument, too. Were are parrots, forming variations of music through the skills adapted in pieces we have already learned and played – compromising our originality through the use of an instrument.

So what is one to do.

Composing a melody by just singing ability (or using a single instrument) should be taken with caution. While it can bring up some good ideas, it should never be the primary reliance of writing a piece of music. Intuition, theory, imagination, experimentation, artistry should supplement in the large areas where skills lack in. Only then can a amazing melody be composed.

Just thinking out loud.

Bryan Waring
Bryan M. Waring

Tip #70 – Crafting with Asymmetrical Timelined Phrases

Take a look at the example below and figure out of there are any patterns:

You may have noticed that the middle staff if a 2-bar phrase that is repeated over and over again. Also, you may have realized that the staff at the bottom is a 1-bar figure played like an ostinato.

Everything looks even enough in the typical grouping you would expect for any composition until we look at the top staff. Surprisingly, it is at 5-bar phrase that doesn’t match-up as neatly as the other grouping.

These different lengths of repeated phrases within a structure create an asymmetric timeline for when everything will repeat and land back in sync.

Experiment with different phrase lengths that don’t match exactly with one another. Also, you can use some cool phasing techniques to develop lines!


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Tip #69 – Interpolation of Quotes

From music of the Renaissance era, to the prime-time of jazz, and all the way to now in present-day, musicians have been using other famous works as “quotes” within their music.

Obviously, one does run into the problem of plagiarism or lack of originality depending on how the quote is used. Using music in the public domain is a safe way to get around the act of plagiarism, and your own creativity will solve the remaining problem.

The main goal of quoting a well-known theme embedded into your piece is to reinvent it. in some way, shape, or form. People have taken a theme and used it as a cantus firmus, bass-line, fragmented motif, etc. before. If you are expecting to use it as a primary melodic idea, here is a checklist of tips:

  • Context – Is the theme “well-known” for your intended audience? Does it fit the composition (thematically, harmonically, melodically, motifically, fluidly)? Can the quote be paraphrased in some way? How about restated?
  • Reconfiguration – Will you be able to adjust the pitches and rhythms without losing the premise of the quote? Can the quote be developed into later themes used? What about broken fragments?
  • Inflection – what emotional, symbolic, ironic, personal, or associative meaning does this new and reworked quote provide to your composition? Is it worth it?


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