Tip #249 – Neighbor Accents in Harmony

Take a look at the example below:

You will notice that the harmony doesn’t exactly stay the same within the measure – and that is due to the neighbor tones.

Not only does this bring interest to what would otherwise be a stagnant harmony within the context of the measure length, but it also brings attention to the individual notes that make up the harmony.

A trained ear can pick out the different notes that build a harmony, but when one voice changes with the use of neighbor tones, it takes interest to any listener.

Try it out!

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Tip #247 – Setting a Sample to a Pitch

Sometimes, we just default to the idea that the sound sample that a person takes (whether of an instrument, pitch or unpitched, sound effect, etc.) should stay at its captured pitch.

Thanks to the advance in music technologies from the 1980’s to present-day, we have the ability to modulate the pitch of any sound. In addition, we have the ability to tune any captured sound to a frequency we desire.

Experiment with taking sounds like a kick drum, an explosion, a tap on the table, an animal sound, etc. and tune it to several different pitches. Then, try to use what you have melodically! Take advantage of the technology you have before you!

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Tip #246 – Start Small Before Going Big

Remember how when you first started out… with pretty much anything, you had to start at the beginner level, or with the smallest amount, or in the most simplest form? Same rule applies to when writing for an ensemble.

The excitement of getting to write for an 80-piece orchestra might be hard to handle, but before rushing in to see how you’ll write for each instrument – start out small. Start by section, and go even small to groups.

Meaning, you might have the capability to write for 10 horns. Start instead by writing as if you only had 2 horns available. Then write as if you only had 3. Now 4.

At this point, you will begin to train yourself to write first the necessities and then worry about how you will orchestrate across a large ensemble.

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Tip #244 – Expanded Possibilities with a Limited Melody

This has apparently been going around the web:

With the most recent pop music hitting radio stations and streaming platforms, there seems to be a rise in a stagnant melody. Such as one where the chorus of the song form features a melody were it is just on one note.

For compositional and performance purposes, this is really easy. I mean, it is only one pitch – you can’t really mess that up so much. However, as an arranger for harmonic purposes, you have a load of possibilities.

More often than not, people make the pitch the fifth of the chord because it makes the tonality of the key (major or minor) ambiguous. However, that is for you to decide on.

Basically, make a list of all chords (stick to triads) that feature that one pitch. Then, attempt to use them in a creatively manner to harmonize the stagnant melody.

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Tip #242 – Changing a Voicing Midway

Most people when writing or performing music tend to stick to one chord voicing for a harmony. While this is perfectly okay to do, this can lead into having trouble to voice leading because there is a limit to possibilities.

Often, composers don’t practice re-voicing a harmony. For example: if you have an A major seventh chord that lasts a measure long, try a different voicing at the halfway point.

Here is another example of it in action:

Try it out and see if it makes transitions sound smoother and give the piece more interest/variety!

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Tip #239 – Nobody Likes a Bad Fingering Musically

While growing your skill as a composing (if that is what you want to be) is a good thing and should be a priority – there should be some time put to practicing an instrument.

Reason being is so you know the capabilities of an instruments… as to what it can and cannot do, or what is physically impossible for a musician to play.

As you are composing and writing notes down on paper or in a DAW, keep in find how it can be performed. Can you play it? Can you write down what fingers the musician should use, and does require a lot of dexterity?

Not only will this help a musician when playing your music, but it will make you look more competent for knowing about their instrument.

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Tip #236 – Squishing Down Voicing Possibilities

Say you have a harmonic progression like this:

There is an unlimited amount of possibilities in regards to how you can voice them to have good voice leading.

A quick two rule for harmonic voicings is to determine the bottom and the top by:

  1. Keeping the root/bass note at the bottom
  2. Make a roughly stagnant melodic line at the top.

This is because the chord voicings are to give harmony and nothing else; not to give a counter melody that will interfere.

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