Tip #144 – Chord Tone for Two-Part Density

If you are like me, you sometimes struggle to find a cool contrapuntal line – or at least, another additional melodic line – to a two-part density effect in the main melody.

Well, here is one very simplistic way that you can make another melodic line to obtain two-part density.

Start with a melody and a basic harmony like the example below:

Then, add a stagnant melodic line in the same rhythm above at the closest chord tone of the written harmony WITHOUT touching the main melody (that is why a D was chosen instead of a Bb):

And there you go, a simple way to create two-part density while still maintaining the harmony .

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Tip #142 – Mindfulness of Harmonic Intervals in Two-Part Density

Two-Part Density, as we have talked about before, is two different melodic lines (either in counterpoint or in compliment to each other) played together at the same time.

For those that are nitpicky about everything that they write, here is a way to look at your two-part density in mindful reflection of what note to choose.

First, are the two notes chord-tones to the harmony (either the root, third, fifth, or seventh) or tension tones? Mixture of both?

Second, do the harmonic intervals between the two melodic lines give the desired effect?:

  • Unions – overlapping consonant blend
  • Seconds – dissonant
  • Thirds – consonant, especially if it is a chord-tone
  • Perfect Fourth – hollow, and slightly dissonant
  • Perfect Fifth – hollow, consonant
  • Tritone – very dissonant
  • Sixths – consonant, especially if it is a chord-tone
  • Sevenths – dissonant, but can work well if it is a chord tone

Being conscious of these two ideas of chord-tones and interval effect can help strengthen your two-part density writing.

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Tip #140 – Cheat-Sheet for Optimum Places of Turnarounds

Previously, we have talked about the idea of forming and crafting a turnaround in a song. But where and when is the best place to have one? You certainly don’t want to overuse the effect of a turnaround.

Below, I have made a little cheat-sheet of what most arrangers to my knowledge consider to be the best place to put a turnaround section (depending on the form/structure of the song):

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Tip #139 – Checklist for a Well-Crafted Turnaround

What is a turnaround?

A turnaround is typically a part of the song that occurs in specific places in the composition (depending on the form) and uses a specific kind of progression, independent of what was already in the song, to lead into the first chord of a new section.

That being said, we can think of making one like using a checklist. Some aspects you might want to include to make a strong turnaround is having it:

  • Located where the melody is sustained or not existent
  • Use substituted progressions
  • Be independent of the “melody” (if there is one)
  • Possibly restate thematic material

With these aspects in mind, you can look over a turnaround section that you made and self-evaluate if it did the job or not. But that being said, no rules in music should be followed if you don’t want to. This is all here for you to try out with.

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Tip #138 – Using Random Modulations in Length

Say you wanted to get from one key area to another in a certain amount of measures:

What would you personally do? Keep in mind that there are many different possibilities on filling in those empty measures.

One way is my using any random pairs of chords, moving by root of a fifth or a step in motion – with ending by a fifth or half-step motion in the bass at the key change.

It would look like as such:

Once again, keep in mind that this is simply a tip as well as an option for an interesting way to modulate. Personally, when I first read about this idea, I wasn’t fully convinced. However, it is still worth experimenting with.

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Tip #137 – Simplifying Harmony to a Pedal Point

Say you have a beginning of a new musical work like this below:

As of right now, there is nothing wrong with it, but it can sure use some development and expansion.

However, what if you didn’t like the idea of the harmony jumping from chord to chord each measure? What can you do?

One tip I learned is that you can reduce the harmony down to a single melodic (or harmonic) pedal point based on either the first of fifth scale degree of the scale/mode.

So, a revised version of creating a stagnant pedal on those two scale degrees look as such:

Play both examples above, and listen to how they both sound “complete” in a way.

Still, the pedal point does not always have to be in the bass. Take a look at what is done here:

A pedal based on the arpeggiation of a harmony built on the fifth scale degree is play continuously over the same melody. And even though the melody itself suggests chord changes to that of the original, the simplified pedal works great harmonically with everything.

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Tip #133 – Checklist for a Well-Crafted Ending

At some point, you are going to want your musical compositional piece to end. As good as a composition is, it should end to give way to another exciting work of yours.

So, what are some aspects to keep in mind on writing a strong ending?

Well, we can think of several aspects that can act as a checklist, such as having the ending of a piece of music…

  • Officially end the composition in an interesting and engaging way
  • Use a finish of slowing-down (or speeding up) rhythmically
  • Extend an ending phrase, as possibly a vamp or sequence
  • Be characteristic to the rest of the composition
  • Utilize it as the peak climax, or point of resolution

Once again, these are tips in mind – whether you decide to use them or not is up to you. You are the composer, write how you want!

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Tip #132 – The 373 or 737 Voice Leading

In situations where you want to use smooth voice leading over progressions that utilize the circle of fifths movement, the 373 (or 737) voice leading can help.

It can be used as a melody or inner voice. Regardless of what you choose, you start by putting the 3rd (or 7th) of the chord in the top voice. From there, place below the 7th (or 3rd), and then repeat the top note.

Usually, the lowest note is the root, and occasionally the 5th or 9th of the chord can be added for extra color.

From there, you resolve the chord into the next harmony within the circle of fifths progression by doing as such:

Try it out and feel how it sounds. This words great for open parallel movements.

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Tip #131 – Experimenting with Melodic Coupling

Melodic Coupling is when an additional melodic line in the same contour and rhythm is added to a main melodic line at an interval above or below it.

Rock, metal, and punk songs are notorious for using melodic coupling in the way of adding a new line above the main melody at a perfect fifth – hence, the power chord.

Doubling at the octave is also considered a form of melodic coupling, but it doesn’t create a full sense of harmony as other harmonic intervals would suggest.

So, today’s tip is a small suggestion to play around with different intervals in coupling. Diatonic thirds, sixths, and octaves are the most common – but that means we shouldn’t neglect other perfect intervals or diatonic seconds and sevenths.

Also, just like the example below, you can experiment with diatonic and continuous chromatic intervals. In other words: instead of switching between m3 and M3 intervals, just keep one throughout a melodic line!:

Try it out and see what possibilities it may unlock.

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Tip #130 – Pros of Melodic Overlap

Melodic overlap is a concept that we have covered before in previous tips. Just like dovetailing and staggering entrances for a continuous line – melodic overlap is when a melodic line for one group of instruments is sustained and carried-out by another group.

This can be done by having half of the violins play the melody, and then at the midway-point have that first half sustain a note while the other half continue where the melody left off at a new phrase.

Like passing the baton in a race!

Now, some of you reading this might think that this is a stupid idea. Why can’t the instruments just play the melodic line start-to-finish?

Well, here is a list of pros and possibilities utilized from using melodic overlap:

  1. Divides sections into smaller groups for more polyphonic or antiphonal possibilities.
  2. Becomes a smooth entrance for a new line
  3. Adds interest, excitement, and momentum
  4. Creates a flow of thematic materials
  5. Prepares the audience’s ear for contrapuntal lines.

So as you can see, there are a lot of benefits of using melodic overlap in your new composition.

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