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:
- Divides sections into smaller groups for more polyphonic or antiphonal possibilities.
- Becomes a smooth entrance for a new line
- Adds interest, excitement, and momentum
- Creates a flow of thematic materials
- 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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Continuing with the idea of alternating between instruments, there is the technique of dovetailing. As the definition already goes, dovetailing is when things interlock with each other at some joint area. Melodically in music, dovetailing is when a relatively incomplete music idea is carried out by another voice starting from where the original voice ended. Typically, there is usually at least one note of overlap, but these rules can easily be diverted from – so long as there is a sense of flow instead of alternation.
Inspired by the guitar technique of “chicken picken’ ” where a guitarist plays a chord or melody between alternating sounds of pick, mute, bend, cluck, etc. – we get this extreme for of dovetailing that can be applied to any music ensemble.
Take an original melodic line:
Now, look at the ensemble. Find where their ranges overlap. You might need to transpose the melody to a shared octave so that there are no jumps between voices. After doing so, break up the melodic line between the different members of the ensemble. Remember, having some melodic overlap is okay, in fact, probably even better. However, this example does not do so. Finally, experiment with having each instrument do different techniques. It would come out looking similar to this:
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