Tip #151 – Using Fourth Structures in Harmonization

Continuing with a topic discussed the other day, we are going to take a look at how we can harmonize a melody using these fourth structures.

First, start off with a melody:

Then, add the diatonic fourth below the melody (this can either be a P4 or a tritone):

Now, we are going to do a closed fourth voicing, which means that we will add a third below the melody note. However, for the harmony that has a tritone, we are going to add a third ABOVE the bottom note:

If we instead wanted to do open fourths, we would need to stack two intervals of a fourth on top of each other. So, that simply means adding another fourth below the fourth from the previous example:

But, notice how the one with X’s have a tritone in them. Technically, that does not exactly fit the definition of an open fourth structure. To edit this, we use chromatics to adjust the harmonic intervals:

And there you go!

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Tip #145 – The Seesaw of Acoustic Balance in Counterpoint

If you know what a seesaw is – it is an outdoor playground ride where the changes of force on either side cause the ends to go up in down. When both sides are even, the seesaw is balanced.

You might experience a seesaw feeling when you are writing counterpoint:

  • On one hand, the two melodic lines must be heard; but one cannot completely overpower or be completely in balance in volume.
  • On one hand, the two melodic lines cannot be too similar in timbre where they blend in a mess; but they cannot be too distinctive where they don’t blend.
  • On one hand, the two different melodic lines music be unique; but they still must work together as one whole.

My advice to you the reader is:

  • Make one melodic line slightly louder than the other
  • Choose instruments carefully, as to which best pair for the greater effect of the music
  • And keep in mind intervals, rhythm, and motivic usage when crafting contrapuntal lines.

This could help create a balance.

Of course, this is just my advice – you are the composer, so do whatever you feel is right!

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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 #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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Tip #125 – Crossing Voices to Avoid Repetition

Say you had this line written and you wanted to arrange it for three voices:

What would you do? Would you simply gives lines top-to-bottom?

While that is an option, you do run into the danger of sounding monotonous with having some voices continuously repeat notes.

A way to avoid this is by crossing voices!

So, instead of having the bottom two voices stay of the E4 and C4 respectively, they can cross and alter between the two.

Therefore, you would get something similar to this when arranging for three voices:

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Tip #116 – Key Change with a Predictable Melody

Once you established an “earworm” melody in the listener’s… ears of course, you have the ability to pull out the rug from underneath them and do a key change.

How?

Well, first take a look at the composition below:

Say that the first four measures is the original motif/chorus/theme… whatever you want to call it. We know that on every repeat the second measure of the four measure pattern the melody is an A4.

However, that pitch can be harmonized in a multitude of ways. Looking back at the example above, the pitch is now harmonized with an A major triad instead of an A minor triad. This chord then acts as a IV chord in a IV-V-I progression taking us to the key of E Major.

This sounds smooth to the ear because we were already expecting that A to happen… just not the other notes around it.

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