Tip #173 – Retrograde Harmony

Some of you might recall that retrograde in music involves taking a music figure and playing in backwards. Usually, this is done with a melodic line, but we can use it with harmony and get some interesting progressions!

Take a look at these two phrases below and their harmony:

Play the piece how it is above first. Now: try the retrograde option below:

You will hear that the resolutions are unexpected – which can work to your advantage or not.

Thank you so much for taking the time to read! Feel free to comment, share, and subscribe for more daily tips below! Till next time.

Tip #9 – Fun with Retrograde

Want to do something sonically and acoustically creative, but not exactly sure on how to develop a melodic theme? Try using retrograde techniques!

As the name implies, retrograde means doing something backwards. Think of it like a mirror copy of the original. For example in practice, take a small (or large – whatever you prefer) melodic idea:

Now, copy and write the new melody in the following measures as if you placed a mirror across the bar line. Notice how the pitches and rhythm reflect over the bar line in backwards to ow it was originally written.

While retrograde typically involves repeating backwards the phrase on both levels of pitch frequency and rhythm, a composer can experiment by dropping one of them. What if we took the rhythm factor out of retrograde, and just had the pitches go backwards? It would look something like this:

And now the other way around: only keeping the rhythm in retrograde.


Thank you so much for taking the time to read! Feel free to comment, share, and subscribe for more daily tips below! Till next time.