HOSTS- Jeremy Burns, Matthew Scott Phillips
TYPE- Theory 101
BUMPER MUSIC- "I Heart Part Writing"
ANNOUNCER- Jerome Chapman
One big goal in tonal composition is to have good counterpoint within your harmonies. To do that, we need to learn how to approach part writing in the proper manner. To do that, we must first learn the principles of voice leading and why they are useful, and even essential, to the composition process. In this episode, we will learn the main rules to keep in mind when constructing a melody and then blending it with other melodies. We will discuss parallel and contrary motion between melodies, hidden fifths and octaves. We will dare to discuss the heinous parallel fifths and octaves and how they can obliterate your texture. We will also touch on organum and other contributions to the origin of these conventions. We will observe all of these rules closely from a 4 part, SATB (soprano, alto, tenor, bass) "laboratory environment"!
COUNTERPOINT- The result of combining melodic lines to form harmonies and textures, within which each line could stand on it's own, as an independent melody.
VOICE LEADING- The rules that govern how different voices, within a texture, work together and against each other.
SATB- A four part arrangement template intended for SOPRANO (higher, typically female, register), ALTO (next lowest voice, typically female), TENOR (next lowest voice, typically male) and BASS (lowest of voices, typically male).
CONTOUR- This is the overall shape of the melody. The succession of notes, as they move up and down throughout the melody, will have a specific shape to it. This is evident when viewed on the music staff because the melody will resemble hills and valleys as it peaks and falls.
UPWARD ARCHING MELODY- A line of music that goes up and then back down.
DOWNWARD ARCHING MELODY- A line of music that goes down and then back up.
UNDULATING MELODY- A line of music that goes up and down more than once.
CLOSED STRUCTURE- When the top 3 voices are all within and octave of one another, as shown below.
OPEN STRUCTURE- When the texture of the top 3 voices spans beyond the octave, as shown below in the first and last measure.
THE RULES TO MAKING A MELODY
(NOTE: THESE ARE MAINLY SUGGESTIONS BUT THEY WILL MAKE LIFE WAY EASIER WHEN YOU TRY TO BUILD A PROPER HARMONY)
1. KEEP THE RHYTHMS SIMPLE
For the time being, we're going to stay away from 32nd notes, dotted notes and syncopations. In order to get a sense of how harmonies work together, simple rhythms will help us recognize and analyze them quicker.
2. EVERY NOTE IN THIS MELODY SHOULD HARMONIZE WITH THE INTENDED CHORD
You can be flexible with what these chords are. But for the time being, try to make sure that each note in the melody is a member of the chord built by the stacking of these melodies.
3. KEEP THE CONTOUR SIMPLE
The CONTOUR is the shape of the melody. Check out the following melodies:
The ARCHING melody will go up and then down. It will look like a hill or an arch.
The DOWNWARD ARCHING melody will go down and then back up. It will look like a valley or a dip.
The UNDULATING melody will, as the name implies, go up and down and will appear thusly, as shown below.
4. TRY TO AVOID BIG LEAPS IN THE MELODY
Try to stay away from COMPOUND LINES, in which some of the intervals exceed the PERFECT 5TH, like 7ths and octaves. This will help you to avoid pushing the other 3 voices beyond their range or distracting from the integrity of your harmony. Below, in the first measure, we see that C note jump up PERFECT 5th to the G and then it plummets an OCTAVE to the G below.
5. INTERVALS GREATER THAN A PERFECT 4TH SHOULD BE LEFT FROM THE OPPOSITE DIRECTION THAT THEY ARE APPROACHED BY
Again, this will help preserve the integrity of the melody and there will be no confusion between parts.
6. CONSECUTIVE LEAPS IN THE SAME DIRECTION SHOULD OUTLINE A TRIAD
This is done all the time in tonal music and is widely accepted. This is the concept behind the arpeggiation.
7. TRY TO INCLUDE SOME TENDENCY TONES WITHIN YOUR MELODY
A TENDENCY TONE is just what it sounds like. It's a tone that has a tendency to resolve to another tone. There are two scale degrees that are considered the strongest of these:
1. The strongest is scale degree 7, the LEADING TONE. It wants to resolve up to scale degree 1, the TONIC. In the TENOR LINE of the following example, we see the TONIC (C) in measure 1 move to the LEADING TONE (B), in measure 2. Finally, in measure 3, it followed it's "tendency" back to the TONIC (C) for a fulfilling resolution.
2. Next in strength is scale degree 4, the
SUB DOMINAT. It wants to resolve down to scale degree 3, the MEDIANT. In the SOPRANO LINE of measure 2, below, we see the SUBDOMINANT (F) happily step down to the MEDIANT (E)
in measure 3.
THE PRINCIPLES OF VOICE LEADING
(NOTE: THESE RULES WERE NOT MADE TO BE BROKEN)
We will examine these principles from the "laboratory setting" of the standard 4 part harmony that is often used in choral arrangements for SATB (soprano, alto, tenor and bass).
1. THE TWO INNER VOICES SHOULD NOT GO ABOVE THE SOPRANO OR BELOW THE BASS
This will help to to avoid holes in the texture by keeping every voice or instrument within it's proper pitch range.
2. KEEP ADJACENT VOICES WITHIN AN OCTAVE OF ONE ANOTHER
3. AVOID PARALLEL MOTION BETWEEN 5th and 8ths.
-The rules of good counterpoint are the result of years and years of people avoiding things that "don't sound right".
-Hidden 5th's and 8th's, in which two notes land a 5th or an 8th apart, despite note coming from an interval of a 5th or an 8th, are considered improper as well.
-These principles don't apply strictly to vocal music.
-Timbre doesn't factor in when considering these rules.
"I Heart Part Writing"
(Area 47 Music)
Jeremy Burns- organ
MUSIC STUDENT 101