Progression: Music Theory 115 – An Example of Process [Part 2]

- Posted September 6th, 2018 by

Hey dudes and dudettes,

Last month we covered an example of a process that we could use for writing musical material, working from a set of chords and branching outwards. We can start to look at the alternative now, where we’ll start with the melody and then entrench it in harmony. We’re at a point now where these concepts are quite difficult, so I highly recommend that you go back and read through my previous articles which will help contextualise what we know by this point. I seriously recommend it.  This is my last article that I’m writing on this topic before taking a bit of a hiatus from the Chipwin Blog. It’s with a heavy heart that I admit my time is much less abundant as a teacher than it was as a student.

For the final time for the foreseeable future, let’s jam.

pictured: brisbane man becomes sheet music during the long winded process of registering as a music teacher

We used chords… so what about starting with melody??

Creating melodies from chords provides us with a harmonic bed to emphasise with more prominent notes. The opposite is true of starting with a melody. By starting with a melody and then adding chords, we get to recontextualise the entirety of our melody potentially. Something that sounded like it was in G major for one iteration can perfectly fit into an E minor, C Lydian, or even D Mixolydian harmonic context. This is the beautiful thing about writing your chords secondly. The melody is the constant that your audience latches onto, as the remainder of the song swirls around it, giving it a point of difference but always something tangible to relate it back to.

Let’s start with the melody of reformat the planet.

Oh look I’m tethering this back to lesson 1. It’s come full circle folks. 

Just like we found chord tones to write our melody in our last example, we can do the opposite here. We already have our chord tones. We just reverse engineer it. The cool thing is that this is highly ambiguous, and we can take this in a myriad of directions. Let’s take a look at the first bar with the notes D and B. What chords use D and B? Let’s list some of them:

G [G, B, D], Bm [B, D, F#], D major 6 [D, F#, A, B] G# Diminished [G#, B, D], E7 [E, G#, B, D] Em7 [E, G, B, D], Cmaj9 [C, E, G, B, D], C#m9 b9 [C#, E, G#, B, D].

So as you can probably tell, there’s a *lot* of chords that you can use, and that’s just one bar. In fact, we could even see the B on beat 4 as a passing note. That means our only criteria for choosing a chord could be the note D. This increased the chord choices massively. Let’s look at bar four for a second. It has the notes C, B, A, and G. We can choose which of these notes that we want to emphasise by using our harmony to direct the listener.

For example:

Let’s put emphasis on the C and A. The following chords will work: F [F, A, C], Am [A, C, E], Fmaj7 [ F, A, C, E] F#dim [F#, A, C], Dm7 [D, F, A, C] D7 [D, F#, A, C]. Just a few examples.

How about putting emphasis on the B and G? Chords like G [G, B, D], Em [E, G, B] Cmaj7 [C, E, G, B] Bm6 [B, D, F#, G] will help with that. This gives us a number of ways to harmonise this melody. In fact, we can use an entirely different harmonisation for each section if we really wanted.

What about making sure my chords work together and stuff?

In our first example our chords were the tangible link that the melody followed. The chords were the glue. The tangible tether in our new example is actually melody. It functions as the glue that holds everything together in terms of context. Of course, this means that our chords can end up VERY abstract when put together, and this is sometimes a really cool thing to do. You can end up with Radiohead sounding progressions very easily. For example I could end up with this progression from reharmonising the Reformat the Planet progression.

Cmaj9, Fmaj7, G7, Dm7, Bsus4+6, Em6, C9, Gmaj7

The following chords do not appear in G major (our targeted home key): Fmaj7, G7, Dm7, Bsus4+6. This is half of our progression that doesn’t occur within our home key. It creates an abstracted sense of home which is only re-established at the end of the phrase. This effect only needs to be used once to give us a point of difference and create interest in something that has already become established to us.

Thank you for sticking with me for some music theory posts over the past year and a bit. It’s been thrilling for me to be able to provide you all with what my university fees paid for at the low, low cost of nothing. We are not gatekeepers of knowledge, we are teachers, every one of us. We are supposed to impart knowledge and wisdom. Please share these tips and tricks with those around you in the hope that someone might benefit from what you teach them. Please share anything with me if you get the chance, showcasing how your process has changed, your thoughts on harmony have changed, or maybe you just found a really sick chord that you didn’t know before. All of these are valid and I look forward to every single instance.

For the last time for the foreseeable future, this is Tuberz signing off.


Note: traducción al Español por Pixel_Guy encontrado aquí

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