• Register
  • Help
Results 1 to 2 of 2

Topic: Melody or harmony or both?

  1. #1

    Lightbulb Melody or harmony or both?

    Hi everybody! First of all I'd like to introduce myself, since haven't really posted anything here yet, although I have been following the discussions at NS (specially Garritan forums) for over a year now. I'm a computer science student from Finland with a 20+ year backround in music, mostly in playing stuff. I'm quite a beginner when it comes to composing classical music, but eager to learn =)

    Haven't been able to buy GPO yet, kinda have promised myself to get it as a graduation gift, but it seems to take forever. And as a student there never seems to be enough money when you want something...Anyway, so much for that, there was also a point for this thread.

    So about the relation between melody and harmony when composing "classical" music. Have you people noticed whether you tend to take a more harmonical or melodical approach, when starting to compose a new piece?

    Usually when I sit down to write music, I can usually come up with a nice chord progression OR a nice melody. I don't know if it's just lack of excercise but I just can't seem to be able to deal with both at the same time. Although I do find it easier to start out with a harmony (e.g. chord progression) and to compose a melody accordingly. But then often just sticking a melody line over the chords feels artificial.

    Then vice versa it's a lot harder for me i.e. starting out with a melody line. One possibility is that I start out with too complex melody parts which makes harmonization difficult. But most of the time I come up with a decent melody, I can't get the chord progression to sound fluent or logical.

    I've been using Russo's book "Composing Music", which has been a nice introduction for me about basic composing techniques. However I find it very hard to think in terms of passing tones or auxiliary tones or counterpoints etc. I've been playing classical piano for about 20 years, 5-6 years of jazz/funk and I also play guitar, bass and saxophone, so my "composing" so far has almost been purely "ad hoc" and has been based on my playing skills rather than theoretical knowledge of composing.

    What about you other people? Does anyone else have this same problem of duality or is it purely a beginner's dilemma? Would be interesting to here how different people percieve harmony and melody when beginning to compose a new piece.

    You can tune a piano, but you can't tuna fish

  2. #2
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Mar 2004
    Wilton, NH

    Re: Melody or harmony or both?

    I’ve been composing, if you want to call it that, for a while now, but I’m very much a beginner when it comes to serious composition. Keep that in mind when you read my post – I am no place even close to an expert, just somebody who is also trying to figure out this whole thing of composing.

    I’m sure everyone is different but here is what works for me:

    I would have to say that the most important thing is the theme, so start with the melody. I try to base everything I write on the theme and any countermelody that I might write to go along with it. Or I should say themes since a piece of music usually has more than one theme (I know, a lot of very good music is based on only one theme, but…)

    I also tend to think very linearly, even more so since I’ve been composing with GPO. In the past I might think in terms of a bunch of block chords but now I think in terms of individual parts working together to make a whole that is better than any one part.

    I usually write out the melody and then pencil in several chord progressions that might go with it. Then I’ll write a second line that goes with it and erase out the chords that no longer fit. Then a third line and so on.

    Occasionally I’ll hear two or more lines in my head so I’ll write those out and then pencil in possible chords and work the rest out from there. I’m not afraid to go back and change notes in my lines if I notice it would make the chord sequence nicer. I’m hoping that as I gain more experience my writing will become more and more like this, that is, worked out in my head before I write it down or work it out on the keyboard.

    I’ll play with a lot of variations on the melody and some will suggest modulations to other keys. At that point I’ll write it in. However, I may have also decided I need a modulation so I will write the chords down and try to fit the melody around it so I can move to the other key. Listening to my older music I have discovered that the biggest thing holding me back was my total lack of skill in modulation. I’m not saying that I am much better now, but at least I recognize the problem and can work on it.

    As I said, I’m still working this out myself, but I hope this has helped.
    Trent P. McDonald

Go Back to forum


Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts