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Topic: What's wrong with parallel fifths--really?

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  1. #1

    What's wrong with parallel fifths--really?

    Hello all,

    I've resumed my music classes and once again, they've told us to avoid using parallel fifths in our compositions. This philosophy has always baffled me because I really don't hear anything bad or wrong with parallel fifths. In fact, I have two compositions that I wrote specifically to demonstrate that parallel fifths don't sound bad. I think they can sound bad if you position them poorly, but then, any progression can sound bad if you position it poorly.

    So, I've been wondering--for what reason are parallel fifths frowned upon? The best answer I've been able to come up with is that the relative strength of the fifth can make it sound like you're changing the tonality (i.e. the key) of the piece. Can any of you more experienced musicians offer some insight?

  2. #2

    Re: What's wrong with parallel fifths--really?

    Aren't parrallel fifths the same thing as a power-chord?

    If so - I'm guessing that's the reason.

    No, seriously I have no idea, but I guess I'll find out soon, I've ordered some of the pdf lessons from Alexander University and hope to start the Writing for Strings courses when time and money permit. It'll be the first music class I've taken.
    Alan Lastufka | www.BelaDMedia.com
    Producer/Artistic Design | Content Producer

    20 Things

  3. #3

    time change rules etc Re: What's wrong with parallel fifths--really?

    hi there,
    see Debussy for example, he extensively used parallel fifths and also tritones in ways that according to the tradition would have been simply disastrous
    For Debussy , parallel fifths , tritones etc had their own beauty and their own place

    I guess the answer can be
    everything is changing, the music that people make , like, enjoy, feel, produce, and rules are dead things, they live in the past, rules are ok for a beginner to kind of sense a starting point and then they must be forgotten and u gotta feel your own soul and produce your music from it, if your soul asks you for parallel fifths go for it, if it asks you for whatever even if that is seen today as a disaster, also go for it, thats what geniouses and real masters always did, they did whatever they felt like doing, regardless of the opinions and rules of their contemporaries

    Jav




    Quote Originally Posted by lontas
    Hello all,

    I've resumed my music classes and once again, they've told us to avoid using parallel fifths in our compositions. This philosophy has always baffled me because I really don't hear anything bad or wrong with parallel fifths. In fact, I have two compositions that I wrote specifically to demonstrate that parallel fifths don't sound bad. I think they can sound bad if you position them poorly, but then, any progression can sound bad if you position it poorly.

    So, I've been wondering--for what reason are parallel fifths frowned upon? The best answer I've been able to come up with is that the relative strength of the fifth can make it sound like you're changing the tonality (i.e. the key) of the piece. Can any of you more experienced musicians offer some insight?

  4. #4

    and Re: time change rules etc Re: What's wrong with parallel fifths--really?

    adding to that

    if we all always sticked to the rules, the rules would remain the same, we would remain doing the same things and nothing would evolve or change

    its absurd to say that whatever combination will sound well or bad to all possible unique human ears, races, cultures places etc

    reality is that whatever you produce is going to sound good or bad or whatever depending on the place, the time, the culture, the society, the prejudices, the opinions, even the time of day u listen to it etc, etc

    yes, there are statistical combinations that sound better to most people or worse etc, etc, etc

    but to continue evolving, to break new gound, to be bold, to be a creator and not just a follower, for that u gotta yes, accumulate lots of rules, saturate yourself with years of learning etc, etc, and then throw it all out and listen only to yourself and create just what your unique mind and body are asking you to create

    and if it is parallel fifths from beginning to end, for gods sake, let it be parallel all the way






    Quote Originally Posted by javismiles
    hi there,
    see Debussy for example, he extensively used parallel fifths and also tritones in ways that according to the tradition would have been simply disastrous
    For Debussy , parallel fifths , tritones etc had their own beauty and their own place

    I guess the answer can be
    everything is changing, the music that people make , like, enjoy, feel, produce, and rules are dead things, they live in the past, rules are ok for a beginner to kind of sense a starting point and then they must be forgotten and u gotta feel your own soul and produce your music from it, if your soul asks you for parallel fifths go for it, if it asks you for whatever even if that is seen today as a disaster, also go for it, thats what geniouses and real masters always did, they did whatever they felt like doing, regardless of the opinions and rules of their contemporaries

    Jav

  5. #5

    Re: What's wrong with parallel fifths--really?

    The answer to "Why are parallel fifths (or 8ves) wrong?" is actually very simple. But as a "rule", it applies only to certain styles and has nothing to do with how beautiful Debussy made them sound

    If you are writing for independent voices (2, 3 or however many), parallel fifths and octaves will weaken the independence of those voices, ie, it will momentarily sound as if the voices "merged" . This made the voice leading confusing to the listener and was considered unacceptable in Bach's time. The reason for this lies in the makeup of the overtone series. 8ves and 5ths are strong in the first couple of overtones for each note.

    Hopefully someone will have a more "academic" explanation...

    kind regards

    LouisD

  6. #6

    Re: What's wrong with parallel fifths--really?

    That's pretty academic

    Weren't parrallel fifths one of the earliest forms of musical expression in chant, after a solo voice and then parallell octaves?? Maybe it's frowned upon because it represents lack of sophiistication due to being such an archaic sound.

    Alan is right, for the last 30 years or more the open fifth has been the bedrock of most popular music- anything guitar driven in any event. Orchestral music can still use fifths a lot to evoke an Arabic or eastern feel...

    Anyway, my attitude is if you like 'em, use 'em!!

  7. #7

    Re: What's wrong with parallel fifths--really?

    Quote Originally Posted by LouisD
    The answer to "Why are parallel fifths (or 8ves) wrong?" is actually very simple. But as a "rule", it applies only to certain styles and has nothing to do with how beautiful Debussy made them sound

    If you are writing for independent voices (2, 3 or however many), parallel fifths and octaves will weaken the independence of those voices, ie, it will momentarily sound as if the voices "merged" . This made the voice leading confusing to the listener and was considered unacceptable in Bach's time. The reason for this lies in the makeup of the overtone series. 8ves and 5ths are strong in the first couple of overtones for each note.

    Hopefully someone will have a more "academic" explanation...

    kind regards

    LouisD
    This is exactly what I teach in my Theory classes. Also, stylistically, in the common practice period (1600-1900) it was generally avoided. Probably in reaction in part to the over-use in organum of the middle-ages. Nowadays, it is not considered a bad practice, as long as the intent is not to imitate common practice music.

    Regards,
    Tim
    Timothy Rolls, DMA
    Assistant Professor of Music Theory/Composition/Technology
    Fort Hays State University

  8. #8

    Re: What's wrong with parallel fifths--really?

    Tim,

    Is it true that the augmented 4th was once considered a 'satanic' interval and was banned for that reason?

    (Not that I have an inkling as to how such a ban could be enforced. )

    Etincelles

  9. #9

    Re: What's wrong with parallel fifths--really?

    I really should take real music lessons soon.....by coincidence I always see this thing where parallel fifths should be avoided, and I have no idea what they are In the first music that I made someone commented that the use of parallel fifths was good in that context. So is that something like where f a and a# are played together? Or I am just sounding dumb?

  10. #10

    Re: What's wrong with parallel fifths--really?

    I may be a little naive, but the way that I look at it is that if you like it and it sounds good, why not? Rules are meant to be broken sometimes right?

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