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Topic: Voicings

  1. #1


    As many of you guys know, I\'m not that skilled in the realm of music theory and, IMO, not very good at composing.

    I\'mworking on a bebop roject right now, and, while I know what sounds good, it takes me a whiel to put together something that sounds the way it does in my head.

    however today, I finally sat down and REALLY tried to under stand seventh chords, while I knew what they were, today for some reason clicked and jsut about EVERYTHING I\'ve been trying to learn lately fell closer into place. i\'m not sure why...but anywhooo

    I\'ve been wondering about voicings/inversions across multiple instruments. Can we start up some discusions about how cetain voicings sound? so that idiots like me might learn something

    Maybe start swapping MIDI\'s of voicings accross ultiple instruments...even in General MIDI just label the tracks?

    I wish I could elaborate a little more on what I\'m talking about but I\'m ignorant with alot of basic musical terminology. I still can\'t read music because I\'m too lazy to sit and practice it!! Actually I get too frustrated

    Really...I am an Idiot

  2. #2

    Re: Voicings

    Thanks Lance, definitely share

    I\'d still like to share ideas and thoughts on certain chord voicings accross multiple instruments. Say in a string orchestra, the different way ninth/2nd chords can sound spread accross different instruments. Or how putting a tritone on top of a triad in the upper range of the spread sounds mysterious and disonant, but putting it in the bass area jsut sounds ...yucky...

    or better yet what inversion/placement of notes in a seventh chord accross horns sound best. I like putting the 1-5 interval/chord in the low range and the 3-7 interval/chord in the high range, it gives that James bond feel.

    What I\'d like to get into is what \"typical\" voicings of chords would be depending on mood and articulation. Or what good movements of lines would be to change the inversion of one chord to another of the same chord.

    I, like you, know a little bit about alot of things. I used to like it, but now I\'m quite frustrated that I\'m not good at composition.

    Really...I am an Idiot

  3. #3

    Re: Voicings

    I\'m game! What do you want to know? You mentioned only \"voicing\" (the assignment of chord tones to the \"voices\" [e.g., SATB]), but what about \"voice leading\" (the relative movement of these \"voices\" from chord to chord)? Are you familiar with principles of counterpoint, including the four types of relative motion (contrary, oblique, similar, and parallel)? What do you know about the treatment of perfect consonances and dissonances (specifically, the 7th, as well as the tritone in the dominant-seventh chord)? In addition to the three inversions of the 7th chord (1st, 2nd, and 3rd--i.e., 3rd, 5th, and 7th in the bass, respectively), you should also consider spacing (e.g., open vs. close[d] position) and chord-tone doublings and omissions (e.g., throwing out the 5th in order to double the root). Should I define these terms before going on?

    BTW, ursatz is a Schenker \"freak\" (I say this with affection), so I\'m sure he could fill you in on the relationship between counterpoint and harmony. I could, too, but I don\'t want to be the only one in the class raising his hand.

    Pat (former composition and music-theory professor)

    P.S. Don\'t ignore the 9th (add 2), 11th, and 13th (add 6) chords, not to mention altered dominants, modal mixture, and a truck load of other types of substitution chords. Also, understanding the principles of common-practice tonality will help you to know and appreciate when a \"violation\" is musically effective. I love the sound of parallel 5ths, 7ths, and 9ths (as did Debussy, Copland, and Barber, among countless others), as well as the sound of unresolved dissonances, but you should avoid using these when trying to emulate the music of Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, Brahms, etc., even though each of these gentlemen snuck in a parallel perfect 5th once in a while.

  4. #4

    Re: Voicings

    As Pat effectively makes me understand why I have this handle

    I know nothing of the principles of counterpoint. Though, the types of relative motions you mentioned seem to be easy enough to understand. As for practicing them......thats a different story

    Nothing about the treatment of perfect consonants/disonances.

    I can uinderstand the concepts of chord spacing, and chord tone doubling and omissions easily, jsut by name. As for looking at the chord with all these options when I sit down to write. Thats doesn\'t happen immediately...nor all at the same time

    As for susbstitution chords, I REALLY tried to understand the concept, but I believe I\'m going to need to be able to actually play much of these chords in real time to understand the theory behind it.

    You see, I cant play piano very well, and of course the guitar has limited chord voicings....of course until I get my Ztar

    I know I should be taking some classes regarding this, but I REALLY need to learn to read music first, and taking classes on that will jsut frustrate me to NO END because it will be so slow going. I\'ve found a drill site on the web, with Java drills that will help me learnt to read. I plan to use that daily if possible.

    Really...I am an Idiot

  5. #5

    Re: Voicings

    Sorry, King. I posted my first response without noticing that you had already posted again. Probably the best way I can respond to your queries is to see or hear what you are doing. You mention that putting a tritone in the \"bass area\" sounds \"yucky.\" This depends on what you mean by \"bass area\": a tritone between the \"tenor voice\" and \"bass voice\" (e.g., Horn II and Horn IV) will sound fine in the C3-C4 octave (F3-B3) but not so in the lower octaves (e.g., F2-B2), to my ears, at least. However, if you drop the lowest note of the tritone an 8ve (i.e., F2-B3), the sound will still be pleasing, and you\'ve preserved the original voicing.

    For me, spacing is mainly about resonance control. If you want a more resonant sound, you should follow the spacing of the overtone series (largest intervals below, smallest intervals above); if you want a muddy sound, place a close-position chord in the lower 8ves; for a stark, haunting sound, throw some 8ves or 8ve-5th combinations into the orchestral stratosphere. The 1-5-3-7 spacing that you mention is particularly lovely in the low-to-mid registers (e.g., F2-C3-A3-E4 or F2-C3-Ab3-Eb4, perhaps with an F1 played by the double basses and a G5-G6 8ve-doubling played by the violins for added color). Whatever you do, just keep in mind the pitch and dynamic ranges of the instruments involved.


  6. #6

    Re: Voicings

    <BLOCKQUOTE><font size=\"1\" face=\"Verdana, Arial\">quote:</font><HR>Originally posted by KingIdiot:
    I know I should be taking some classes regarding this, but I REALLY need to learn to read music first, and taking classes on that will jsut frustrate me to NO END because it will be so slow going. I\'ve found a drill site on the web, with Java drills that will help me learnt to read. I plan to use that daily if possible.

    I have some other obligations at the moment (3 kids and a wife, my own compositions, an article collaboration, and, of course, work as a sysadmin), but I\'d gladly barter with you. How about some theory lessons in exchange for your skillful polishing of my MIDI files? I\'m currently working on a \"Valse Sentimentale for Strings.\" I\'ve notated the first section plus one of many possible endings, and I hope before month\'s end to play the parts into my sequencer (Cakewalk Pro Audio v9.03) or notation program (GenieSoft Overture v2.23). I don\'t know when I\'ll finish the piece, but I would like to hear a decent GOS version of what I have thus. Alas, I haven\'t had much time to work with GOS lately (i.e., to get a handle on all of those great controllers). Our 1-year-old\'s crib is in the same room as my \"studio\" (a.k.a., our bedroom), which means working on the computer at night is a risky affair, unlike composing at the kitchen table or at work during my lunch break.


    P.S. My e-mail address is pshove@ghs.com, if you want to take this offline or just say \"Hi!\".

    [This message has been edited by PatS (edited 12-11-2001).]

  7. #7

    Re: Voicings


    I\'m in the same boat. I know about chords and inversions etc and for years that\'s all I\'ve needed to know. Now I want to learn to compose for orchestra and you HAVE to learn to read music AND have a handle on music theory. At the moment I feel like my lack of knowledge is holding me back big time as, just in your case, getting down on paper what I hear in my head is difficult at best.

    I\'m taking an online string writing course at the moment which helps but again it kinda assumes that you know some music harmony.

    So... any pointers/tips/examples would be very welcome.

  8. #8

    Re: Voicings

    An online string writing course?

  9. #9

    Re: Voicings

    PatS has a handle on this, but if you can\'t read music maybe you could rely on your own skills.

    What I\'m getting at is this: When I was at college we had to do all this stuff, but there was one professor who just made us write a single voice at a time. If you start thinking about chords/counterpoint and leading etc., it\'s easy to start thinking you\'re a dumbo, or even to start being afraid of certain \'intervals\'.

    It sounds simplistic, I know, but this subject is infinite and it\'s better to approach the theory after the fact, otherwise you can easily be overwhelmed.

    Also, you can develop your own style more easily (Debussy, Ravel, Vaughn Williams... an endless stream of great composers \'broke\' the rules that now encompass their \'approaches\'.) You\'re doing bebop, which was itself a great rule-breaker.

    I\'d say, trust your ears, you might be surprised at the subtlety and complexity you can achieve by not being too aware of theoretical devices.

    Django couldn\'t read, Charlie Christian couldn\'t read, but listen to the voices they found (on guitar as well!).

    I\'m not saying don\'t study, I\'m saying take care and trust your ears.

  10. #10

    Re: Voicings

    Long time ago I listened a lot to be-bop stuff like Charlie Parker and read some books on it. The guys in this era did not only use there ears, they particularly played and practised until they dropped: scales, broken chords, progressions, riffs, all of the standards, all of the music that came before be-bop, anything.

    To me that sounds like just doing an awful lot of study... IMHO you can\'t fake be-bop, you have to internalize a lot of it before you can \"manifest\" it yourself.

    My 2 eurocents...

    (and by all means, just go ahead, make music and enjoy!)

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