Monday, October 18, 2010

Shutting down....kind of

Hey everyone, I know it's been a super long time and I wanted to explain why and get ready for the future.

I've now got a full-time piano gig working on Cruise ships for a while, so my internet is intermittent at best, and while I do have time to write the posts, I don't have any of the references I use to check myself to make sure I'm still doing things right, nor do I have the programs and materials I normally use.  If I can, I'll try to continue to update, but, for instance, audio files, pictures, anything like that I probably won't be able to put up as easily, and there will most likely be a big delay.  Sorry for anyone missing the posts, but the gig just doesn't leave that much time to really work on the blog that much.

Thanks for reading.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Paradigm analysis

Hey readers! It's been a super-long time since I've updated, I know, but with a combination of being ridiculously busy and changing my mind on how best to do this post(and the one after it) as well as now-resolved technical difficulties with my MIDI keyboard, which made putting examples into Finale an exercise in frustration. Anyways, I'm now back-ish. I have an audition in a couple of weeks which will be super-important, so I'll be in and out practicing for that many hours a day, but after that I should be able to keep at least something approaching a regular schedule.

Now, last time I brought up the idea of Paradigms for chord progressions, which are interesting ways of thinking about progressions where you're not nailed down to a specific progression of chords, but rather you have a nice framework that you can play around with a little more. I've got today examples of the first two paradigms I mentioned, as well as a single variation on both. Without further delay, here's the first example, a very short piece for a string quartet.

I'd like to apologize again for the PDF handling.  If anyone can suggest a way to host PDFs, or any multi-page document, that'd be awesome, but for now we have to go through Wuala, which while not awful, I can't just have a hotlink or inline.  Or at least don't know how.

Anyways, that score is great, but since that's sort of useless without the corresponding sound...

Wonderful. Ok, this is fairly straightforwards as a piece, so let's do a quick and dirty analysis. The first thing to do is figure out what key we're in. After that, see if you can get the general idea of what the chord progression is. In this example, all of the chords are in root position, so that makes that part super easy. Also, the title happens to be the Paradigm I'm using, so that makes it even easier.

So we're dealing with a piece in F major, and the progression is I-vi-IV-V-I-vi-IV-I. Now we can notice that it sounds like we have two phrases in here, the I-vi-IV-V, and the I-vi-IV-I. So the first phrase ends with a Half-cadence, and the second ends with a Plagal Cadence.

Now, here we already are starting with playing around a bit. The Paradigm is I-vi-IV-V, right? But while the first phrase does that, the second one careens off the cliff at the end and doesn't go to V, instead opting for a Plagal Cadence. Well, we'd still call that the I-vi-IV-V Paradigm, probably, because the function of the chords is still about the same as though it were, and the first phrase does it exactly. The only difference is that to preserve having the phrases having equal lengths, we just chopped off the V and replaced it with a I.

Ok, now let's look at a slightly changed piece.

And it sounds like...

Bam. Ok, almost the same, right? In fact, I don't know how many of you are using Foxit Reader, but I've got them both open and can quickly change between them in tabs to see very clearly the difference. All I've done is altered the Viola line in measures 2 and 6 from alternating between F and A to alternating between F and Bb. So what does that mean? Well, a vi chord in F Major is D-F-A, right? A d minor triad. And a Bb chord, Bb-D-F, is a IV chord. Well what I've done is taken out the vi chord and replaced it with a IV6 chord, or a IV chord in 1st inversion.

Now let's think about that for a second. The vi chord is a minor chord, and was played in root position. This gives it that nice grounded sound of the root position, and it's the only minor chord in the progression, which gives that sort of more “sad” sound to it. Meanwhile, the IV6 chord is in first inversion and is a major chord. This means we have a much, what I would call softer texture to the whole thing. It gives us a nice “happier” sound, it makes the progression have less movement, since we're really now just going I-IV-IV-V in terms of the actual notes played... while we're only changing one note, it really gives a nice different feel to the progression.

However, calling that a I-IV-V progression wouldn't really give us the whole picture, because of the way it's voiced. This is what makes thinking in Paradigms so great. The variation still sounds like I-vi-IV-V, for the most part, but just subtly different. The bass line has the same contour and the same notes, and we could use this progression as we use I-vi-IV-V much more than we could use it as we use something like I-IV-V.

This is also great if we're listening to something, and we hear a I-vi-IV-V run in the bass, and when we play it it just sounds wrong. There's always the chance that they're doing a IV6 or some other variation somewhere that makes it sound a little different.

So, to expand on that, let's take a quick look at a second example, and then I have some tunes I cooked up in Reason that are a little more full, so we have the use of the paradigm in context and not just on paper in tiny examples.

Great, so here's one for brass, if you couldn't tell. Let's do the quick look here. We have two sharps, which puts us in D major, and the progression.. uh oh. This one is a little busier than the last one, which makes this a bit harder. Well, luckily, again the title is the progression, but also, just take a look at the beginning of each measure. That first beat is a really nice way to figure out where things are, because barring a suspension, it's really common to have things line up there. Also, the first thing I do is just look at the bass line for major changes, which in this case is the Tuba. Sometimes, as we saw in the variation back there, there are inversions, but the bass notes will very, very often be at least in the chord, if not on the root or outlining it entirely. Anyways, the progression is I-ii-IV-V for the first and second phrase, and then the 2nd page just finishes the whole thing off with I-V-I.

So this is pretty straightforwards again, it's the second paradigm I mentioned in the last post, and there are some more nonharmonic tones, but for the most part, there it is.

So let's fuck with it a bit, because we can.

Now this one is slightly more changed than the last one, but again it's that second chord that I changed up a bit. This time instead of a ii chord, which in D major is E-G-B, an e minor triad, I substitute in a V in 2nd inversion, with the notes E-A-C#. Now here's a huge example of how thinking in Paradigms is really, really, really awesome. The progression, were we to ignore inversions, would be I-V-IV-V. I-V-IV-V is another paradigm all together from I-ii-IV-V, and has its own very distinct sound. Even if we just add in the inversion, and say it's a I-V6/4-IV-V, it still would be super-easy to think about a I-V-IV-V thing if that's all we saw. However, having the bass line rise to the second scale degree makes the piece have a very clear sound that is characteristic of the I-ii-IV-V progression. The sound is a little different than I-ii-IV-V, but it's much, much closer to that than I-V-IV-V. So this is a great example of how thinking in terms of these big broad umbrellas that I call Paradigms and then whittling down to specific variations and progressions gives this really nice immediate recognition and classification that just looking at a billion progressions doesn't.  In fact, if someone were to talk to me about I-V-IV-V, the sound I would immediately go to would be Blink182s All the Small things.(There may be an ad with that link, sorry about that).  Now, that's not only a different sound from this Paradigm because of the style, but it just has a completely different harmonic sound in general.  Again, this is why Paradigms are awesome. All the Small Things could be I-iii6-ii6-V and would probably sound a shitton of a lot closer to the original song than doing a variation of I-ii-IV-V. 

If I had to pick one reason that I'm spending so much time on this subject, that would probably be it. Being able to look at a piece and just sort of give a nice broad classification, and understand how those broad classifications fit together will make doing any sort of deep, particular analysis faster and easier, and being able to hear in those giant brush strokes and then pick out the finer detail is also incredibly useful if you're trying to play by ear. Note that I've always said “think about” in terms of Paradigms, and not “analyze”. That's because if we were to write down the paradigm instead of the progression in an analysis... yeah that would be wrong. But if we recognize and think in the paradigm, and then whittle down into the progression, we'll be adding a tool to help us easily understand the larger picture.  I know personally if I'm sightreading, or improvising over a line, I think in terms of the paradigm a lot more than the progression.  In general, thinking in Paradigms is the practical way to go about things.  "Close enough" is, well, close enough 90% of the time.

Anyways, I know that we've basically just covered two pieces with variations, but I'm working on some more fun examples of the things we covered today, it'll be an enjoyable experience.  Also, I have super-awesome news, which is that Tindeck seems to have added an embedded player, which I'll probably start switching over to soon.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Lesson 13: Paradigms

Hey everyone.  It's been a long time, hasn't it?  Updates may end up being a touch.... sporadic for a while, but I swear I haven't forgotten about this.

So way back when, when I last posted, we had talked about single chord on chord tendencies, which is, as you'll recall, less hot than it sounds.  Now, that's great for songwriting and composition, and pretty ok for performance.  But it's pretty small and self-contained too, unfortunately.  When we start stringing them together a little more, before we get to, say, a whole song, we deal with Chord Paradigms.  Paradigms are.... ok, this is a really patronizing metaphor and I apologize, but think of them like combos in a fighting game.  You've got normal punches and kicks to be strung together, and that kind of works, but if you use certain combinations you launch a badass fireball at the audience.  Ok, it's also not a perfect metaphor.  Anyways, basically they're small, sort of self-contained, loose chord progressions.

I've only heard them referred to as Paradigms when I was at Oberlin, so this may be a very strange way of thinking about it, but I actually really like this way of doing it, because it gives a nice intermediate step that most people arrive at anyways formality and a name.  For instance, if you talk to a Jazz musician, they'll know what "Rhythm changes" means without needing to say "Ok, we'll go I-vi-ii-V twice and then we'll do a I-V7/IV-IV-viio/V-I-V-I.  Awesome everyone remember that and let's jam"  They'll be able to easily solo over that, they'll know good voicings, they'll understand how it sounds and how it feels just by saying "Rhythm changes".  Paradigms give you that freedom but in a more structured classical setting.  So for instance, if you learn what I-vi-IV-V sounds like and how to voice those chords, your workload is cut down from playing around with each chord in that line and its tendencies, and you can play around a little more with the specifics involved.

Now, unfortunately for me, a lot of this is not so much just learning from a book or blog like some of the other things I've gone over, but a lot of it depends on just listening to, noticing, and hearing all of these paradigms in use.  To that end, my next post is going to be a bunch of examples written in a variety of styles that sort of goes over these ideas, so you all can get practice in reading and hearing these.

But for now, let's take a glance at the most common paradigms:

This is used all the time.  All the fucking time.  It's the "Heart and soul" paradigm.  There are some common substitutions in here too, such as I-IV6-IV-V, which makes it a little more stagnant in my opinion, but also has a more uplifting sound to it.  Sort of.

I group these together because they're relatively similar, they're both ascending bass motion to V.  Again, some of these all I can do 'till I have examples is sort of list them, and you'll be able to hear them more when you actually see them in use.

You'll notice this one is only three chords and doesn't immediately lead back to I.  That's because while this is a common opener, sometimes it completes the Pachabel paradigm and continues the general motion(iii-IV-I-IV-V), or sometimes it just goes IV-V after that.... it's a common opening paradigm that has a lot of variation, one major one is practically it's own paradigm:

Descending bass line paradigm.  This happens everywhere, and again, is pretty much a variation on the I-V-vi

Now, as with the last one, some of these paradigms have common names.  "Descending bass" will tell you a lot, and sometimes it's just to V, sometimes we take it all the way to ii, then V, then I, but it's still all under the "Descending bass" paradigm umbrella.

Some of these are "Falling" or "Rising" paradigms.  For instance, Falling fourths would be I-V-ii-vi-iii-viio-IV-and then we could break to V-I, or we could break after the viio

You can sort of do this with any falling or rising interval.  Also you can go into or out of falling or rising intervalic paradigms, which is why I'm not just listing a few.  So for instance, if you get to ii some how, and are looking to get out of it, just fall by fifths and you get ii-V-I, which is a super common way to cadence.

Anyways, I need to do a lot of preparation before I'm ready with examples, but I wanted to get the primer out of the way now instead of trying to combine the posts and having a giant massive post.  Nest update we'll look more in depth at paradigms and how they interact with each other and how they sound and work in the real world.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Lesson 12: Roman Numeral Theory 3: Chordal Tendencies 1: USC 23

Hey everyone, sorry this took so long, but I actually wrote this post in entirety, saved it, closed the window, and when I went to edit it, to give it a last once-over and publish it, it had regressed to the save before I wrote it.

Ok, so finally let's talk about chordal tendencies.

We already learned about cadences, and that's a good starting point to think about this.  You'll notice that all cadences with the exception of the Plagal, which is a lot weaker than the others, and is normally used as sort of an after-cadence flourish, they all involve V in some way.  And while one ends in V(Half Cadence), we'll note that the V-anything other than I cadence is referred to as the deceptive cadence.  That's because the V-I motion is so strong in tonal music that V-not I is all "HOLY SHIT WHAT THE FUCK IS GOING ON", or rather, it used to be.  Now we're sort of used to it and it's no big deal, but it used to be like, whack as shit.

So the basics of this are actually really simple.  Each diatonic chord has "natural" progressions from it(and therefore to it as well).  They are as follows:

I   -  goes to - Anywhere
ii   -  goes to - iii, IV, V
iii  -  goes to - IV, vi
IV - goes to - ii, V
V  - goes to - I, vi
vi  - goes to - ii, IV, V
viio - goes to - I

Ok, that's pretty simple, right?  Now, it's also pretty damn restrictive, and in fact, you can go from really pretty much any diatonic chord to any diatonic chord without it sounding too jarring(The exception being V7 and viio, because of the collapsing tritone(Yeah, I know, I'll get to it.  Maybe not this lesson, but soon)), but these are the ones that work the best and pretty much will always work.

For minor, we get the following:

i     - goes to - Anywhere
iio  - goes to - III
III  - goes to - iv, V, VI
iv   - goes to - V, VI
V   - goes to - i
VI  - goes to - iv, III, V
viio - goes to - i

I'm a little more shaky on those, and can't find my theory book that mentioned those, but I'm pretty sure that's right.  Also, you'll notice, as I mentioned before, that V and viio are altered in minor for voice leading purposes.  We raise the leading tone(Harmonic minor scale) when playing these because we get the strong.... well we get the strong leading tone.

Ok, so that's the basics, and not as big as I kept building it up.

But hey.... like I said, it's pretty restrictive, right?  For that matter.... hey wait, nothing leads to viio.  Well, it's time to learn about substitutions, which are the first level of added complexity to basics of tendencies.

Let's look at a V7 chord in C major.  It has the notes G-B-D-F.  Now let's look at a viio in C major.  It has the notes B-D-F.

What we can do is essentially use a viio in place of a V7, or substitute the viio.  By doing this, we can treat the viio entirely as though it were a V chord, so we can approach it from ii, IV, or vi, and it can go to I(and viio is one of the few substitutions where leaving it is a little different than the V chord.  The viio really doesn't go well into the vi chord, which is why evne though nothing leads to it, it still has its own place in the list of tendencies) While in this case, the viio simply omits a single note, there are other substitutions I want to look at that change things up a little, and can be used more fully.

The first one I want to look at is the use of inversions as substitutions.  As an example, instead of the strings I used for the last example, here's a brass band:
Click here to listen to iii v I6.mp3
Now, this basically is the exact same figure twice, right?  Except that third chord sounds different.  Just a little, and it still works, but it sounds happier and move conducive to upwards motion in the second time.

Well, that's because we use an inversion of the I6 chord in the example.  While the I chord can go anywhere it wants anyways, the ii chord does not lead to the I chord.  However, since the I6 chord is only one note away from the iii chord(That is to say, they share the 3rd and 5th scale degree and only differ as the Tonic is in the I chord and the leading tone replaces it in the iii chord).  Now, the first inversion of chords tends to have a very "pretty" sort of sound, they sound nice and open, and they tend a little upwards.  Second inversions tend to sound a little unbalanced and unstable, and in certain cases can sound like a suspension of a different chord(for instance, in the cadential 6-4 from last lesson, even though it's a I6-4, it sounds like a V chord that just has the 6-4 above it that then resolves down)  Personally, I love first inversions and sub-ing in first inversion chords, I just love the sound, and having them in open voicing I always think just sounds awesome and is a really useful tool.

So with substitutions, we open up those restrictive tendencies a lot, because now, for instance, if instead of a iii chord we want to use a I6 chord?  Well we can.  So now anything that leads into iii can also lead into I6.

Now, not all substitutions of inversions will work, and they won't work 100% of the time, but here are the most common substitutions:

chord - substitution
iii - I6
vi - IV6
V - viio

Ok, pretty simple still.

You'll all notice though, that we're still just dealing with groupings of two chords.  x -> y is fine, but that's only a small part of progressions.  Well, we can theoretically tie them together any way we want, but there are a few groupings of chords that are very common in music and have very recognizable sounds and uses.  We're going to refer to these as Chord Paradigms, and they're going to be what the rest of this general unit is about, because they're pretty heavy.  Essentially though, they're simple progressions that are fairly common.

I'm going to end this lesson here, even though it's fairly short, and start on Paradigms next lesson, with the most common ones and their sounds.  We might have a bit of a delay again between these as well, because I'm pretty busy, I'm going on tour the week after next, and I have a lot of examples to prepare sound files for.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Lesson 11: Roman Numeral Chordal Theory 2: Simple Analysis

 Note: This lesson will use PDFs as examples, so you'll need to be able to read PDFs.  I'd use JPGs like normal, but I have multi-page print-outs that I'm using, and PDF seemed the best for it.  Sorry if this is an inconvenience to anyone.  Also, I'll be linking in both Wuala and Wikiupload.  I haven't found a place to host that has direct linking without having the files expire.  With Wuala, you can just download directly without getting the Wuala application, even though the page gives the Wuala application as the first big link at the top.

Ok, I know I said I'd get to chordal tendencies this post, but I'm going to split off a bit to give us some practice in reading and recognizing Roman numeral theory.  Also, I'm going to introduce a new concept known as Tonicization, which is essentially playing pretend in a new key.  I know, this will feel eerily like homework, but getting practice in this is important, and it'll help cement these ideas.  Also, I'll be referencing this example while talking about chord tendencies, since it was originally written just to reinforce that, and then I realized hey, why not get more use out of it.

So, to start, I've written a nice simple, short piece for String Quartet in the key of C Major.

And there it is.

Now, let's a take a look at this piece, since just hearing it doesn't give us too much information:

(Alt Link)   

Ok.... eh.  That's a little more useful, but that's a bunch of notes in there.  If only we just had the chords laid out a little more simply.

(Alt Link) 

Ok, there we go.  Now, for fun, see if you can figure out the Chords written as absolute notation there(e.g. C, C/E, etc)

Side note:  Holy shit, I never taught you guys how to read Alto clef.  Fuck, let's do(it live) that now.

So, those examples have that weird-as-fuck clef thing, don't they?

 Yeah, that one.
Well, as that image shows, C is right in the middle of the clef.  It says C1 but it's middle C in there.  So that's the equivalent of the C one ledger line below the treble clef, and one ledger line above the Bass clef.  Why do we use it?  Well, you'll notice that the line in those examples pretty much stays in the staff the entire time with that clef.  That wouldn't be the case if we were in treble or bass, so we use Alto to make it easier to read.  I know, it's sort of a bitch to figure out at first, but if you get used to it, it becomes easier.  One thing I like to do to make it easier is to remember that the top line is G, and the bottom line is F.  That way, you only have to count from the nearest known note to get to the note, instead of always from C.

Ok, now let's try to figure out the chords in that example.  There are suspensions and whatnot, but let's not worry about those, and just focus on the main consonant chord.

It should look something like this(Chords given above the staffs)

(Alt Link) 
Note:  So I fucked up one of the chords.  Anyone spot it?  Measure 18, the third measure of the second page.  That's actually fucked up in two ways.  The first is that I've called it an E chord, which would insinuate E Major, and it's clearly not EMaj.  The second is that while in measure 2 we have the same general thing with a C/E chord, in 18 we've got that B in the top line.  I wasn't going to give an intro to 7th chords in roman numerals just yet, but hell, looks like I did.  So for now, let's say that's a CMaj7/E.  Because that's pretty much what it is right now.

Now, let's try to do some Roman numeral analysis shall we?  This is pretty simple, right?  Take the root of the chord and phrase the number as a roman numeral, so that C chord is a I chord, C/E is.... fuck.  I?  iii?  I/iii?  Eh, skip it for now, F is IV, C/G is.... fuck.  I?  V?  I/V?  Well goddamn, for writing such a simple example I sure fucked that one up, we can't analyze it!  I suck at this music thing.

Note, before I go on, it's important to note that you will often see roman numerals with slashes, such as "I/V".  It's very important to note that those are in fact not inversions, but rather a concept I'll get to called "Secondary Dominants"

We introduce two new things here.  The first is inversions, the second is a specific type of inversion known as the "Cadential 6-4".  So, when we have different bass notes in roman numeral analysis, we phrase them by the intervals in the chord.  Technically, a I chord in root position, for instance, is a I5-3 chord.  We write them as a fraction(sot of) when we actually write them out, after the number.  I can't really explain it better than that here, but you'll see in the example what I mean.  This is pretty easy to understand for triads, and a little more confusing with 7th chords.

Triads though, so root position is 5-3, because above the bottom note, we have a fifth and a third.  When we go to first inversion(Third in the bass.... That lesson was a while back), then above the  bottom note we have a 6th and a 3rd.  So we technically would say it's a 6-3 chord.  With both of these, though, we don't mention the thirds or the 5ths, because those are... well, they're assumed.  Similar to how we don't have to write out "Major" after Major chords, we can just write out "I" and we assume it's in root, or 5-3 position.  Now, for second inversion, we do write out everything, which makes it a 6-4 chord.

So with what I've just said, the C/E is a I6, and C/G would theoretically be a I6-4 Chord, right?  Well, almost.  The C/E is a I6, which is nice and easy, but that C/G is wonky.  First, let's cover 7th chords, then we'll go over why we don't in a very specific instance such as the one in the example, call that C/G a I6-4.

So, 7th chord inversions are trickier, because we have three intervals, and three possible inversions.  Root is still pretty easy, we just write it as the chord, though it's technically 7-5-3.  Now... 1st inversion, let's look at that, 'cause this is where we get stupid.  in 1st inversion, we have a 6th, a 5th, and a 3rd.  Here, we do write the 5 out.  Don't ask me why, but 1st inversion of a 7th chord is 6-5.  2nd Inversion, we have a 6th, 4th, and 3rd.  But we just write out the 4th and the 3rd, so 2nd inversion of a 7th chord is 4-3.  And finally, Third inversion, with the 7th as the bottom note, We have here a 6th, 4th, and 2nd.  We just write out the 4th and 2nd, so it's a 4-2.  I've seen something like I2 be written before, but I learned it as I4-2.

For a nice example, look at this site  It makes things nice and clear.

Now, I know you're all curious about the C/G, but I know there are probably questions about what I'm going to talk about next, too.  So.  Look at that example on that site.  It's written as I7.  But it's a Major 7th chord.  So.... what?  Well, it's time for another "Fuck Theory" moment.  In Roman numeral notation, we assume the unaltered, diatonic form of chords, instead of having different meanings for different 7 writings.  So I7 is a Major 7th chord, but V7 is a dominant chord.  Confusing?  Kind of.  Just assume no chromatic alterations unless clearly specified or specific instances in Roman numeral notation.  The one obvious exception to this is V in minor, since... well, V has to be modified to be V instead of v in minor.

Ok, and what about that fucking C/G that I've now delayed talking about for so long?  Well... this is an example of a specific notation in roman numeral analysis, which we'll see some more of(for instance, It6 chords and the like.  Those are assholes too).  This is what's known as the Cadential 6-4.  It's called that because it's used in a "Cadence"(did I talk about these?  Looks like a no.  Well shit.  Get ready for a long ride)

And what is a cadence, before we explain more the cadential 6-4?  Basically, it's the period on the end of a musical sentence.  Cadences typically come in 4 main forms, with a bit of sub-forms thown in.

The first is an Authentic Cadence, which is any cadence with a V-I movement.  These come in two main sub-forms.
The Perfect Authentic Cadence, which is also the strongest, is V-I in root position, where the highest voice is also the tonic in the final chord.
The Imperfect Authentic Cadence is basically all other Authentic Cadences, including those using a viio or Tritone Substitution in place of a V chord(I know, I know... Tritone subs are waaaay off though, sorry)

The second is the Half Cadence, which is any cadence that ends on V.  It's called a half cadence because it's a cadence, but sounds unfinished.  It's usually used as part of a repeated or semi-repeated section to indicate the end of the first part, and then replaced with an authentic cadence in the repetition.  Mozart fucking loved doing that shit, by the way.

The third is the Plagal Cadence, or Amen Cadence.  It's any cadence with a IV-I motion, and it's called the Amen cadence because anytime anyone ever sings an "Amen" in choral music, it'll be a Plagal Cadence unless the composer is a douchebag.

The final is a Deceptive Cadence, which is any cadence that goes from V to something not I.  The most common is the V-vi deceptive cadence.  Seriously, you see it everywhere.

So.  Those are cadences.  Now, to the Cadential 6-4.  This happens pretty much always over the V chord when it happens(in fact, I'm not sure it could be anything other than over a V chord), and it's a I6-4 chord resolving to a V chord.  When writing this, we ignore the fact that technically the I chord is spelled out with notes, and write it as V6-4 going to V5-3.  And yes, we write out the 5-3.  Sometimes there's a 4-3 suspension in there, so we have to write the 4-3 resolution after the 6-5 resolution, though the 6-4 are written simultaneously.  Also sometimes if the composer is feeling super-hamfisted they'll add a 7th after a 6-4 resolution with a 4-3 suspension, and we write that out too.  Then we shake our heads and mutter "Hack" under our breath.

Ok, so armed with that information, we can continue looking at the chords as roman numerals in the example, which gets us all the way up to measure 8 before we have another concept I have to introduce.  It's almost like this example was written to introduce as many of these concepts as possible in a really clear way.

Anyways, that gets us something that looks a bit like this(Chords above, Roman numerals below):

And if we look past that.... well it starts getting weird.  F makes sense, that's just a IV chord, and then... I6?  then... ii...V(Major? there's no Bb or natural to tell)....I, well ok that makes sense, but then that leads back to IV?  I doesn't feel compelled to go to IV normally.  These chords kind of fit in C major, but let's ignore what happened before, and imagine for these 8 measures that we're in F.  Now we've got I - V6 - vi - ii - V  I - V6 - vi - ii.... II7?  Ok, now it stops making sense.

Well, this is a judgment call really.  It does sort of make sense in C, but I think it makes more sense in F, because the Descending bass line is a fuck of a lot more common than a descending IV thing.  And for this example, let's play pretend we're in F for a few measures.

Well, what we have is basically a tonicization.  A Tonicization is really pretending for a small amount of time that we're in a different key, sort of like a key change but without a full key change.  The reason we do this is because while it works in both keys in this example, if that gm had a Bb like it should've if I was being smart, then this would've been reeeeeeeally confusing in C, and a lot of times there are chords that are just stupid as hell in the original key that if you think in terms of a different tonic work wonderfully.

Now, when writing out tonicizations, we normally have a pivot chord, which is a chord that works in both keys.  In this case, it's that I chord in measure 8, which is V in F.  So we add a second line to the analysis that shows us in the new key and continue from there, 'till we get back to the first key.  And to go back to the first key, we basically do the same thing, bring back the first line in C on the pivot.

Basically, finishing up the analysis we get the following:

Also, you'll notice at the end there I've written "PAC".  When we do analysis we like to identify the cadences when they happen, especially at the end.  Were I being super-thorough I'd identify all cadences, which would put an HC in measure 4, IAC in 8, PAC in 12, PAC in 16, HC in 20, PAC in 25, and the PAC at the end.  And if you're wondering what's with the letters, we basically just abbreviate the names of the cadences.  PAC- Perfect Authentic Cadence.  HC - Half Cadence, and so on(IAC - Imperfect Authentic Cadence.

Also, were we being super strict about things, we would label all nonharmonics.  To give an example, I've done a full-out analysis on the piece, to show what it looks like when you do everything.


You'll notice that that's incredible amounts of overkill.  We rarely need to go that in depth, but technically we do for a full analysis.  The reason we don't is because that's like, useless amounts of information.  It's good practice, but that's about it.  It's also good to embarass yourself when you write an example for a theory blog originally just for chord analysis and then realize that it's really shittily written in accordance with the rules of voice leading you supposedly know enough about to explain.  There are a lot of awful Nonharmonics there that aren't resolved right so.... don't write like that.

Anyways, I think that's enough for this post.  Next post, unless I realize there's something else I need to cover before going on will be Chordal tendencies.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Lesson 10: Roman Numberal Chordal Theory I: Foundation

Ok, so.  Finally, right?

It took us long enough to get here, but now we're at roman numeral theory.   Roman Numeral theory is great for about a billion reasons, and if you're conversant in it and understand it, it is easy mode for music in so many ways.

You see, we talked before about how specifically to talk about chords, by talking about Co7/Eb or whatever, and that's great, and tells us a bunch, but it is also like, completely in a vacuum in terms of how it relates to anything around it as an intellectual object.  While that's how you'll see specific things written, and you'll be using written out sheet music for, you know, reading sheet music, when discussing music in a theoretical way, we normally don't get that specific, because we're dealing with relationships, not specific things.

You know what, that's sort of a confusing thing to say without explaining first the basics of Roman Numeral theory.

Ok, so we've all heard people saying things like "Yeah, it's just a I-vi-IV-V-I thing" or shit like that, I'm sure, and maybe we even have a basic idea of what all that means, but what does that all mean?

Well, let's look at a basic major scale.  We have 7 unique pitch classes in a line.  To start, let's assign each of those pitch classes a number.  We'll take C major for fun, and so we start saying C is the 1st one, D is the 2nd, etc.  These are scale degrees, and are what we use to talk about notes in any nonspecific scale.  That is to say, the 3rd scale degree in C major is E, but the 3rd scale degree in Gb major is Bb.  So the advantage is that now when we talk about the 7th scale degree, we can know how that relates to the 1st scale degree in every scale we talk about, not just, for instance, how B relates to C

We also have names for scale degrees, because apparently numbers were just a little too simple.  Actually, the names are really useful, because they give us some terminology that is pretty descriptive of the job the notes do instead of remembering, for instance, that scale degree 7 naturally leads to scale degree 1.

These names are:
(Scale degree - - Name)
1 - Tonic
2 - Supertonic
3 - Mediant
4 - Subdominant
5 - Dominant
6 - Submediant
7 - Leading tone/Subtonic

Ok, so the most confusing one there is the Submediant being above the mediant.  Other than that, the supertonic is above the tonic(and sounds awesome), and the subdominant is below the dominant.  So what's the deal with it being the "submediant"?  Well, measure a third up from the tonic and you get the mediant.  Measure a third below and... submediant!  The other way to think about it is that the Mediant is the middle note in a triad with the root of the tonic, and the submediant is the middle note of a triad with the root of the subdominant. 

Now, I'm willing to bet that some of you also know the scale degrees by other names, which would be Do(or Ut), Re, Mi, Fa, Sol, La, and Si(or Ti).  I will not be using these, for two reasons.  One reason is that this has no advantage over knowing the scale degree numbers or names in terms of theroy, so it's really just another thing to learn. Another is that Solfege(the system where we call the notes those names) comes in two varieties.  One is "Fixed do" and one is "Movable do".  In fixed do, Do is always C, regardless of where it is in the scale.  In moveable Do, Do is always the tonic, regardless of where it is absolutely.  So essentially, solfege is either an absolute or relative measurement.  There are reasons for using both, but really, I still don't think they really have any advantage over the other absolute or relative measurements we have for Theory.  Now, I will probably be using the fixed do system while hoping to also phrase things in movable do if I cover sight-singing, because solfege is a great tool for that, for a variety of reasons.  But for theoretical purposes?  I really don't see a reason to use them.

Anyways, those are the scale degrees.  Now, let's not alter any notes from the key signature and build chords on each scale degree, and we get 7 chords.  We refer to these by the scale degree they're built on in root position.
 So basically that.  We use roman numerals here.... well, because we do.  This makes things easier than using normal numbers actually, since you'll notice that some of the roman numerals are capitol and some aren't.  Well, look at the chord makeups and you might see why.  You know how instead of writing "CMaj" or whatever, you can just write "C" and assume major?  Well it's the same thing with the roman numerals.  I is a Major chord based on the Tonic(Scale degree 1), and i is a minor chord based on the Tonic.

In Major, the chords are as we see in that image.  I is naturally Major, ii is minor, iii - minor, IV - Major, V - Major, vi - minor, viio - diminished.

In minor, things get a little wonky.  In its natural position, also known as the natural minor scale, we have the following:
i - minor
iio - diminished
III - Major
iv - minor
v - minor
VI - Major
VII - Major

Now, the reason things get wonky is because as we'll learn, the V chord is a really, really strong move to I(or i).  Like it is the way to lead back to I(or i).  Even more so if we make it a Dominant 7 chord(I'm sure you've noticed that the Dominant tone of the scale is based on V.  And the Dominant 7 chord is... well, it's called the Dominant 7 chord.  These two are related.  V leads to I, and Dom 7s have the V-I motion).  There's a really nice explanation for this involving the tritone collapsing and all that, and I'll get to chord relations and voice leading with that, but basically all you need to know is that V goes to I(or i).  A reasonable substitute for V or V7 is viio, again, for a reason we'll go over(Actually, this one is a little simpler.  Take a V7 chord in any key... for now let's say C Major to keep things simple, and then take a viio chord.  Look at the notes there.  G7: G, B, D, F.  boB, D, F. Hey look).  Anyways, so they lead super-well to the tonic chord.  Well, in minor, you'll notice that v is naturally minor and VII is naturally Major.  So to compensate for this, in minor it's very common in tonal practice to raise the leading tone to make V major and viio diminished.  Also, having the leading tone raised to give it only a half step away from the tonic makes it really... well, lead as a tone.

Now, this also brings up a slightly confusing thing.  We will find we reuse terminology a lot in this section.  For instance, the Dominant can refer to the scale degree, the Chord built on the scale degree, or the type of 7th chord.  The only real way to figure out which is in context, unfortunately.  It's safe to say that, for instance, if I say "x based on the subdominant", I'm probably talking about the note.  If I say something like "The Dominant-Tonic motion", I'm probably talking about the chords, for reasons we'll get to, and if I say "Dom7" I'm talking about the type of the 7th chord.  That one's easier.

Anyways, I know this is a super-short post, but I just came back from a long-as-fuck night, and I need to go to sleep.  Also, the next thing I'm going to cover is chordal tendencies and holy shit you guys is that post going to be a doozy.  I don't want to mix them up, so for now, just take these basics and make sure you understand them before we move on.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Lesson 9: Counterpoint II

Quick note: In the last blog post I accidentally referred to P4s as consonances.  While they are considered consonant intervals by any measure outside of counterpoint, and really are just inversions of P5s, in strict species counterpoint they are considered vertical dissonances.  Sorry for the confusion.  Also then the no parallel 4ths thing is unnecessary because... well no 4ths in general is the rule. 

Ok, so if First Species counterpoint is 1:1, and Second species is 2:1, third species is 3:1, right?

Unfortunately, no.  While first and second are really nice and helpful with their names, third is stupid.

Third species is 4 notes in the added line per one note in the C.F.

Also, to bring back the whole historical aspect, I'd like to note the way this is fitting together.  Remember how in early Organum duplum(which I brought up last post too), we just made harmony by copying and pasting the Chant, and then after that we started having more stuff over a pedal line?  Well that pedal line was always the actual Chant.  I think I forgot to mention that during the history, but the pedal line that gave us sort of rudimentary chords was the chant, and what went on above it wasn't based on the chant.

Anyways, the reason I bring this up is because the Cantus Firmus being the basis for the added lines in counterpoint is pretty close to the same idea, where the moving line is the added line, and the C.F. is slower and in something like third species, sounds almost like a bass line

So onto Third Species.  For the pedagogical purposes of dealing with rhythms, similar to how we normally have first species as whole notes and second as half notes over whole notes, for third, think quarter notes over whole notes.

Similar to second species, we can either begin third species with a downbeat or have a rest on the downbeat and begin after that.  In third, that rest can only be a quarter rest, and we start on beat 2.  Also similar to second species, the first note in every measure is bound by the same rules as first species.

Now third gets some confusing rules too.

1:  The first note of any measure must be consonant.  The second and fourth may be dissonant, and the third.... well the third's tricky.  The Third quarter can be dissonant under only two circumstances.  The first is if the second and fourth(and obviously 1st) are consonant.  The other is if it's in a "double passing" gesture.  That is to say, both the second and third can be dissonant if the 1st and 4th are consonant and the motion between them is all passing motion.
2:  We can use unisons now!  But not on the first quarter note of any measure.  We can also now have dissonant neighbors.  And we have a new nonharmonic figure: The double neighbor.  In the double neighbor, we have both a lower and upper neighbor. Also, we must continue the motion from the second neighbor to exit the figure.  So for instance, if we start on a G against a C, the double neighbor would be G-A(Upper neighbor)-F(Lower neighbor)-G-A(continuation).  The continuation must also be consonant and work in all the other rules.
3: P5/P8s are to be separated by at least 2 notes if they occur in different measures.  If they are against the same C.F. note, there is no such restriction.

So those are really the new rules.  There aren't too many, they're just super-fragmented and confusing.  Also, Third species is really difficult to write in any way that doesn't suck.  You'll all notice, I'm sure, that I haven't talked about writing counterpoint that doesn't, you know... suck.  Part of that's because technically the rules of counterpoint, again, are really mainly used as a pedagogical tool that can sort of overlap with writing modern stuff.  However, when we write music of any kind, even just as an exercise to follow some rules, in general we try to make it not terrible.  All this stuff gets a lot harder when you're trying to make it feel like it has a purpose and isn't just a collection of random notes.  And it becomes a billion times harder when you have to fill every measure with four notes.  Third species is the hardest in terms of rules because they are very specific and just keep piling on each other, but it's even more so the hardest in terms of not sucking while writing, because keeping a line going with that many notes while still following the rules is really hard to do.

And now we go onto my favorite species of counterpoint, 4th species.  4th species is really easy to make sound not stupid, and we scale back a ton on the rules.

4th species counterpoint is basically 1st species, but with the added line offset by a half note.  So the added line starts with a half rest, then is two half notes tied together over bar line breaks.  This has the effect of making pretty much everything a suspension.  Also, this gives us the magical ability to have dissonances on the strong part of measures(holy shit!), assuming we prepare and resolve it correctly.  The way we do that is by having the suspension be consonant when the to-be-suspended note is hit, and have the resolution, which is usually a downwards resolution, be consonant.  The only change to this is that the final note occurs with the C.F. Also, there's a specific rule for approaching it I'll get to.

In fact, in 4th species counterpoint, the only suspensions we're allowed to have are 4-3, 9-8, 5-6, 6-5, and 7-6 in the upper voice.  In the lower voice, we just invert all of those(So for instance, 2-3 is the same in the lower voice as 7-6 in the upper).  Note that those are given as "suspended note-resolved note".  And preparation interval that's consonant will work.

If the held over note isn't a dissonance, then we don't have to worry about the suspension rules, and can leap out of it or really do whatever we want out of it as long as we obey the other species rules and we're not setting up an illegal suspension.

After that, 4th species is basically 1st, but with the second note in the measure of the added line against the first note in the measure of the C.F.  So the measure can start with a P4, but then the second half must go to a Third, following both the rules of the suspensions and satisfying First species rules.  We can't, however, have, for instance, more than three 4-3 suspensions in a row, as while the suspensions are all dealt with just fine, we have four parallel thirds which is forbidden by the 1st species rule.

Basically, for 4th species, you have to think both in terms of 1st species were the offset removed and both lines just played at the same time, as well as within the rules governing suspensions.

Also, in 4th species, we must end with a 7-6 suspension that then resolves at the beginning of the next measure to an appropriate first species final.  So basically, a suspended C to B against a G in the C.F. resolving back to a C over a C is acceptable.

And finally, in extreme cases, we can do something special in 4th species and break species, returning to 2nd species if we're caught in an otherwise inescapable line of suspensions.  This is only acceptable if it's the only way out of the suspension string though.

Anyways, why is 4th species my favorite?  Because it always is super easy to make sound really pretty with all the suspensions, and it's just sort of a douchebag way of writing counterpoint, because it's like applying a liberal amount of hamfistery to the entire exercise.  In almost any other circumstance, chaining together a ton of suspensions would(in a perfect world) be punishable by death.  Like, it's really awful writing.  Except in 4th species you get to do it the entire way through.  It's like doing standup and only telling one joke over and over again, but you're allowed to now.

And finally, Florid counterpoint, a.k.a. 5th species.

Florid is a giant mess of stuff, because it's pretty much... every other species combined.  Plus eighth notes.  Kind of.  I'll be using links from to show examples here, their examples are nice and clear and clean.  They also have a big thing on counterpoint which is pretty spot on, if a little confusing to read.

First consideration for 5th species is that we try to start and end basically with 4th species, with a suspension to the tonic to end, and starting with a slower suspension figure too.

Also, eighth notes.  We can use them under very specific circumstances.  We can use eighth notes in a double passing tone figure, or as a single neighbor, resolved with the second eighth note.  Also, we can only use them max once in a measure, on either beat 2 or 4, and we try to avoid overusing them.  The reason is that technically counterpoint is still considered a vocal technique writing instead of an instrumental technique, since originally it really was vocal stuff, with chants and counterpoint over.  In vocal lines, slower lines are easier to sing, so we still go by that convention.

Now, another thing we see in fifth is a change to the way we can handle suspensions.  While we still need to approach them correctly, we can play with the resolution a bit, by using a quarter note on beat 2 to anticipate the resolution(note: This is different than the nonharmonic anticipation, since we're going to a harmonic tone.  I know, it's a little confusing) or by using an eighth note figure with a neighbor to do the same thing as the quarter note resolution but... well, with the added neighbor.  We can also use an escape tone from it, or a figure that's pretty close to a double neighbor thing, all by using a quarter note on beat 2.  Escape tone we handle just like the normal escape tone nonharmonic, and the double-neighbor-like figure we leap from the suspension by a consonant interval, to a consonant interval, before going to the expected resolution.

Also, as you'll notice in all those linked examples, you'll notice that we still obey the rules of 4th species in terms of the third beat always being consonant.  Even though we're breaking species in regards to 4th for these embellishments, we still obey the rules in the strong beats.

Other than that, basically we just combine all other forms of counterpoint in fifth.  On the one hand, this makes things a little easier on us, since, for instance, we don't have to deal with the incredible ease of writing really meandering parts in 3rd species or really boring, drawn out parts in 1st.  On the other hand, with more freedom comes more choices, and that means we have to think more about how we want to do rhythms.  In early species of counterpoint we really don't have to think about rhythm, it's there.  Now we have a whole dimension added.

Anyways, that's counterpoint.  Next we'll start on Roman numeral theory, which was the initial impetus for this blog, I just had to get all of this out there so we made sure we were on the same page in terms of these basics.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Lesson 8: Counterpoint 1

Ok, so Counterpoint. Counterpoint is one of the most annoying, boring things to learn. At its core, Counterpoint is simply the relationship between 2+ parts. However, what we'll be dealing with is "Species Counterpoint", which is basically a tutorial on how to write Common Practice Tonal music.

 Now, I'll be basically phrasing these like rules, and in a pedagogical sense, they should basically be thought of as rules. You'll notice, if you look at historical examples, that pretty much no one ever followed these rules to the letter. Bach is pretty much credited with writing the rulebook as a study on Counterpoint, and I'm not entirely sure that he ever wrote a piece that followed them completely.

It's important during this lesson to understand exactly what counterpoint is. Counterpoint is a set of, essentially, statistics. They're phrased as rules, but essentially when we say "No parallel fifths" we mean "Common practice music doesn't use parallel fifths". If parallel fifths sound good, then by all means, use them. However, they're likely to sound modal and a little off from normal tonal music. So if you're writing harmonies and don't want the sound of parallel fifths, then you'll know to avoid them without first writing them, hearing how they sound, and changing them.

Basically, if writing music is like taking an essay test, counterpoint is like having a cheat sheet sitting there right in front of your face, with all the relevant information. Just because you have the information doesn't mean you just copy it word for word into the answer, and hell, if you really want you can ignore it all and draw a smiley face instead of the essay. Sure, you'll fail the essay, but why are you taking that class then?

Ok, it's not a perfect analogy, but you get the idea(I hope)

Before we get to the rules, let's go over some terminology:
m3, M3,  P5, m6, M6 are "Consonances"
m2, M2, P4, 4+, 5o, m7, M7 are "Dissonances"

"Harmonic tones" are tones which occur as part of the harmonic structure(For instance, in a I chord in G Major, G, B, and D are harmonic tones)
"Nonharmonic tones" are tones which occur outside of the harmonic structure(In a I chord in G Major, A, C, E, and F# are nonharmonic tones)(Also, the chromatic alterations for more nonharmonics, but these are the ones in the key)

Now, with nonharmonic tones, there are two main distinctions, which are "Accented" and "Unaccented".  This doesn't refer to the articulation of the accent, but rather whether it falls on a strong beat(1 and 3 in 4/4, for instance) or weak beat(2 and 4 in 4/4)

Also, we have a few different types of nonharmonic tones.  Basically, we divide motions into steps and skips, and have a name for each type.

A neighboring tone is a tone that we approach by step that then returns by step to the original note.  These are divided into upper neighbors and lower neighbors.  As an example:

The starred note is an upper neighbor

passing tone is a tone that we approach by step and that we leave by step to a different note.  ex:

Now, we also have nonharmonics where the nonharmonic becomes a harmonic tone, due to a change in the surrounding harmonies.

An anticipation is a nonharmonic tone where we approach a note in a later chord before the chord happens.  Ex:

And a suspension is the opposite, where we hold a note from a previous chord through a second chord.

And now for the super-confusing ones.  These are combinations of steps and skips.

An escape tone is a tone that is approached by step, which resolves by skip.

And an appogiatura is a tone that is approached by skip, and resolves by step(I don't have a picture for this one

So essentially:
Step-Step(with same harmonic tone) = Neighbor
Step-Step(with different harmonic tones = Passing Tone
Step-Skip =  Escape Tone
Skip-Step = Appogiatura
Hold-Step = Suspension
Step-Hold = Anticipation  

Also, let's review the types of motion:
Parallel motion is motion where both parts are moving in the same direction by the same intervals.
Similar motion is motion where both parts are moving in the same direction by different intervals.
Oblique motion is motion where one part is moving while the other is not
Contrary motion is motion where the parts are moving in different directions.

So, let's start talking about the rules now:

For all species, we have the following rules:

1: The tonic at the cadence is to be approached by step.  If approached by below, the leading tone must be raised so as to make the final interval a semitone.
2: The melody cannot have sevenths of any kind, nor can it have intervals of an octave or larger.  Also, if the melody uses an ascending minor sixth, the next move must be downwards.
3:  If the melody has two skips in a row, the bordering interval must be consonant, and the second skip must be smaller than the first.
4: In any combination of three notes, the bordering interval must not be a tritone or a seventh
5: All parts must begin and end on a consonance.
6: Unless necessary, avoid intervals larger than a major tenth

Now, if you look up "counterpoint" on wiki, you'll see those as well as some other rules.  Some of these are covered by other rules, and some of these aren't actually rules, just suggestions to make the rest easier.  I just mention this in case anyone is wondering why mine differ... it's not that it's an incomplete list so much as things like "Use contrary motion" isn't really a rule of counterpoint, it just makes obeying the other rules of counterpoint  super-easy to follow.

Also, in general, outside of nonharmonic tones, parts should remain in consonance.

Now, We'll start with First Species Counterpoint. First Species is two voices, at one note per one note. We go back to early music terminology here, since that's where the roots are. The main melody is referred to henceforth as the "Cantus Firmus" or "C.F." The other parts are the "voices" or "lines".

1: As a bit of a refinement to the "consonant beginning/end", in First species you can only end on fifths, unisons, or octaves.  If the added line is below the C.F., it cannot be on a fifth.
2:  No unisons, except at beginning+cadence
3: No parallel fifths, or octaves
4: No "Hidden" fifths or octaves(I know, I'll explain it)
5: No more than three consecutive parallel sixths or thirds

 So the most flexible and most confusing of those is the "No hidden fifths" thing.  What is a hidden fifth(Or octave)?  A hidden interval is one that is approached by similar motion.  So if the C.F. goes E-G-A ascending then the added line going G-C-F ascending, for instance, would have a hidden fifth, as both approach the C/G fifth from below.  The main reason not to do this is that it's pretty damn striking(By this I mean it's unexpected.  Say you're walking down the street and some random guy decks you.  Pretty unexpected, right?  Unless you live in New York City), and is sort of like a lesser version of the parallel fifth.

Now, for the parallel interval rules, also known as like, half of the remaining rules, the main reason  we avoid them is because it sounds super modal with fourths(but no fourths anyways... same reason) and fifths, and gets pretty boring with thirds/sixths.  Remember the whole Organum Duplum thing, where we just copied melodies offset by a fifth or fourth, and that was an early form of harmony?  And now remember how a few refinements after that, the "Sweet British Sound" was the application of thirds?  Yeah, so we try to avoid going back to Organum Duplum when writing in tonal music.

Now, wiki says that one rule is to use contrary motion when possible.  This isn't a rule, but it is a pretty good suggestion.  Notice that with the parallel and hidden interval rules, we have rules governing similar and parallel motion.  Also, one of the rules is only the beginning/ending harmony, so we have only one species-specific rule after that that deals with a possibility that occur with Oblique or Contrary motion, which is the "no unisons" rule, and one general rule, which is the "no intervals larger than a tenth" rule.  Essentially, as long as you avoid having the parts be too far apart and you avoid unisons, as well as trying to stick to consonances, you will find it almost impossible to break the rules while using oblique and contrary motion.  Contrary/oblique motion are counterpoint Jesus.

And that's.... that's pretty much it for first species.  So on to second species.  Second species starts to get a little more complicated, and it's two notes against every one in the C.F.  We divide these into "accented" and "unaccented", again, like nonharmonic tones, the accented one is the one on the beat, the unaccented is the one off the beat.  In pure second species counterpoint, this is divided equally.  So against whole notes, second species has two half notes.

Second species starts getting a little more complicated here, too, because while the rules of first species pretty much carry over for the accented notes, we also have rules governing the unaccented note and the relationships between them.  So for instance, we can't have parallel fifths in consecutive accented beats.

So first off, in second species, we can either start with an accented or unaccented beat in the added line, meaning we can start with a rest, but after that we have to have both notes in the added line played, we can't for instance decide to have a rest mid-counterpoint.

Now for the added rules
1:  The accented beats must be consonances.  The unaccented beats may only be dissonances in passing tones.
2:  Unisons are allowed on unaccented beats, but not on accented ones.

Seems pretty simple, right?  The important thing to note with all these additions is that everything just keeps piling on, and we get a lot of situational rules, like the "No unisons" rule that only applies to accented notes in second species but all in first.  Also, we get interesting things like oblique motion being possible between accented notes using a consonant neighbor in the added line on the unaccented beats.

Next post we'll go on to 3rd and 4th, then touch a bit on florid(5th species).  After that, we can get to some voice leading stuff, and then we'll do the roman numeral chordal theory stuff for a bit.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Lesson 8: Romantic Period

Ok, this is our last history lesson(for now, at least), where we'll be talking about the romantic period. The reason I'm stopping here is that music sort of goes a little crazy after this, and it doesn't really have any relevance to the theory we'll be looking at for a while.

So we left of, so long ago, in the Classical period(Beethoven was sort of in between, but he's still historically speaking in the Classical period)

Now, romanticism was, as with all other periods we've looked at, not just in music.  Everyone everywhere was a "romantic" around these times.

A lot of times Beethoven's 3rd, the "Eroica" symphony, is cited as the beginning of the romantic period in music, 'cause shit was crazy.  The easiest way to think about it though is that basically it was the 19th century.  1815-1915 is closer to the dates, but basically just think 19th century and you'll be fine.

The romantic period takes the repression and structure of the classical period and kind of shits all over it.  There was still structure and all that in the romantic period,  but it was extended and played with a lot.  If I had to ascribe one aspect to Romantic composers, it would be "Personal expression".  While it's certainly possible and with enough listening relatively easy to tell, say, the difference between Haydn and Mozart, or Perotin and Leonin(This is about a billion times harder than Mozart/Haydn, too), almost anyone after a cursory listen could probably tell Wagner and Chopin apart.

Other than that, Romantic music was a lot heavier than classical, a lot denser, and in general bigger(There are exceptions, but Romantic music was not in general about a fine brush, it was taking the goddamn biggest brush you could find and painting in giant strokes).

So let's look at the general historical layout before some examples.

As I mentioned, Beethoven was pretty instrumental( in the development( of the romantic period.  However, Schubert was also a leader('ll stop now) in the field.(Those last two make more sense if you know that in Sonata-Allegro form, the sections are "Exposition", "Development", and "Recapitulation", and that Schubert was famous for composing Lieder)  Many people would argue that in fact Schubert was the first truly romantic composer, and there's certainly merit to that.  During the early 19th century, concert music was really expanding out of the "court musician" and much more into "People actually go and see this stuff" realm.  History buffs will note that this is also pretty much coinciding with the end of the whole Napoleonic thing, and the cultural changes that went along with that.  In fact, Beethoven was one of the first freelance composers, instead of being employed full-time by some rich snob.  This era also saw a big foray into modern folk music(I know, it's a weird idea), where folk poems and songs were set for, say, piano and voice, which were becoming more common in houses.

Slightly later into the Romantic period, we see composers like Chopin, Liszt, Mendelssohn, and Berlioz.  If you don't know those names, you should.  Chopin and Liszt are pretty famous for fucking pianists in the fingers, both of them have maddeningly difficult piano works.  Liszt also pretty much invented the recital, which at the time was basically just a small, virtuoso concert.  Now, by this point we're about mid-19th century, and a pretty important dude, called Richard Wagner came along.  Before I go into more depth with him though, I want to bring up another name that I just like because of the name:  Giuseppe Verdi.  The reason I like this name is that it translates to "Joe Green", which makes it a lot less impressive.

Anyways, Wagner.  Wagner was German, and, you know how Germans do it.  Wagner was BIG AND HEAVY.  Also, he started really working with the idea of Program music, which is essentially the beginnings of multimedia composition.  Wagner also worked with leitmotifs, which are essentially themes attached to a character or situation.  A later and pretty well-known user of leitmotivic composition is one John Williams.  You may have heard of him.  So for a leitmotif, think the Imperial March.  The music evokes the ideas of the Empire and that goes along with it.  As as small aside, letimotifs don't even have to really play the whole idea and program music can use little tiny cues.  There's one point in Episode III where Anakin is about to do something bad and evil(Spoiler alert), and the brass have a single note sting.  In that one note, with the specific orchestration, instantly everyone in the audience knows that it's a Darth Vader-y thing that he's about to do, and we've already got the idea of EMPIRE going through our heads.

Anyways, all that was kind of pioneered for real heavy use by Wagner.  His most famous is "Der Ring des Nibelungen", or "The Ring Cycle"(not a direct translation, just what it's known as).  This has a few pieces that you may have heard in it.

For instance:

 And right there we feel very specific things from the music.

In 1850, Europe... well it exploded a bit in a few ways.  Communication and travel got easier, cheaper, and faster.  One would think that this would sort of make music sort of amalgamate during this time, but as we know, Europe wasn't really all getting along all super-nice and agreeing with each other about everything.  Really, music was already pretty nationalistic during this point in time, and it got crazy more so, as music sort of became political expression in a lot of ways.

Wagner is, for instance, pretty clearly "German" music, and we have some very famous composers who are also known for nationalistic music.  I'm betting many of you have heard of, say, Tchaikovsky, Rimsky-Korsakov, Mussorgsky, Prokofiev, and Rachmaninoff.  These guys were super-russian, and were writing super-russian music.

Stuff like this, for instance:

We've also got Saint-Saenes, who is about the most French composer there is,

 Sibelius is crazy British,

And so on.

Now, for one that many of us might know as well, we're also talking about one John Phillip Sousa.  He's pretty American as a composer.

This is basically the sort of stuff we're talking about.  I mean, sure, it's all consistently Romantic(Except for the American music.  DIRTY SMELLY EUROPEAN COMMUNISTS!  WE WILL HAVE NONE OF THAT!)

Anyways, the romantic period was pretty much this way until a dude called Arnold Schoenburg comes along. I won't talk about him too much now, but basically he looked at Music and figured that we were pretty much done with the whole tonality thing.  There's a common misconception that Schoenburg was a reactionary against music, but really he was going for an advancement of music, not a drastic departure.  Anyways, if we have time, I'll go into modernism, but for now, we'll just stick with going to about the 20th century where we are now and stop there.

And that's really romanticism.  Nationalist, personal, emotional, big, heavy.  And that's really history basically.  We'll go ahead and start counterpoint next.  And if you thought this was boring, just wait.