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Question about Scales Harmonization and Figured Bass
#2971302 04/25/20 09:56 AM
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Hi all, I recently bought Dupré's Complete Course in Organ Improvisation as I wanted to obtain more familiarity with classical improvisation and I was told that this was an excellent manual also for pianists. Hope some of you might be familiar with it and give me a little help with the first three exercises, as I'm already stuck at the very start.

- The exercises are outlined but there's not even an example given. The first exercise is the four parts harmonization of the major scale. The scale notes are on the top voice, and the other voices are given only for the first degree: the third in the alto, the fifth in the tenor and again the tonic in the bass. I suppose I should always keep this format for each of the degrees, or should I switch it up?

- The second exercise has some figured bass: I'm familiar with what 6, 6/4, 5/3 and other indications mean, but what does it mean when there is just a 5, or just a 3? I've found a web page suggesting to to play 8/5/3 whenever the figured bass is 5/3 or just 5 or just 3 or there's no indication at all... but if they are really the same thing, what sense would it make for the figured bass to change from 5 to 3 for two adjacent scale degrees in the exercise?

- The third exercise starts with "the pedal must always proceed in the opposite direction of that of the given scale (contrary motion)", but then adds "harmonize the 12 major scales (...) placing the scale in the pedal"... what gives? Isn't it the exact opposite of what stated initially? Also the ending says "the soprano must procede in the opposite direction of the scale"... I'm confused. Could it just be a misprint or am I missing something? I guess possibly the first sentence was still referring to exercise number 2...

Sorry about the long text, it's complicated to explain this stuff in text but I hope some of you might help me. Thanks in advance!

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Re: Question about Scales Harmonization and Figured Bass
Kalos Piano #2971318 04/25/20 10:48 AM
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Usually the 3 is always intended but not necessarily written. So when you see 5 it implies 5/3, but that depends on the notation used. There are some variations depending on the author. Check to see if there is an example with only the bass and the fifth. When there is only 3 it means only the third. Whether you double the bass note is up to you.

For the second one, i assume it means the scale is in the bass note and you harmonize with the soprano going in contrary motion to the bass note.

Re: Question about Scales Harmonization and Figured Bass
Kalos Piano #2971713 04/26/20 09:23 AM
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Thank you Sidokar.

For the last point indeed I'll assume that the correct thing to do is playing the scale in the bass and go in contrary motion in the soprano, as that's how it's notated in the score. I believe the sentence "the pedal must always proceed in the opposite direction of that of the given scale (contrary motion)" was referring to the second exercise but was placed after the start of the third just due to a misprint.

For the figured bass section, it goes from a 5 on a I chord with the E on top to a 3 on a IV chord with an F on top. So I guess on that IV chord I'll have to play just two Fs and two As, without any C as fifth.

Last edited by Kalos Piano; 04/26/20 09:23 AM.
Re: Question about Scales Harmonization and Figured Bass
Kalos Piano #2971752 04/26/20 11:32 AM
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Originally Posted by Kalos Piano
Thank you Sidokar.

For the figured bass section, it goes from a 5 on a I chord with the E on top to a 3 on a IV chord with an F on top. So I guess on that IV chord I'll have to play just two Fs and two As, without any C as fifth.

It is possible but as said the figured bass notation has many variants in some details, in particular when you use older documents. I have seen in some french manuals of late 19th century that 3 was also used to designate a chord with the third on top ie instead of CEG it would be CGE.

Difficult to know which one Dupre is using, you would have to look at examples to check. It is fairly usual to drop the fifth. In that case you typically double the bass note and not the third (reason is that it colors too much), and in particular when the bass note is the root and it is a strong degree like the fourth. So i would do FAF or in case of the second interpretation it would be FCA.

The choice between those variants depends upon how the melody goes and the amount of colors you want to give. There is not a wrong solution.

Re: Question about Scales Harmonization and Figured Bass
Kalos Piano #2971757 04/26/20 11:52 AM
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Finally, there are also people who use indifferently 5/3, 5 or 3, for example Charles Koechlin, without any particular meaning. In which case it is up to you to determine how the third and the fifth must be placed or removed.


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