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Greetings,

I've been dabbling in composing for a while. This is one of the little pieces I've attempted to create to give some context of my current stage: https://soundcloud.com/xynaxia/lost-in-space

While I have a decent grasp on 'chords' I don't think I've ever really delved into the basics. Such as really learning how voices work effectively together, voice leading. Because of this I'd hope to get into some more theory.

Currently I'm following a small course in tonal voice leading. Here it goes into mostly counter point writing, I suppose a lot of common practice period theory. It's this channel: https://www.youtube.com/c/JacobGran/videos

What do you think are some methods I should dive into?

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I listened to your Soundcloud recording and looked at your YouTube link which appears to be a 2 part counterpoint exercise. It seems to me you are on a good path. 4 part harmony exercise writing is a good way to get your musical mind grasping the concepts rather than just reading about them. And getting a grasp of the inner voice movement is valuable this effort. I don't have a specific book to recommend.

The process of working these exercises out, SHOULD over time develop your ears - that is to say your ability of hear harmonic movement. I also would recommend listening to some Great American Songbook classics by composers like George Gershwin, Rogers and Hart, Jerome Kern and others. Learn to hear root movement - the most prominent I'd say , is root movement UP a perfect 4th. The process is a long and slow one, but rewarding when you experience noticeable progress.

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Composing is pretty much musical dictation, so ear training is vital. Toward that end I strongly recommend drilling solfegge, the whole do re mi thing. Pianists don't generally drill solfegge because everything's laid out in black and white in front of them, but singers do. Solfegge helps build sight singing capability. Here's my point sight singing is just the opposite of musical dictation. You read the notes then sing them (and hear them), in dictation you hear the notes then write them. The two skills are closely related.

When you drill solfegge don't just sing scales, sing intervals, something like: do, fa, la, ti, so, re, mi. Then do more. The purpose of solfegge is to drill the degrees of the scale into your mind, so use moveable do. That means Do is always the tonic and So is always the dominant. Drilling solfegge will help you understand what you hear and help you learn theory as you progress. Good luck.


Steve Chandler
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Nice work Hyena! I'm not a professional but I see how good I've done it. Of course it is impossible to make sound 100% like from studio mixing but it is great that we have such technical possibilities.


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Make them personal so they are musical.


Danzas Argentinas, Alberto Ginastera
Piano Sonata Hob. XVI: 34 in E Minor, Franz Joseph Haydn
Nocturne, Op. 15 No. 1 in F Major, Frédéric Chopin
Prelude, Op. 11 No. 4 in E Minor, Alexander Scriabin
Prelude and Fugue in G Major, Well-Tempered Clavier Vol. 2, Johann Sebastian Bach
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Some of suggestions:

- General harmony: intervals, chord types, quadriads, extended/altered chords, cadences etc
- Basses drills: numbered, without numbers, melody harmonisation
- Melodic phrase structuring principles: repetition/variation, tension/resolution, inciso-semiphrase-phrase
- Chorales harmonisation
- Counterpoint: five species, imitation, canons, inventions, fugues
- Forms: mottetti, madrigale, suite, sonata, rapsody, dances etc
- Late tonal/atonal concept (from Wagner on)
- Serial concepts
- Folk, jazz, rock and pop concepts and forms

Last edited by WTF Bach; 12/15/21 06:41 AM.
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Start off with harmony and voice leading. Counterpoint is nice, but not really necessary. This will take you at least 2 years. After that you'll know yourself what else to study.

Cut yourself some slack. Just keep writing the music you like and try, carefully, to embed the things you've learned. If you get frustrated, stop studying, keep writing and go back to the theory the moment you feel you're up to it. Very important is talent and you have that.

One thing though. In this day and age it seems to be normal to watch a YouTube video or read an online article, or even listen to a podcast, if you want to study harmony, but if you really want to master harmony you will need real lessons form a real life teacher.


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Very wise words.

Nevertheless, I agree only up to to a point with the concept that counterpoint is not needed: the study - at least basic - of counterpoint principles can truly give to a composer a lot of tools and stimulus to write fresher, deeper music.

Without counterpoint knowledge one will be stuck into an endless “accompanied melody” vicious circle.

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Originally Posted by WTF Bach
Without counterpoint knowledge one will be stuck into an endless “accompanied melody” vicious circle.

It will take him at least 2 years to master harmony and voice leading. After that he can choose himself what to study next. That doesn't need to be counterpoint. It all depends on his preferences in 2 years. He should take his time and not get too involved in music theory. There's also the fun in music.


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I see your point. If someone simply want to have fun, you are probably right, counterpoint is not mandatory.

In the other hand, I usually teach harmony and counterpoint together to my students: in my experience the study of counterpoint makes easier to understand harmony rules.

Last edited by WTF Bach; 12/15/21 12:16 PM.
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Sometimes vocal counterpoint is being taught first here (The Netherlands), to give the student a feel for late Medieval or early Renaissance music, but instrumental counterpoint is always embedded in a harmonic frame, so we teach students harmony first. However, it is possible to teach vocal counterpoint and harmony at the same time, so I guess we agree.

It's also a matter of time, I think. When I studied at the conservatory of music, a complete study lasted 6 years. Nowadays it's just 4 years.

Last edited by Rowy van Hest; 12/17/21 04:36 AM.

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Interesting. When I was studying, a student needed 10 years to get the piano diploma. The same for harmony and composition and organ.

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Originally Posted by WTF Bach
Interesting. When I was studying, a student needed 10 years to get the piano diploma. The same for harmony and composition and organ.

10 years for harmony and composition? This is The Netherlands. Everything is done as efficiently as possible. That's why it is 4 years now.

Our government doesn't really like the Arts. We had a minister once, who attended a concert (probably because he had to). During a break someone asked him if he liked it. It was nice, he said, but he wondered if that many violins were really necessary.

That's The Netherlands. Efficient, excellent engineers, creative businessmen, but when it comes down to the Arts, most politicians are just indifferent. Unless it's worth a lot of money, like a painting by a Dutch master, Rembrandt, Vermeer or Van Gogh.

Last edited by Rowy van Hest; 12/18/21 07:33 AM.

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A few years ago a I took a Coursera class called "Write Like Mozart". It was wonderful. About 6 weeks with lectures and assignments culminating with writing a piece for a solo instrument and piano. It is a virtual class.

It assumes you know some about scales and chords. But not that much. The concepts taught are applicable to other styles as well. I would highly recommend it!

https://www.coursera.org/learn/classical-composition

It's free and you can start any time.

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