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miatthas

Help With "harmonic Structure"

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Hi. I submitted a grade 1.5 concert band song for possible publication, and got the following feedback:

The element I found not too interesting was harmony. There were too many sections with the same (or very similar) harmonic structure. I would recommend you seek out some subsitute, more colorful chords in some spots to "spice up " the harmonic language. In my opinion, that would make it a much more appealing piece.

The Mp3 Can Be Heard To Here

The Score Can Be Seen Here

Thank you very much to anyone who is willing to help me find out how I can "spice this song up."

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You used common practice harmony, and than the most easy version of it. Mainly tonic, subdominant and dominant chords. You transpose to the parallel key, again the most obvious choice.

My advise is to learn from musical history.

  • Start analyzing more music from say the romantic era. See how composers move to farther tonal regions. (Brahms or Tschaikofsky, Mahler or whatever you fancy)
  • Then study harmonies that add or alter then tonal framwork. See for example how Debussy uses added notes. Or listen to some Russians. Mousorgsky, RimskyKorsakov, or Scriabin. they add all kinds of octatonic scale, or other composer ones, like Shostakovich, Prokofiev.
  • You could continue to discover quartal harmony (that is not based on triads as in the common practice era, but on 4ths)
  • Look for bitonality (Honneger amongst others).
  • See what nice sonorities you can create with serial music. Start for example with early Schoenberg, or take the violin concerto by Alban Berg, which I really love. It is a great and accessable introduction in serial music.

I hope this helps

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There were too many sections with the same (or very similar) harmonic structure. I would recommend you seek out some subsitute, more colorful chords ..

The above suggestions are great.... however, don't be forced into elaborating on the harmonic content just for the sake of 'spice'. There's much that can be done with a single chord or scale - most of my own music has very little or no harmonic motion or progression. Strong rhythmic/melodic/textural content can help alleviate any discomfort caused by a static harmony.

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As stated above: secondary dominants, Neopolitan chords, and augmented 6th chords can really bring interest into your harmonies. Especially those Neopolitans.. I love me some Neopolitans. All these also serve as a basis for modulation, which is usually desirable in a piece.

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Guest Ryan K

Agree with all that about the different chords. Secondary dominant I also like when it's not resolved or developed right away, ie. III doesn't yet get to vi or vi doesn't yet get to III. Can also try inverted bass, like 3 or 5 instead, esp. for making some passing sequence really interesting. Sometimes we even use the same bass and throw a progression over that, sounds jazzy. Don't discount something overly simple either, like vi - V - IV - iii. As long as it sounds good.

Most important, once you start getting familiar with a new chord type, don't be afraid to go anywhere on the map with it. Just experiment. Aim for a new place, you might get lost, but find your way back and find new ways to do it too.

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I think you should listen to a lot of music (seek far and wide, really listen, prod it, mull it, etc - not just let it fall dully over your ears) and develop your own taste for music. You'll soon notice certain structures appearing again and again in some invariant form in your favourite music, figure them out, understand and absorb them, and then it's really up to you to go from there.

There are many ways to get back to the place you started. You can just stay there (still, or seizuring). You can go for a road trip and then come home. You can walk around town. Why would you choose one way over another? Because you prefer it for some reason. :)

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