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"Six little variations over the greek modes for flute and harp". Feedback appreciated! (DAW and musescore version)


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Hello everyone,

I have been studying music composition for 6 months over books and the internet but since none of my acquaintances knows about music composition the feedback I receive is null. I would greatly appreciate that you could give me any.

There is really many things I do not know and many doubts, so I will be thankful for any feedback!

 

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About the song

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The composition are six 30-seconds variations over the different greek modes (locrian exempted) in F. I set myself to follow some rules, such as using only diatonic notes (no raised 7th in minor modes either), an almost constant eight note rhythm for the middle voice and a similar beginning and ending of each variation for every mode. The original theme was the Ionian mode and from there I decided to write a similar 10 bar piece for each greek mode for practicing.

Edited by JorgeDavid
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  • 1 month later...

I love the experiment. It's especially helpful to me to hear the same theme in different modes right next to each other, as I play with re-moding melodies all the time. The one thing I wish was different was that the everything felt very measured, meaning the harmonic changes were always symmetrical and predictable. Don't be afraid to extend or shorten part of a phrase within your theme to keep the momentum from growing stagnant.

A good exercise 🙂 Also decent work with the DAW 🙂

Gustav

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Thank you so much for your feedback Gustav! 🙂 I agree with you, I was afraid to change the atmosphere too much and kept the beat and harmonic rhythm too constant throughout the piece, but, as you commented, the piece would clearly benefit from some unexpected changes on the harmonic rhythm.

Thank you so much for listening and reviewing!!

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  • 9 months later...

Hey!  This is pretty cool!  I love the new color that each variation introduces when the different modes are used - my favorite was the phrygian which I think should have been last since it's the darkest (also you could have started with lydian since it's considered the brightest).  Really cool way to familiarize yourself with the modes - and the result was still quite musical!  Flute and Harp are always a good combination imo!  Thanks for sharing!

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I am glad you liked it @PeterthePapercomPoser! I was really not expecting a new comment in the first post I ever submitted in the forum. I remember back then I was taking a beginners udemy videogame music course. The first assigment (and the only one that I did 😆) was to compose a repeatable simple 10 bars "main town theme" for an imaginary videogame. That is how the Ionian main theme was composed. Since back then I did not know much about scales or modes, I came up with the idea of studying them while composing a similar theme for each mode. I wanted the original Ionian theme to start and finish the piece so I though the "heroic" Lydian might be a nice bridge between the darker Phrygian theme and the Ionian final theme reprise. But now that I listened to it again, you are right that the contrast between the Phrygian and the Lydian mode is quite harsh. 

It was also my last piece with a DAW (the other one was a piece for strings based on a theme from a Bhrams symphony. I liked it but I never posted it here because of the more than obvious rip-off from Bhrams' original piece). I stopped using a DAW because I would spend more time in the DAW than composing and learning music. Now that I relistened to those two pieces it surprises me how realistic they sound (much more than noteperformer). Now I kinda want to turn all the compositions I made since then into a more realistic sound with virtual instruments and a DAW, but it is so much work... 😅.

Thank you for commenting!

   

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5 minutes ago, JorgeDavid said:

It was also my last piece with a DAW (the other one was a piece for strings based on a theme from a Bhrams symphony. I liked it but I never posted it here because of the more than obvious rip-off from Bhrams' original piece). I stopped using a DAW because I would spend more time in the DAW than composing and learning music. Now that I relistened to those two pieces it surprises me how realistic they sound (much more than noteperformer). Now I kinda want to turn all the compositions I made since then into a more realistic sound with virtual instruments and a DAW, but it is so much work... 😅.

LoL - sounds like you need a team of composers working with you.  And if you did you wouldn't be the first composer posting in these forums who had created something with a team!  There's a composer on here who has an orchestrator, a composition assistant etc.  Actually now that I think about it - it might be a good idea to work in a team with other composers as long as everyone is given a fair chance to produce a piece of their own with the assistance of the team on some kind of rotation.

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Nice work.

I have some comments:

I now that many people think that ionian mode is the same as major mode. And, in theory (as in practice), it isn't. To make a modal ionian sound the first thing is to avoid V-I progressions, particularly in the cadences. Apart from that, use I chord (F maj) and look for CADENTIAL chords, in modal harmony cadential chords include the characteristic note (which in ionian is the 4 = F here) and are if possible a tone or semitone away from the tonic. So your cadential chord here should be Gm, which has the 4th (Bb). Instead you use mostly the IV chord (Bb) what makes is sound plagal, and in the final cadence you use C7 - F. 

The mixolydian part is good but I would avoid the C in the bass, again because the movement C - F strongly reminds of major mode.

The dorian variation includes the proper progressions of the mode. What is a bit odd it that the characteristic note (the sixth = D) doesn't appear in the melody but once, and shortly (measure 27). Although it is present in the arpeggiated harmony...., I don't now, one would expect to hear it in the melody (as in Scarborough Fair), Staying Alive, etc...) This happens because you took the melody and make it fixed, changing accidentals according the mode.

In aeolian mode the cadential chord is lacking, which is Db for Fm aeolian.

Phrygian is OK using bII.

In lydian is OK to use Em and G as cadentials, but why you wrote another C7 in m. 59? (it sounds F maj).

 

The melody is simple, so it is easy to adapt it to the different modes. As pointed above, it would be more interesting if the variations were made not only changing the accidentals, but making new melodies from the original material. 

As it happens to all of us, in the beginning, you see modal harmony as tonal harmon, it its "methods". We have to see modality as horizontal stuff: what matters is the melody and not the frequent changes in the chords. Real modal music (traditional) stay in the tonic chords for long, and changes are minimal.

The writing of the harp..., I think it's possible to play it because the tempo is slow, and pedal changes are not complicated.

 

 

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On 3/25/2021 at 3:44 PM, PeterthePapercomPoser said:

LoL - sounds like you need a team of composers working with you.  And if you did you wouldn't be the first composer posting in these forums who had created something with a team!  There's a composer on here who has an orchestrator, a composition assistant etc.  Actually now that I think about it - it might be a good idea to work in a team with other composers as long as everyone is given a fair chance to produce a piece of their own with the assistance of the team on some kind of rotation.

 

It is actually a good idea! And I would be more than willing to work as a team with people, not so much with the goal of getting help to finish my small musical projects, but rather as a way of collaborating with a team and learning from others. I am sure working in projects together is one of the best ways to learn how others approach music and musical composition. 

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Posted (edited)

Thank for all the comments and suggestions @Luis Hernández! I agree with most of what you wrote. I composed this around a year ago when I knew much less than I do now (it is not like I currently know a lot either) so I did not think too much about what modes entailed or implied, rather, I just though of them as a set of notes which defined a "different gravity tension space" to the tonic. In other words, I saw them just as a set of scales, but scales which had to be used in a context in which the compositional efforts were aimed at maintaining the root note of the scale as the tonic (which is quite hard for some of the modes, specially locrian, that is why I avoided it). 

That is the main reason why I used some C7 here and there, and, at some point, even altered one note for that (in Lydian), only because, due to my inexperience, I was not able to keep F as the tonic, so I added the C7 to keep the ear focused on the F as a tonic. In general, back then, I did not know much of tonal harmony either, so I mostly composed this by ear with the modes as a "scale framework". 

So, in general, I agree with all your suggestions and I will surely go back to studying modal music and compose something new (I might even try to modify this old piece) when I have the time for it. However, I disagree with the following two statements:

Quote

The dorian variation includes the proper progressions of the mode. What is a bit odd it that the characteristic note (the sixth = D) doesn't appear in the melody but once, and shortly (measure 27). Although it is present in the arpeggiated harmony...., I don't now, one would expect to hear it in the melody (as in Scarborough Fair), Staying Alive, etc...) This happens because you took the melody and make it fixed, changing accidentals according the mode.

The melody is simple, so it is easy to adapt it to the different modes. As pointed above, it would be more interesting if the variations were made not only changing the accidentals, but making new melodies from the original material.

I do not think that the fact that most modal melodies in Dorian use the natural sixth in the melody should make the composer feel the lack of the natural sixth in the melody as an odd thing, nor that its use would necessarily makes the overall result nicer. This piece from "the legend of Zelda" is probably not the best example of modal composition (or maybe it is, I really do not know) but it just popped into my head as a dorian-based composition which does not include the sixth on the melody. It does, however, modulate from D dorian to D natural minor and it does also have a "strong harmonic movement", so it is not the type of modal music based on a drone or static harmony: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N3OZoErzJg0. But I do agree that tonal harmony based on a drone or with static harmony would benefit of having the characteristic tones in the melody, since they would be lacking in the harmony.

I also disagree with the statement about the melody being fixed with the accidentals being the only thing changing for each mode. Except for the first four bars of each theme (always playing the fourth and the third degree of the mode) all the remaining bars of the themes are, melody-wise, strongly different from each other and they do have quite different melodic contourns. I composed each melody independently with only a conscious effort of making those first four bars (and the last bar) similar. In fact, the main Ionic melody includes the sixth degree twice, one of them in a strong first beat and lasting for half a measure. So, had I only added accidentals for adapting the same melody to each mode, the sixth would have being included twice in the Dorian mode theme as well (which, as we just talked about, it didn't).

I totally agree with the comment about the harp. The fist thing I though when PaperComposer commented on this after a year was "oh... this must be so unplayable..." since back then I did not even know that harps had a complex pedal system for the accidentals (😅) and I did not think, even once, about the playability of the piece (now I would surely think about it). Of course, I am still glad to know that thanks to its tempo the piece might be playable. But I would surely take care of learning about compositing for the harp before I attempt another piece featuring it.

Thank you so much for your suggestions! I will take them into consideration for modifying this piece and composing new modal pieces when I go back to learning modes!

 

Edited by JorgeDavid
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