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Riley’s Piece #19


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Hey, I’m new to this website but I figured it’d be a good idea to get advice from other composers since I’m almost entirely self taught with composing and I could always use advice. Anyway here’s one of my pieces. I use Finale and some of the dynamics may seem too quiet or loud for an actual player but I most likely wrote it like that for making it sound the most ‘realistic’ when Finale played it back.

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Hi, this piece is good in one aspect which is in its melody, i don't mean to say this to put you down, but i want to help you see what you  could do better. 

1. First off, the choice of instruments in this piece are quite unusual, for example only choosing the violin and cello is quite weird, it would be better to add one more violin and a viola, and if you wanted to a double bass, this might make the harmony flourish more and make it sound better.

2. There is a lot of doubling in this piece, that is to say, the piano and flute almost always play the same notes at the same time, this is really bad to constantly have, since it basically means that the piano isn't a instrument, solely just a single voice, you want to individualize each instrument to some extent, this can be done mainly through counterpoint or harmonic texture.

3. The percussion is unusual but i see what effect you're going for. 

4. as such the main thing you want to focus on is number 2, i also suggest you read up about harmony and counterpoint, as they will serve you very well in the future, but without expanding each instrument to their capacity, then you merely just have a voice instead of an instrument.

5. Just a side note, doubling is fine in larger works like an orchestra but it usually becomes less powerful when the size of the orchestra or piece is smaller, for example a duet would rarely have a doubling of voices.

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Thanks for the advice! 

I tried not to use all the string instruments that are typically used since I’ve only written for string instruments once or twice, so I wanna to get a feel for it first. 

As for the double voicing, I’ve been told before by a teacher that I should have a bass line play the current chord in the chord progression while another instrument(s) play the melody. I can do that but I struggle with having moving lines or not doubling with voicing without it being distracting or seem like multiple things are happening and sort of bombarding the listener.


Again thanks so much for the advice it’s very helpful!

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2 minutes ago, Rileyt said:

As for the double voicing, I’ve been told before by a teacher that I should have a bass line play the current chord in the chord progression while another instrument(s) play the melody.

The bass doesn't need to play the whole chord, the bass usually plays the root of the chord, so for example so if you have a c Major chord, the bass would usually play  a C, if the chord was in root position. Now, if the chord is in an inversion there is a special rule, the bass doesn't play the root of the the 1st inversion, because it would ''weaken'' the chord, that is, because in every scale you have strong degrees of tonality and weak degrees of tonality, for example in C major, the strong degrees are The tonic, the subdominant and the dominant, So C major, F major and G major, so if you used a first inversion chord of c major the bass would usually play either C or G, as to not weaken the chord(the strong degrees are always I, IV, V) (the weak degrees are III,VI). So what happens is that the bass usually plays one note of the chord and the other instruments play the other notes, and sometimes a note is doubled, the doubled note is most commonly the root or the dominant, because like i've said before you don't want to double the third. There is a small arbitrary rule to this which is the 2nd chord of the scale, which can act as a strong or weak degree paradoxically, and the 7th degree is not considered a chord, since it is just a V7 chord without the root. So essentially share the chord between the instruments and make one instrument play a melody over those chords, try this out until you get used to it. And then try more advanced techniques using suspensions, Appoggiaturas and Larger chords, like 7th, 9, 11th, 13. And more complicated chords like diminished chords and Neapolitan. This is a lot of information but if you dissect this paragraph and learn about each things your composition will improve dramatically. One book i recommend that has all of these things is a book called harmony by walter piston, if you wish to learn harmony that is. He also has a book on counterpoint which is useful as well, but i would say his book on harmony is much better.

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