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How to make your own melodic and harmonic system

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Music has endless ways to explore. 

Some time ago I spent a lot of effort trying to figure out how to use the scales and turn them into "stand-alone" systems.
Here is an example where I form an Ionian-Phrygian scale, where I look for the important tones, and the cadential chords.

Everything is much better explained in my blog (in English and Spanish):


Captura de pantalla 2023-05-22 a las 18.45.51.jpg


Edited by Luis Hernández
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Hi @Luis Hernández,

This is quite interesting. For me what differ the tonal practice with the modal practice is that tonal practice has hierarchy of the chords and there are clear functions of them, while in modal practice it will be less hierarchical and the counterpoint and voice leading are the only principle of music, that's why composers will try to have the voices move as smooth as possible, and given the singers at that time are much less professional now the rules tend to be stricter in order to help them sing correctly.

I see in your blog you have said "Therefore, we have a base chord, or tonic chord. Cadential chords (which replace dominant chords) in modal systems are at short distances from the tonic chord. A semitone, a tone, a second or a third, but not a fifth away. Moreover, the cadential chord must contain the characteristic tone (b6). So, we can use several chords as cadential: F7 (bVII), Ebmaj or Ebmaj7+ (bVI), and perhaps Am7b5(ii). The remaining chords can also be used, at the composer's discretion.". Will cadential functions important in the creative scales? In tonal period V chord is the dominant since 1) it's stable in itself (in minor key it's changed to a major V), 2) The fifth is closest note to the tonic as in the overtione series, 3) The use of fifth lower is already commonly used in modal music, like those tuba notes and keys (e.g. hypodorian, hypolydian). If 1) other chords are chosen as the cadential chord, it maybe harder to give audience something stable to be grammatically important. It will have the feeling to be forced upon by the composers to have those notes emphasized. 2) For me the definition of characteristic tone can be freely chosen. Like your key for example I can instead have it interpreted as an upward C melodic minor scale starting on G.

Maybe for me the approach for having two tetrachords instead of an eight-note scale better. You can just decide the tones and semitones inside the tetrachords, as well as tone or semitones between tetrachords. For example if two 0134 set combined with a tone apart, it will be an octatonic scale, but even Stravinsky who is known to used octatonic scales doesn't necessary have those tetrachord in a tone apart, since sometimes he just has them a semitone apart.

Thanks for sharing! That's real interesting.


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Hello, thank you for your reply. There are several issues to address....  First of all, in any musical system, from the beginning of music to contemporary, we need some cadential mechanism. Something that tells us that we reach the moment of rest. In tonal music it is very clear as you say, and it is based on the V-I harmony and the conduction of sensitive voices to tonic.
Apart from other ways of creating cadences, in modal music we have to look for harmonies that make us hear that mode as such. And the way is to use chords that contain the characteristic note. In the traditional modes (Ionian, Dorian, etc,,,) we have clear characteristic notes. But when you design a different mode, you have to look for it, sometimes there is more than one. Somehow you try to emphasize what makes that mode unique.
Secondly, the idea that modal music is linear and favors melody and all this is true, but applicable to a period (quite long 1000 years) before tonal music. But already in romanticism and after, modal music has taken other paths and the example we have in jazz where sometimes it is more rhythmic than melodic.
Finally, it is true that the result of joining two tetrachords can result in a scale that already has a specific name. This is frequent. It is another way of arriving at the mode scale. It is true that, in this case, the scale coincides with the melodic minor scale in C. But only the tones coincide, and rearranged. It has nothing to do really because the base note is G. The melodic minor scale implies the use of the dominant-tonic axis, while this Ionian-phrygian scale does not.
The point is that just by combining the basic tetrachords you get lots of scales.


Edited by Luis Hernández
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