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Question about parallel fifths

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Phil Edwards 30 Nov 11 - 03:53 AM
Mick Pearce (MCP) 30 Nov 11 - 04:18 AM
Will Fly 30 Nov 11 - 04:21 AM
Will Fly 30 Nov 11 - 04:26 AM
GUEST,Suibhne Astray 30 Nov 11 - 04:54 AM
Phil Edwards 30 Nov 11 - 08:42 AM
GUEST,Owen RalphI 30 Nov 11 - 08:42 AM
GUEST,leeneia 30 Nov 11 - 11:34 AM
Phil Edwards 30 Nov 11 - 11:36 AM
Will Fly 30 Nov 11 - 11:56 AM
Bernard 30 Nov 11 - 12:06 PM
Jack Campin 30 Nov 11 - 12:15 PM
Will Fly 30 Nov 11 - 01:33 PM
John P 30 Nov 11 - 01:58 PM
GUEST,leeneia 30 Nov 11 - 02:08 PM
JohnInKansas 30 Nov 11 - 02:35 PM
GUEST,leeneia 30 Nov 11 - 04:07 PM
The Sandman 30 Nov 11 - 05:13 PM
Joe Offer 30 Nov 11 - 05:24 PM
Peter K (Fionn) 30 Nov 11 - 06:22 PM
GUEST,leeneia 30 Nov 11 - 09:11 PM
GUEST,Grishka 03 Dec 11 - 06:58 PM
PHJim 03 Dec 11 - 11:55 PM
Acorn4 04 Dec 11 - 04:26 AM
GUEST,Grishka 04 Dec 11 - 09:18 AM
The Sandman 04 Dec 11 - 09:55 AM
Paul Davenport 04 Dec 11 - 10:39 AM
Phil Edwards 04 Dec 11 - 11:08 AM
The Sandman 04 Dec 11 - 11:15 AM
Tunesmith 04 Dec 11 - 11:56 AM
Stringsinger 04 Dec 11 - 12:47 PM
GUEST 04 Dec 11 - 01:48 PM
Phil Edwards 04 Dec 11 - 02:19 PM
Don Firth 04 Dec 11 - 03:55 PM
The Sandman 04 Dec 11 - 04:09 PM
Phil Edwards 04 Dec 11 - 05:39 PM
Jack Campin 04 Dec 11 - 05:53 PM
Phil Edwards 04 Dec 11 - 06:09 PM
Tootler 04 Dec 11 - 06:31 PM
Don Firth 04 Dec 11 - 06:52 PM
GUEST,Grishka 04 Dec 11 - 08:02 PM
Don Firth 04 Dec 11 - 08:17 PM
ripov 04 Dec 11 - 08:42 PM
GUEST,Grishka 05 Dec 11 - 11:48 AM
Don Firth 05 Dec 11 - 01:35 PM
Phil Edwards 13 Dec 11 - 04:21 PM
Jack Campin 13 Dec 11 - 04:37 PM
Phil Edwards 13 Dec 11 - 06:52 PM
GUEST,Suibhne Astray 19 Dec 11 - 04:57 AM
GUEST,Suibhne Astray 19 Dec 11 - 07:17 AM
GUEST,Suibhne Astray 19 Dec 11 - 07:18 AM
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Subject: Question about parallel fifths
From: Phil Edwards
Date: 30 Nov 11 - 03:53 AM

Quick-and-dirty harmony question.

It seems to sound pretty much OK to have a harmony line shadowing the melody a fifth above - so if the lead is playing Three Blind Mice as B A G, the harmony line would run F E D.

But! If your original melody was in C, a fifth above that effectively puts you in G - so you've got the choice of either making the harmony follow the melody exactly (and keeping the interval fixed at seven semitones) by playing F# E D, or making the harmony fit the key of the melody (and avoiding possible dischords) by flattening the F#.

(Something similar would happen if you went a fourth above, only that way you'd be dealing with one more flat rather than one more sharp.)

But which is better? Is there a standard approach to this? If not, which way would people generally feel happier with?


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Subject: RE: Question about parallel fifths
From: Mick Pearce (MCP)
Date: 30 Nov 11 - 04:18 AM

Standard counterpoint theory advises you to avoid parallel fifths and most classical music composition tried to do this. "Parallel fifths and octaves are prohibited in most books that prescribe "rules"...and if used to excess tend to create the effect of one voice being eliminated, not only because of its lack of independence, but because the overtones tend to make the two separate sounds coalesce" as one of my old harmony books says. You are normally advised to watch out for accidentally creating them between different voices of 4-part harmony too.

Of course this advice has not always been followed and even the greatest composers have used them sometimes. But in general probably not a good idea to use them a lot.

Similar advice usually applied to consecutive octaves (but that didn't stop Django or Wes Montgomery!).

There is a brief wikipedia article here: Consecutive Fifths.


Mick


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Subject: RE: Question about parallel fifths
From: Will Fly
Date: 30 Nov 11 - 04:21 AM

Pip - quick and dirty response:

A 5th above B is F#, not F - just to start off...

You can run a parallel 5th to any melody line you like - or parallel 4ths, or parallel 3es, etc. The question is whether these parallel lines fit the underlying harmonic structure of the melody.

So, for example, if the first 3 notes of Three Blind Mice in the key of C are E, D C, then you could have an underlying chord structure to those notes of C, G7, C - and you could also play a 5th above with notes G, F and E. Note that the G7 chord includes the F note. In this the parallel 5th above suits the tune

However, if the underlying structure of a tune is not straightforward, an unthinking, standard parallel 5th might not suit. All harmony is, of course, in the ear of the listener, but music convention might subdue creative impulse!


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Subject: RE: Question about parallel fifths
From: Will Fly
Date: 30 Nov 11 - 04:26 AM

Just to add a coda here (as it were)...

Try playing Three Blind Mice with the chords C, E7 and Am - sounds odd, but it works. However, the E7 underlying the D note works (D being the flattened 7th note of the scale of E), but the parallel 5th - being the F note - would clash with that E7 chord.


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Subject: RE: Question about parallel fifths
From: GUEST,Suibhne Astray
Date: 30 Nov 11 - 04:54 AM

Stick to the 5ths, which shouldn't resolve just to stay in the same 'key' (with parallels you're in the realm of musical pragmatics: very much as case of a) whatever works & b) exceptions proving rules). This was the basis of Medieval Organum, and it's easier to see how that works using an instrument with parallel melody strings - such as a hurdy gurdy, which is conventionally tuned in octaves or unison, but if you tune the strings to 5ths, 4ths, 3rds or minor 3rds the effect is quite stunning (though I once had a discussion with Mary Remnant about this and she regarded such 'abuses' as being 'unmusical' - I suspect she isn't alone in this!). The medieval two-man hurdy gurdy is called the Organistrum, and whilst opinion is divided over how these were actually played, one contemporary illustration clearly shows that all three strings were stopped in tonic / 5th / 8ve parallel harmony with no drones. Other iconographic evidence would indicate at least one drone, though modern reconstructions (there's some especialy ghastly Renn Fair efforts on YouTube) usually have two drones & one melody string which (I feel) defeats the point rather. The Karadeniz Kemence / Pontic Lyra tradition is based around the use of parallel 4ths, though that might sound a little odd to Western ears, at first anyway, though I find this lends itself perfectly to English Folk Song.

On a standard keyboard instrument such parallel playing is never quite as 'organic' somehow, though on the melodica I find intuitive magadizing works a treat, likewise 3rds / 4ths / 5th / 6ths / 7ths. The main problem with melodicas (and why I no longer use them quite as passionately as I did when I first got into them back in 1993) is that they very quickly go out of tune, so you lose those nicely tempered intervals which at first are so seductive.

Maybe it's time to have a go at the fabled $20 Hurdy Gurdy?


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Subject: RE: Question about parallel fifths
From: Phil Edwards
Date: 30 Nov 11 - 08:42 AM

Cheers, Suibhne. Strict parallel fifths are sounding good to me, even if after a while it starts to sound a bit stilted and faux-medieval - but is that necessarily a bad thing? I really am not the woodworker for the DIY hurdy-gurdy, though.

Will - The question is whether these parallel lines fit the underlying harmonic structure of the melody.

Slow down a bit - what is the harmonic structure of a tune, & how would I find out what it is? I've started getting into modes as a result of playing around with drones - I've had to: you can't tell from the key signature alone whether the drone that will work is (say) C/G, G/D or A/E. Haven't really got residency in Chordsville yet, though.


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Subject: RE: Question about parallel fifths
From: GUEST,Owen RalphI
Date: 30 Nov 11 - 08:42 AM

It entirely depends what sound you're going for. When singing harmonies to pretty standard diatonic songs I always make sure the note I'm singing is within the chord - I even tend to avoid adding 7ths most of the time. However in Neo-Classical music and the like which is rarely strictly diatonic, adding extra notes outside the chord and/or key signature can be very effective and I have done so many times.

So I guess the best way to decide really is try several different harmonic options and decide which one is the sound you're heading for, rather than trying to adhere to any sort of musical rules. If you're just after a harmony that sounds *nice* then I'd recommend you stick to the key signature and preferably make sure the note is always in the chord rather than sticking to strict parallel 5ths. But if you're not interested in *nice*, do whatever you fancy


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Subject: RE: Question about parallel fifths
From: GUEST,leeneia
Date: 30 Nov 11 - 11:34 AM

It depends on what kind of piece you are doing.

If you are playing a medieval piece, you can go up to a keyboard, stretch your fingers to play a fifth, then go crabwise up and down, playing fifths. You will soon learn why this is an alien (if not downright irritating) sound to modern ears. We just don't do this anymore.

If, on the other hand, you want to produce the 'bluegrass descant,' where the high voice finds the fifth of the scale and sails above the melody, then stay in the same key you started with. If the melody is in C, have the high singers stay in C.

Would you be interested in hearing a version of 'To Canaan's Land' that does that?


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Subject: RE: Question about parallel fifths
From: Phil Edwards
Date: 30 Nov 11 - 11:36 AM

Yes indeed. I'd say "PM me", but I guess you can't just now. You really ought to find that cookie, or else re-register!


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Subject: RE: Question about parallel fifths
From: Will Fly
Date: 30 Nov 11 - 11:56 AM

Slow down a bit - what is the harmonic structure of a tune, & how would I find out what it is?

Put very simply, most conventional Western tunes have a melody line which rises and falls - goes where it wants to. Underneath that melody, you can have a chord sequence which supports the melody and adds harmony. For conventional written music, the composer will have written the chord sequence or the underlying harmonies - and, of course, you can do away with them if the fancy takes you and use your own.

So, taking your Three Blind Mice as an example. The first 12 notes of the tune, in the key of C, go roughly:

E D C - | E D C - | G F E - | G F E - |

The chords which conventionally underpin that tune are:

C G7 C C | C G7 C C | C G7 C C | C G7 C C |

So, taking the top melody line - shown again but in italics - and putting the chord notes for it vertically below, we get the harmonies:

E D C - | E D C - | G F E - | G F E - |
--------------------------------------------
C F C C | C F C C | C F C C | C F C C |
G D G G | G D G G | G D G G | G D G G |
E B E E | E B E E | E B E E | E B E E |
C G C C | C G C C | C G C C | C G C C |

The chord structure below the melody can be called the tune's harmonic structure. This is a very simplistic example. My main point was that all tunes can have several possible underlying harmonic structures or chord sequences - whether you choose to use them or not is your business. Parallel 5ths are in themselves a structure, but 2 notes on their own do not a chord make... :-)


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Subject: RE: Question about parallel fifths
From: Bernard
Date: 30 Nov 11 - 12:06 PM

Gregorian Chant is often sung in fourths or fifths, an harmony technique called 'Organum', which dates back at least to the 9th century.

Its origins were quite simple - some monks had higher/lower voices than others, and they sang in the pitch that felt more comfortable to them, and discovered they liked the resulting harmony.

Our modern ear finds this technique a little strange, because we're more accustomed to hearing a mix of intervals.


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Subject: RE: Question about parallel fifths
From: Jack Campin
Date: 30 Nov 11 - 12:15 PM

Two-part harmonizations often do make a sequence of chords. The usual trick for post-mediaeval music is to use parallel thirds above or sixths below the melody, rather than fifths and fourths. For this example

E D C - | E D C - | G F E - | G F E - |
G F E - | G F E - | B A G - | B A G - |

If you want to extend that to triads or more complex chords, the extra notes are usually obvious.

Will, did you really mean to keep the same harmonic sequence for bars 3 and 4 as you used in bars 1 and 2?


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Subject: RE: Question about parallel fifths
From: Will Fly
Date: 30 Nov 11 - 01:33 PM

No, Jack - just cut and pasted in a 'urry! :-)


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Subject: RE: Question about parallel fifths
From: John P
Date: 30 Nov 11 - 01:58 PM

The audio effect of harmonizing with parallel 5ths can be a lot more palatable to most ears if you use a combination of 4ths and 5ths. You get the same medieval-ish sound, but you choose either the 4th or the 5th so that you don't go out of the key of the melody. This requires you to come up with a harmony and learn it rather than just singing or playing the melody a 5th up.


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Subject: RE: Question about parallel fifths
From: GUEST,leeneia
Date: 30 Nov 11 - 02:08 PM

Hi, Pip. I'll send the music to Joe, and after a while you can Click to Hear.


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Subject: RE: Question about parallel fifths
From: JohnInKansas
Date: 30 Nov 11 - 02:35 PM

I was told once that carny style calliopes were frequently "played in fifths" because it was just sufficiently irritating to discourage rational thinking so that the customers would take more wild chances and spend more of their money on the (always) rigged games.

The comment was a rather offhand one, but came from a fairly advanced university music student, at a time when I knew even less (if that's possible) about music theory than now. He could have been "yanking my chain," but I took it then as an honest observation on the amusement park (and constantly annoying calliope) where our choir was partying.

John


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Subject: RE: Question about parallel fifths
From: GUEST,leeneia
Date: 30 Nov 11 - 04:07 PM

Surely a calliope is annoying enough on its own?

Pip, I have sent some MIDI's to Joe. The first is an example of parallel fifths. It's very short.

Then there's the melody of 'To Canaan's Land I'm on my Way." It shows how we do it here in the Midwest. The hymn sites have a very religious version which is no doubt quite authentic, but it's a little too pious, I guess, because I never heard of it before today.

Then there's a MIDI of the descant that I learned from some old book. The song is in G, and the descant features a number of long D's. )D is the fifth note of the G scale.) There are also a couple of long B's. They permit a person to play either C or Em on their measures. Clever

Then there's a MIDI for the two parts together. The descant is only sung on the chorus.

There seem to be two principles (not rules) for bluegrass descants. One is that you start out on the fifth of the scale, and the other is that you use different note lengths from the melody (i.e. you change the lyrics a little) to make it more interesting. This can be done on the fly if the guitars are loud enough.


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Subject: RE: Question about parallel fifths
From: The Sandman
Date: 30 Nov 11 - 05:13 PM

here is my experience you learn rules , then you learn when to break them, and the best adviser for trad music is your ears.


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Subject: RE: Question about parallel fifths
From: Joe Offer
Date: 30 Nov 11 - 05:24 PM

Got MIDIs from leeneia. I don't see how she can turn them out so quickly. I have a stack of MIDIs I've been meaning to transcribe, and the stack just keeps getting higher. Good going, leeneia!
-Joe-


Click to play-descant (joeweb)



Click to play-melody (joeweb)



Click to play-"To Canaan's Land" (joeweb)



Click to play-parallel5ths.nwc (joeweb)


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Subject: RE: Question about parallel fifths
From: Peter K (Fionn)
Date: 30 Nov 11 - 06:22 PM

In the chord of a perfect fifth the higher note is also the primary harmonic of the lower note, and this largely explains why the chord when used consecutively has been felt in classical circles to undermine the distinctive identities of the two "voices." The determined effort to erode consecutive fifths from classical/romantic music was probably driven by a perceived need to set that genre above, or at least apart from, the previously prevailing music "vernacular," of folksong and minstrelry.

It has sometimes been used deliberately to achieve specific effects, for instance the medieaval effect in Vaughan Williams' fantasia on Greensleeves. And the chord is invaluable when tuning a violin classical style, the strings being tuned to perfect fifths.


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Subject: RE: Question about parallel fifths
From: GUEST,leeneia
Date: 30 Nov 11 - 09:11 PM

oops. I made a mistake

this: ...long B's. They permit a person to play either C or Em on their measures.

that should be 'permit a person to play G or Em

Joe, sometimes the MIDI's come easily, and sometimes they don't. Timing is the challenge, at least for me. With this tune, I downloaded the old hymn version and made a few changes to make it sound like the midcontinent version.

When I'm in a session, I have fun extemporizing descants like this. Funny thing is, I can whistle them better than I can sing them. I once sent a parakeet into a state of bliss doing that. It sang joyfully along.


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Subject: RE: Question about parallel fifths
From: GUEST,Grishka
Date: 03 Dec 11 - 06:58 PM

Pip, if you still want advice, tell us what you really wish to do, preferably with ABC notes. A so-called mixtura will always be in perfect fifths, whereas folklore in Romance countries (as evoked in Puccini's operas) often operates with non-perfect fifths to stay in the scale.


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Subject: RE: Question about parallel fifths
From: PHJim
Date: 03 Dec 11 - 11:55 PM

This is what I think of as Completely parallel harmony. It
Geenwood Side-o - Ian & Sylvia


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Subject: RE: Question about parallel fifths
From: Acorn4
Date: 04 Dec 11 - 04:26 AM

I think this uses quite a few:-


Liszt:Czardas


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Subject: RE: Question about parallel fifths
From: GUEST,Grishka
Date: 04 Dec 11 - 09:18 AM

What PHJim meant to write was:
This is what I think of as Completely parallel harmony. It's hard to tell who is singing lead and who is singing harmony.
Geenwood Side-o - Ian & Sylvia
My own comment:
All in perfect fifths, and sounding fairly idiomatic to me. Each of the two sings one verse solo in the respective "key".

(Some singers at the other end of expertise involuntarily sing a fifth apart, the intention being the same as for "normal singers" to sing an octave apart, i.e. to suit different voice ranges. Very interesting stuff for music psychology, and for conjectures about the origins of European polyphony.)

Pip, was that the kind of music you had in mind?


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Subject: RE: Question about parallel fifths
From: The Sandman
Date: 04 Dec 11 - 09:55 AM

Very ggood, it is clear to me that when there is 2 voices Ian sings the lead


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Subject: RE: Question about parallel fifths
From: Paul Davenport
Date: 04 Dec 11 - 10:39 AM

I conducted a detailed study of a particular set of folk tunes a few years ago in my capacity as a music teacher. What it taught me was that music theory in all of its aspects is, like written music itself, merely a guideline. The right harmony is that which sounds right. If, from time to time it flaunts convention, it's still right.


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Subject: RE: Question about parallel fifths
From: Phil Edwards
Date: 04 Dec 11 - 11:08 AM

Grishka - to be completely honest, what I'm after is a way of adding a tolerable basic harmony line to a tune without too much effort (with the option of writing a good harmony later, of course). To put it another way, what I'm after is Teach Yourself Harmonising. I'm feeling my way into writing (and singing) harmonies, from a background of very limited experience of anything polyphonic (I sing solo and play whistle). I'm sure the comments along the lines of "rules are made to be broken" are all valid, but first of all I'd like to know what those rules are! (Neither Derek Bailey nor Wild Man Fischer played conventional guitar music - the difference is that Derek Bailey could have done. I don't really want to be the Wild Man Fischer of harmony.)

One thing that's struck me is that my conception of a harmony line is of a voice higher than the lead (possibly even a fifth higher) - and you see people talking about "high, soaring harmonies" and so on. But when I look at SATB choral arrangements, it generally seems to be the Soprano carrying the melody line with the lower voices supplying harmonies. Is the 'soaring harmony line' a folk thing?


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Subject: RE: Question about parallel fifths
From: The Sandman
Date: 04 Dec 11 - 11:15 AM

no, frequently harmonies can be beneath the melody line in folk music, although that depends on all sorts of other factors such as whhether it is two part harmony 3 part or 4 part, 2 part harmony can be both above or below the melody line. 3 /4 part can have both as we;ll
listen to this the recruited collier, where the concertina plays harmony both above and below the melody
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iEKVeI_VD3E


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Subject: RE: Question about parallel fifths
From: Tunesmith
Date: 04 Dec 11 - 11:56 AM

The ubiquitous "power chords" ( beloved by heavy metal guitarists)involve moving shapes in 5ths.
I don't know if that has any relevance to this debate.


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Subject: RE: Question about parallel fifths
From: Stringsinger
Date: 04 Dec 11 - 12:47 PM

The debate over the use of parallel fifths begs the question, the cultural side of music as a language. As an analogy, some writers are considered to be unskilled because they don't use what some pundits would call "correct grammar". What some might consider "bad" writing, others would find emotional meaning in their work.

The same thing applies to music when it attempts to regulate harmonic rules, most of which today are outdated. Open fifths in harmony applies to traditional Appalachian folk singing harmonies and to the shape note hymns which break all conventions in standard harmony.
In short, music theory applies to cultural values and the original musical theory stemmed from early church edicts which have never been established as being accurate such as the so-called "church modes" which is used to classify folk tunes.


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Subject: RE: Question about parallel fifths
From: GUEST
Date: 04 Dec 11 - 01:48 PM

The problem with harmonising with fifths comes when you are aware of the chords used for the melody and the harmony note does not fit. You need to modify the harmony note to be the nearest to the fifth that fits with the current chord.
Most people instinctively harmonise with a third and modify that to fit with the current chord when necessary.


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Subject: RE: Question about parallel fifths
From: Phil Edwards
Date: 04 Dec 11 - 02:19 PM

when you are aware of the chords used for the melody

If I'm starting with a melody line, this doesn't apply, surely.


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Subject: RE: Question about parallel fifths
From: Don Firth
Date: 04 Dec 11 - 03:55 PM

In freshman music theory classes, a standard exercise is for the professor to give a simple melody to the class, and the students are assigned to take that melody and add three more voices to it, as if writing for a quartet or a choir. The professor gives the soprano part (melody), and the students are to add the alto, tenor, and bass parts.

A lazy student could simply write the other three parts in a combination of parallel octaves and parallel fifths, thereby creating a somewhat medieval sounding harmony, but not learning much of anything about the harmonic possibilities the melody offers. Hence the rule against parallel octaves and parallel fifths. For music students.

But the fact is that parallel octaves and parallel fifths are not verboten in classical Western European music. Digging through musical scores, one can find all kinds of examples of their use by well-known composers.

"So, why," asks the student sitting in the back row, "can't we use them when we write these exercises?"

The professor answers, "Parallel octaves and parallel fifths create a particular texture of sound because in a parallel octave, the upper octave reinforces the first overtone of the lower octave or fundamental note. And a parallel fifth reinforces the second overtone of the fundamental. The parallel fifth in particular is very strong. And unless you're trying to create that specific effect, it should be avoided. But there are, indeed, times when you want it.

"Let me put it this way:   we begin by teaching you the somewhat strict rules of harmony so that when the time comes when you may want to break these rules, you know why you're doing it."

In the Ian and Sylvia video clip, they use parallel fifths with very good effect, and I'm sure they knew exactly what they were doing. There are other songs in which that affect would be bloody awful!

Don Firth


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Subject: RE: Question about parallel fifths
From: The Sandman
Date: 04 Dec 11 - 04:09 PM

yes Don, spot on, you have explained, wot i triued to say earlier , in a clearer manner.
Subject: RE: Question about parallel fifths
From: Good Soldier Schweik - PM
Date: 30 Nov 11 - 05:13 PM

here is my experience you learn rules , then you learn when to break them, and the best adviser for trad music is your ears.


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Subject: RE: Question about parallel fifths
From: Phil Edwards
Date: 04 Dec 11 - 05:39 PM

Thanks, Don, now I'm even more confused.

The background to my original question was a combination of two things: (a) wanting to do some harmonising (on chorus songs and singing with my multi-tracked self) and (ii) noticing that the first and the fifth of the scale of X make a good drone for a song in the key of X; this made me think that I and V probably go together well, & that a good starting-point in writing harmony would be to go four steps up or three steps down (Do, Te, La, So) from any given note of the melody. Then it struck me that this would get you a harmony line that would sound a bit odd if played on its own (not that this is necessarily a bad thing). Unless you simply transposed the melody line into the key of So - but that wouldn't get you a constant interval. Hence the question.

If I understand right, you're saying that the rule (which can be broken) is "don't use parallel fifths". So if I was observing the rule, what should I use - fourths? thirds? seconds?


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Subject: RE: Question about parallel fifths
From: Jack Campin
Date: 04 Dec 11 - 05:53 PM

The rules are a way of achieving a result that can be identified as belonging to a particular idiom. If you want to sound naively folky in a faux-archaic way, use strict parallel fifths. If you want to sound early-mediaeval, use a mixture of fifths and fourths and aim for Pythagorean intonation. If you want to sound Georgian, use stacks of strict fourths. If you want to sound like a Renaissance-to-Baroque choral group, use thirds and triads and try for meantone intonation. If you want to sound like something in the Romantic era, add chords of the seventh or the ninth resolving in the textbook ways. If you want to sound barbershop, resolve to dominant seventh chords instead and use just intonation.

Every idiom has its own stylistic rules. Big harmony books have lots of examples from different periods, they don't just say that one idiom is the true one.


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Subject: RE: Question about parallel fifths
From: Phil Edwards
Date: 04 Dec 11 - 06:09 PM

Jack - I got some of that, but I'm really at the "where on the telegraph lines should the tadpole go?" stage when it comes to writing music. I don't know what 'resolving' means, let alone what the 'textbook ways' are - this is what I mean about not knowing the "rules that can be broken" - and I'm completely in the dark on intonation.


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Subject: RE: Question about parallel fifths
From: Tootler
Date: 04 Dec 11 - 06:31 PM

Pip,

You clearly need to learn some basics. You need to know about intervals and how they are used to make scales and chords, which intervals sound good together, which don't. From there you can then start to learn about adding parts to a basic melody.

There are three ways to go about it. One is to see if a local college does a course in basic music theory. The second is to go to your local music shop and see what they have in the way of books on basic music theory. There are plenty of them, it's a matter of finding one which works for you.

Third you could try the internet. Google "Introductory music theory" or something similar and you will get plenty of hits.

This one looks promising. http://www.musictheory.net/lessons


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Subject: RE: Question about parallel fifths
From: Don Firth
Date: 04 Dec 11 - 06:52 PM

Up to my ears in stuff right now, or I'd try to give a comprehensive answer to Pip's questions. But here's at least one:

"Resolving" refers to relieving a "dissonance" in the harmony. Dissonance is when two notes seem to clash in an unpleasant sound. Say C and Db played together. Like fingernails on a blackboard. But—sometimes you want a touch of dissonance to create tension in the harmony, to indicate "I'm not done yet! Stay tuned!" A sort of musical "cliff-hanger."

An everyday example of this: say you're playing in the key of C. One of the chords commonly used in that key is a G7. Now a G chord is "consonant," which is to say, the three notes that make up the basic chord, G, B, and D, sound good when they're played together. But if you add an F on top of the other three notes (seven scale steps above the root—G—hence, "7th"), the F and the B in particular don't quite get along. They form a "diminished fifth," which is a dissonant interval that calls for "resolution." When you change from a G7 to a C, the B in the G7 moves up a half-step to a C, and the F moves down a half-step to an E, "resolving" the dissonance.

The G7 chord is the "dominant 7th chord" in the key of C, and it provides the "drop the other shoe" effect at the ends of verses and the end of a song.

I hope I haven't totally muddied the issue. This stuff can be very confusing unless one goes at it systematically, beginning with the very basics (what is a scale, what kinds of scales are there, what is an interval, what is a chord), moving bit-by-bit into the messier stuff.

But it's well worth the study!!

Don Firth


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Subject: RE: Question about parallel fifths
From: GUEST,Grishka
Date: 04 Dec 11 - 08:02 PM

For the kind of song for which "singing in harmony" is defined at all, the usual method (that most of us started with when still very young) is:
a) Sing a third below the melody, major or minor so that you do not leave the scale/key,
b) Whenever that sounds wrong, i.e. does not belong to the imagined chord, try a sixth below the melody, or a third above it,
c) Sometimes it is possible to use a fifth to smooth the transition between a passage in thirds and one in sixths - the technique is called "horn fifth".

To add a third voice, try to find the notes that are missing for the chord (triad), but only if it is singable without big jumps. A fourth bass voice will mainly sing the base notes of the chords.

Listen to a lot of music you like and try to find out how they do it. Deaf people will never be good composers, however hard they study with excellent books and teachers.


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Subject: RE: Question about parallel fifths
From: Don Firth
Date: 04 Dec 11 - 08:17 PM

Uh--Beethoven?

Don Firth


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Subject: RE: Question about parallel fifths
From: ripov
Date: 04 Dec 11 - 08:42 PM

Surely in a round like "three blind mice" the chord sequence HAS to be repeated every time a new part comes in?


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Subject: RE: Question about parallel fifths
From: GUEST,Grishka
Date: 05 Dec 11 - 11:48 AM

Don, of course I mean deaf from birth, or effectively tone-deaf, or (more to the point) believing in books at the expense of listening.

An interesting question though: assume someone has heard a lot of music without caring, then becomes deaf, then decides to become a composer - might it work? I doubt it, since listening normally requires the right consciousness immediately. But as there are people with a "photographic memory", there may be others with a "phonographic memory" - who knows about that?


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Subject: RE: Question about parallel fifths
From: Don Firth
Date: 05 Dec 11 - 01:35 PM

Agreed, Grishka. Beethoven was already a well-known composer before he started to lose his hearing. He was so immersed in music that even when deaf, when he wrote something, or even when he looked at a piece of someone else's sheet music, he could hear it in his "mind's ear," so to speak.

It's amazing that he wrote his Ninth Symphony (the "Choral Symphony," with the last movement built around Schiller's poem, "Ode to Joy") when he was stone deaf. Legend has it that when he conducted its debut presentation, his conducting was way off. He was hearing it in his head, but managed to get "out of sync" with what the orchestra and chorus were actually doing. Fortunately the orchestra and singers were well rehearsed and managed to keep it together even though the conductor was off in his own world.

When it was over, Beethoven heard no applause from the audience. He stood there with tears running down his cheeks, convinced that he was simply past it. It was a failure! But the first violinist stood up and turned him around so he could see the audience on their feet and cheering wildly!

I don't know if the legend is true or not, but I like to think so. It didn't change Beethoven from being a surly bugger, but then he was born that way.

Anyway—    Back to our regular broadcast. . . .

Don Firth


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Subject: RE: Question about parallel fifths
From: Phil Edwards
Date: 13 Dec 11 - 04:21 PM

Thanks, all - especially leeneia, Grishka, Jack and Don. Here's the fruit of my harmonising labours:

The Holly and the Ivy

And this:


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Subject: RE: Question about parallel fifths
From: Jack Campin
Date: 13 Dec 11 - 04:37 PM

Sounds pretty good - the tune comes through clearly and there's nothing unnatural and weird about it.

The performance could do with a bit more precision, though. That should come soon enough.


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Subject: RE: Question about parallel fifths
From: Phil Edwards
Date: 13 Dec 11 - 06:52 PM

Just realised my second link got swallowed. Here it is again:

The Boar's Head Carol

The performances aren't perfect - and they're almost certainly not as good as what I can do in a live context. But when I'm singing live there's only one of me!


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Subject: RE: Question about parallel fifths
From: GUEST,Suibhne Astray
Date: 19 Dec 11 - 04:57 AM

I trust in my Fifth Instinct; it comes out in the most unexpected of places (i.e. not just in the Medieval) & to jolly good effect too - even if I say so myself (trusting as I do in the mutuable sound of joy). Anyway, I hit upon the harmony for Rock of Ages when Rachel started singing it a few years back but never thought how it might translate into the fiddle until a particular inspired sesh at The Moorbrook on Friday night (too much chocolate I reckon) which had us recording this demo on Sunday morning...

http://soundcloud.com/winterflora/rock-of-ages-medley-18-12-11


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Subject: RE: Question about parallel fifths
From: GUEST,Suibhne Astray
Date: 19 Dec 11 - 07:17 AM

As cool as great leather jackets, eh? I reckon they must mean me, even though in my dotage I'm more of a duffle coat man myself. I find duffle coats and parallel 5ths are the epitome of the Fluffy-Folk Cool - the lapels are ideal for creating button-badge dialogues. For example, on mine presently I'm wearing a Woodbine & Ivy Band chufty badge and a Rhombus ov Doom labyrinth in a juuxtaposition worthy of the Grayson Perry exhibity at the MCR gallery right now - there's a classic old punk leather in there BTW which is worth the visit alone...

Oh, Xmas Mud-Elves - could you leave Sayama's spam post in there so this one at least makes some sense? Ta!


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Subject: RE: Question about parallel fifths
From: GUEST,Suibhne Astray
Date: 19 Dec 11 - 07:18 AM

Bollocks! The zapped it before I posted...


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