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Composition

Posted by PnPride 
Composition
June 24, 2017 07:50AM
Hello everyone!:) I'm new to the forum, hoping to have some answers of certain aspects of music theory that I'm trying to grasp recently, especially if it comes to compositions.

1) I'm writing a song in E minor, first part has Em -> Gm progression and second one has Em -> Dm -> Cm. I'm using a melodic fill on the first part that contains E,D, C#, in my opinion it sounds great HOWEVER C# is an offkey in E minor. Is there any rule that allows to rise a 6th note half a step? I could leave it at that but I would like to know why it fits together so well.

2) Is it a common practise to have a composition in .. let's say B minor but with a dominant E?

3) can you mix different keys in a song?

thanks in advance ! :)
Re: Composition
June 24, 2017 09:55AM
PnPride Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> Hello everyone!:) I'm new to the forum, hoping to
> have some answers of certain aspects of music
> theory that I'm trying to grasp recently,
> especially if it comes to compositions.
>
> 1) I'm writing a song in E minor, first part has
> Em -> Gm progression and second one has Em -> Dm
> -> Cm.

Hello
Your song isn't in the key of E minor. All the chords apart from E minor itself are foreign to the key of E minor. G minor contains Bb, D minor contains F and C minor contains Eb - all foreign notes. You might be emphasising E minor to sound like the tonal centre, but with those foreign chords, you can't expect it to sound like it's in the 'key' of E minor. It is what it is, a sequence of chords, and that's fine, Not all music is in a key.

I'm using a melodic fill on the first part
> that contains E,D, C#, in my opinion it sounds
> great HOWEVER C# is an offkey in E minor. Is there
> any rule that allows to rise a 6th note half a
> step? I could leave it at that but I would like to
> know why it fits together so well.

Yes, the scale of E melodic minor (ascending form) has C#
E F# G A B C# D# E

>
> 2) Is it a common practise to have a composition
> in .. let's say B minor but with a dominant E?

I don't understand. The 'dominant' is the technical name for the 5th scale degree, which is F# in that key. E is the subdominant. If you make it sound like the dominant, then the song will no longer sound like it's in B minor - but A minor.


>
> 3) can you mix different keys in a song?

Depends what you mean by mix. You can change key whenever you like. You can only have one key at a time (excluding polytonality modern classical stuff). Or you can ignore keys completely and just put together chord sequences that sound good., but if you want to write in a particular key, you have to conform to the structure of that key or the song won't sound like it's in that key. You can use foreign chords for various purposes e.g., to add spice, expand its range with borrowed chords, force a key change, etc. but too many will spoil the key. It might make good keyless music though.



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 06/24/2017 10:16AM by Fretsource. (view changes)
Re: Composition
June 24, 2017 11:38PM
Thank you for an answer :)

1)
I made a small typo on my first question in regards to chords. It is Em, G major, next one is Em then D major and C major, that should fit now right? is it common to mix major and minor chords in a song?

the scale of E melodic minor (ascending form) has C#
E F# G A B C# D# E

the passage is C#, D, E it contains D instead of D# that's why it doesn't fit

2)
Sorry about confusion, by dominant I meant something like a leading tone, a note what you use at start and the end of the song



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 06/24/2017 11:50PM by PnPride. (view changes)
Re: Composition
June 25, 2017 01:24AM
PnPride Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------

> I made a small typo on my first question in
> regards to chords. It is Em, G major, next one is
> Em then D major and C major, that should fit now
> right?

Yes - but the absence of D# notes in your chords might make it sound more modal (Aeolian mode) than minor. It depends on your melody.


is it common to mix major and minor chords
> in a song?

Extremely common if they belong to the key. In fact, I can't think of any song in a minor key that doesn't also include major chords.
>
> the scale of E melodic minor (ascending form) has
> C#
> E F# G A B C# D# E
>
> the passage is C#, D, E it contains D instead of
> D# that's why it doesn't fit

E natural minor contains D and so does E melodic minor (descending form).
E D C B A G F# E D
So you have both D and D# and C and C# at your disposal, to use whenever the context calls for one or the other. If you want an E scale that has C# and D (but no C or D#) then E Dorian mode is the one:
E F# G A B C# D E

> 2)
> Sorry about confusion, by dominant I meant
> something like a leading tone, a note what you use
> at start and the end of the song

You mean the TONIC - not leading note or dominant. Leading note is the 7th scale degree when it's one semitone (half step) lower than the tonic - and usually leads up to the tonic in music.Sing or play a major scale and you'll hear the leading note leading up strongly to the tonic.It's the leading quality of that note in music that makes the tonic sound like the tonal centre or 'home' note or chord of the key.



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 06/25/2017 01:27AM by Fretsource. (view changes)
Re: Composition
June 25, 2017 01:16PM
I'd be interested to know why you think your composition is in the key of E minor...?

The minor key includes the notes of both melodic and harmonic minor scales, so C# does belong to the key of E minor just as much as C-natural does. However, in conventional use it would almost always be followed by D# (which, in turn, would normally be followed by E). That is, unless you're using it merely as a decoration; a chromatic run for example.

You mention the word "rule". If you're trying to conform to the tonal traditions of the Common Practice Period, then there are indeed certain conventions like this to be aware of. If you're not however, then you don't really need to be concerned with it (or any "rule"), and indeed, whether or not it's "in E minor" is largely irrelevant. Just do whatever sounds good to you.

But be aware that, just because you label something as "in E minor" does not necessarily mean that's how it will be perceived. If it doesn't follow any of the traditions and uses a large number of notes and chords outside of that key, then it won't likely be perceived as being "in E minor" by anyone else, and thus, in reality it isn't really "in E minor" at all.

That's not to say you have to follow some paint-by-numbers formula of course. You can certainly start on the dominant, you can include chromaticism etc. - this has always been done. You still have enormous freedom within "E minor" to do what you want...But, to coin a phrase, it helps to be aware of the rules before you're able to break them (effectively).

Check out this textbook on Four Part Harmony.
Re: Composition
June 26, 2017 07:51AM
@Fretsource
Thank you, I think I get it now :)

@JumpingJackFlash
why I think that it is E minor? I always thought that the matter which scale I use is based on what notes I use, if they fit the scale description then it must be it.. or am I wrong?
Re: Composition
June 26, 2017 03:03PM
PnPride Wrote:

> why I think that it is E minor? I always thought
> that the matter which scale I use is based on what
> notes I use, if they fit the scale description
> then it must be it.. or am I wrong?

Well, it's a bit more complicated than that.
As I'm sure you know for example, a relative major shares the same notes as its relative minor (E minor and G major for example), so how do you tell whether it's in Em or in G? To get slightly more complicated, it could even be in the Dorian mode on A, the Phrygian mode on B, the Lydian Mode on C, the Mixolydian mode on D and so on. It could even be completely A-tonal for that mater... The notes by themselves isn't enough to say, it depends on the context. There is more to tonality - writing in a key - that just what notes to use.

One important factor is what sounds like home? - What is the goal of the piece, the place of rest, the centre? - (In tonal music we call this the "tonic").
Another factor is how is this centre established? With tonal music, it is typically established through functional harmony. In modal music, melodic patterns are more important.

If there isn't any recognisable centre, it can't truly be said to be tonal music, regardless of what notes are used. (Some people dislike the term "a-tonal", but it may well be more appropriate than labelling something as Em when it doesn't function that way).

Check out this textbook on Four Part Harmony.
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