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Thread: Clarification Please with Chords and instrument arrangements.

  1. #1
    Registered User
    Join Date
    Oct 2017

    Clarification Please with Chords and instrument arrangements.


    Please clarify this as I have been wondering about this literally for years.

    I want to compose a song, I will start using use 4 chords and from that build all the instruments notes. The song is in C Major scale the chord progression is I-V-vi-IV (C,G,a,F)

    One bar will be used for every chord.

    So for bar 1, I can use any of the following C chords because they are within the C major scale the Cmaj CEG, CSus2 CDG, CFifth9 CDG, Cmaj7 CEGB,

    Let's say I decided to use chord Cmaj CEG for Bar 1, does this mean that within bar 1, only these three notes can be played throughout all of the instruments, C E G?

    Because if I chose Cmaj CEG and I use other notes that are not in the CMaj chord, I am no longer playing a C Major chord.

    Or for bar 1 can I use any note that is within any C chord?

    What do composers of great songs normally do?

    Please do not respond, "In music you can do whatever you want" or "if it sounds nice go with it" music has no rules but it has common guidelines, In cooking class I can also do whatever I want but I wouldn't put ice cream in my scrambled eggs

    Thanks in advance for the help

  2. #2
    Registered User
    Join Date
    Apr 2009
    Dallas Texas
    I think of things slightly differently, but some of my observations may apply. I tend to think of theory from a more "classical" or "common practice period" viewpoint. However, the general ideas should be fine. I don't always start from a chord sequence; I prefer to start with a melody, but I do start with chord sequences quite often. I don't always use one chord per measure either; again, there's nothing wrong with that; for many of my dance pieces I use regular chord changes (one per measure or per two measures) with a few irregularities at the end of the piece or during transitions.

    I would generally write out the chords as just I-V-vi-IV-I-V-vi-IV....; the, depending on what other ideas I want to use, I'd either write out a tentative bass line or a tentative melody. (I don't generally think of whether I have a C or C7 or C9 or the like at this point. Classical theory often treats these chords as just ordinary C chords with the 7 or 9 or 13, etc. as a melody line. The dominant 7 C-E-G-Bb chord is a chord in itself.) It's easier to describe a bass line (which I like to write early and revise later.) What's important is that the voice leading is good. Especially between the bass and the melody because these are easily heard; the inner voices (or chord filler as I think of it) stand out less.

    First (for the bass line) there's a decision between linking up the chord basses (as opposed to the roots). I like to sketch out the chord roots; then the actual bass, then add whatever non-harmonic bass tones are needed to form a nice bass line; also I have to choose whether the bass line moves slowly or walks more quickly or whatever. Starting with (thinking of whole notes assuming the pieces is in 4/4) one has C-G-A-F for roots. This is nice enough in some cases but there are nice variants: C-B-A-F might be nice as a descending line for a song suitable for such treatment; the chords are then C-G6-a-F (or C-G/B-a-F if you prefer this notation; I like to keep the bass completely separate so changes do not affect the notation of other parts). Another possibility is C-B-C-A as C-G6-a6-F6. It's nice to vary the bass between phrases so one might write C-B-A-A-C-G-A-F (C-G6-a-F6-C-G-A-F). In a rock or jazz or some Spanish styles, one could put sevenths on G, F, and a chords (or even the C chord) which thickens the texture but doesn't have too much to do with the bass line. The a minor seventh chord tends to drag the sound back around the note C as this chord could be considered a C with an added sixth; this is a matter of taste. There is a harmonic consideration when using a rising bass here; C-D-E-F is possible, but there nominal chords would be C-G64-a64-F; one might write C-b6-C6-F (changing the chords slightly but the overall harmony doesn't change much especially if done in a few places perhaps where some emphasis is wanted.) The bass line C-B-A-F does call out for a non-harmonic G to be inserted (at least I think so.) One could write C-B-A-G-C where the A-G pair is half notes; this will sound fine.

    To continue the bass rhythm, the type of music needs to be considered. Of late, I've been writing some Cuban style stuff (rumbas and boleros) and some other stuff (like a foxtrot). The basic bass rhythm for a rumba or bolero (at least in ballroom dance music) is a half-note then two quarter-notes in each measure (with lots of variants to create interest). A C chord may call for a bass like C-g-g (where the lower case letters represent quarter notes and the upper case half notes; I know it's an abuse of notation, but I don't have the time to write examples and post pictures of things; I'm not that quick.) The first g is usually an octave higher than the second but both could be the same. This is a tiny extension of the oom-pah-pah rhythm of marches and polkas. If one puts the same structure on the four chords one gets as a bass line C-g-g-G-d-d-A-e-e-F-c-c repeated. The triple repeats of the G and C notes between the first and second measures and between the fourth and fifth (first actually) measures give a static effect. Thus the idea of a walking bass arises. Lets try something that may be of interest; we'll change the quarter notes a bit (they won't always be 1-5-5 of the chord all the time) and add a passing G between the A and F. C-b-a-G-f-e-A-c-g-F-e-d is a possibility. The transitions between chords are either from a fifth (dominant) relation of from a scale-like part; there's lots of descending bass. This example shows why I like to think of things as a measure of C then G then a then F rather than a measure of C C/B a7 G g7/f g/e A a/c a/g F F/e F/d (or just dm7). The bass line is somewhat independent of the chords being used.

    Now the melody can be stuck on top of the structure. I like to think of songs as consisting of four parts: a bass line, a bunch of chords, and a melody on top, accompanied by some rhythm stuff (drums or the like.) Each part may have more than one voice: country music may use two or three violins on a melody (or even several voices) and the bass may be spread among actual basses or pianos or winds; the inner voices (as I generally write) are often piano chord patterns used rhythmically or guitar strumming or orchestral instruments playing chords; the drums are a separate but connected entity (as most drums are not tuned they don't take part directly in the harmony.) Perhaps some discussion of melody can be done later. I don't much like the chord-melody notation as I find it rather hard to read and it often gives the impression of harmonic changes where none happens, only the melody or bass goes through non-harmonic movement.

    One can do more with bass lines than described above. There's nothing wrong with having different patterns for different measures (or even for the same measure in a different repeat.) The last bass line I wrote, C-b-a-G-f-e-A-c-g-F-e-d, could be usefully changed to C-b-a-G-f-e-A-c-e-f-g-a-b where the fourth measure has for quarter-note. This makes for a smooth f-g-a-b scale movement into the C at the next measure. Walking basses with scale passages do not disturb the harmonic setting.

    Another possibility is to use a bit of chromaticism at times. Secondary dominants can be stuck in before a major or minor chord without disturbing the overall harmony. A simple idea would to split the third measure into two half-note parts using E7 and a as chords; the bass line (and melody) would have to be adjusted. Going a bit further chromatically one might have chords C-gm6-Ab-F or G-gm6-Ab-f or maybe using a c minor somewhere. This is an easy way to emphasize a lyric then go back to the previous chord pattern. There are lots of possibilities. Generally, things work well if the voice leading is good. Note that your original chords are almost the same as those in Pachelbel's canon. Take C-G6-a-e6-F or C-G6-a-C64-F (or in slash notation C-G/B-a-e/G-F or C-G/B-a-C/G-F) which walks down the scale nicely. Any two chords could be given half length to make the phrase 4- measures (though having a 5-measure phrase in amongst a bunch of 4-measure phrases is also common.)

  3. #3
    Registered User
    Join Date
    Apr 2009
    Dallas Texas
    I cannot seem to attach anything, neither pdf nor mp3. I'll try later.

  4. #4
    Registered User
    Join Date
    Apr 2009
    Dallas Texas
    Thanks, I'll try that site.

    The last stuff I wrote is what I sent you at Sons of Sibelius a few months ago. (I just write as a hobby when not travelling.)

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