creative rock

Shaun Bax­ter brings you the first part of his les­son on cre­at­ing har­mony-guitar parts.

Guitar Techniques - - Learning Zone -

As it is based mainly on sim­ple chord forms and straight­for­ward rhythms, our cur­rent se­ries on neo-clas­si­cal rock gives us a good op­por­tu­nity to look at the var­i­ous prin­ci­ples and pro­to­cols be­hind cre­at­ing har­mony parts to a given melody. When har­mon­is­ing a melody, two voices (pitches) may move in three ways in re­la­tion to each other. 1) Con­trary mo­tion: mov­ing in op­po­site di­rec­tions 2) Sim­i­lar mo­tion: mov­ing in the same di­rec­tion 3) Oblique mo­tion: one re­mains sta­tion­ary while the other moves

Sim­i­lar mo­tion is the one that is most com­monly used in rock mu­sic. I’m sure you’re aware that there are sig­nal pro­ces­sors called har­monis­ers (into which in­stru­ments can be fed on their way to the am­pli­fier) that si­mul­ta­ne­ously gen­er­ate another note (or notes) a spe­cific dis­tance from the orig­i­nal note (above and/or below it).

Ba­sic (non-in­tel­li­gent) har­monis­ers work by gen­er­at­ing a sec­ond note in re­sponse to the first. The time lag be­tween the first and sec­ond note is so small that the lis­tener per­ceives both as be­ing played si­mul­ta­ne­ously, thus cre­at­ing a har­mony. The user pro­grammes the har­moniser so that the sec­ond (har­mony) note is a pre-set dis­tance away. For ex­am­ple, if you pro­gramme the har­moniser to gen­er­ate Mi­nor 3rds above the orig­i­nal, the sec­ond (har­mony) note will al­ways be three semi-tones higher than each note played.

This form of sim­i­lar mo­tion – where two in­ter­vals re­main the same dis­tance apart – is known as par­al­lel mo­tion. Oc­taves, 5ths and 4ths tend to work best with non-in­tel­li­gent har­monis­ers; how­ever, un­less you are us­ing oc­taves (the iden­ti­cal note 12 semi­tones higehr or lower), the sec­ond note won’t al­ways be in the right key.

In­tel­li­gent har­monis­ers al­low the user to pre-pro­gramme a par­tic­u­lar scale (G Ly­dian, for ex­am­ple) and, rather than al­ways gen­er­ate a note that is a con­sis­tent dis­tance away from the orig­i­nal, it will com­pen­sate. For ex­am­ple, if we pro­gram the har­moniser to cor­re­spond to the C Ma­jor scale, and ask it to gen­er­ate 3rds, it will pro­duce a D note each time one plays a B note (an in­ter­val of a mi­nor 3rd), but then pro­duce an E note when a C note is played (a dis­tance of a ma­jor 3rd). The har­moniser will com­pen­sate in a sim­i­lar man­ner for any other cho­sen in­ter­val/ har­mony with any par­tic­u­lar scale of your choos­ing; how­ever, the mo­tion cre­ated by an in­tel­li­gent har­moniser is still con­sid­ered to be par­al­lel (in other words, a mi­nor 6th fol­lowed by a ma­jor 6th is still con­sid­ered to be par­al­lel 6ths, even though the 6ths are of un­equal size).

Although used heav­ily in rock and pop, cer­tain modes of par­al­lel mo­tion (such as unisons, 5ths and oc­taves) were sys­tem­at­i­cally avoided in the 18th and 19th cen­tury; so Beethoven would prob­a­bly be spin­ning in his grave to know that there are ma­chines that ex­ist in order to pro­duce such mu­si­cal ‘mon­strosi­ties’.

Thank­fully, we don’t con­tinue to live in such pedan­tic times; how­ever, the tra­di­tional ob­jec­tions to cer­tain forms of par­al­lel har­mony do have a prac­ti­cal ba­sis, and are not just rooted in some pompous aes­thetic.

Melod­i­cally, the lim­i­ta­tions of par­al­lel mo­tion are quite easy to ob­serve. For ex­am­ple, if one were to cre­ate a par­al­lel har­mony for a two-note melody com­pris­ing G to B by si­mul­ta­ne­ously play­ing B to D, although har­mo­nious and cor­rect within the key of C, we would get two con­sec­u­tive B notes. This form of rep­e­ti­tion can start to sound par­tic­u­larly te­dious when played in suc­ces­sion (such as when har­mon­is­ing arpeg­gios in par­al­lel 3rds).

To coun­ter­act this, one could: In­crease the dis­tance (reg­is­ter) be­tween the var­i­ous

parts (such as mov­ing one or more parts up or down an oc­tave) so that none of the fol­low­ing notes du­pli­cate any of the pre­vi­ous pitches. Avoid par­al­lel mo­tion by ap­ply­ing ei­ther con­trary mo­tion or oblique mo­tion. Omit cer­tain notes, so that the har­mony is im­plied. Or cre­ate rhyth­mic coun­ter­point, so that the lis­tener gets a sense of har­mony from notes as they are played con­sec­u­tively, rather than si­mul­ta­ne­ously.

Re­gard­ing a method for es­tab­lish­ing har­mony parts, you could try any of the fol­low­ing: Play­ing all of the voic­ings si­mul­ta­ne­ous on one in­stru­ment (de­pend­ing on the dif­fi­culty of the line). Pro­gram­ming each part via MIDI in a DAW (Dig­i­tal Au­dio Work­sta­tion) such as Pro Tools, Logic or

Although used heav­ily in rock and pop mu­sic to­day, cer­tain modes of par­al­lel mo­tion were sys­tem­at­i­cally avoided al­to­gether in the 18th and 19th cen­tury.

Cubase, so that you can hear them all played back to­gether. Write the parts out us­ing mu­sic-no­ta­tion soft­ware such as Si­belius, Finale or No­tion (ini­tially, this will be quicker and eas­ier to see if you can put all of the parts in one stave). Again, each of these types of pro­gram will al­low you to hear the re­sults as it ‘plays’ the score, gen­er­at­ing the re­sults via MIDI. You could, of course, get to­gether with other mu­si­cians!

In the fol­low­ing mu­si­cal ex­am­ples, we are go­ing to dis­cuss some of the pros and cons of par­al­lel mo­tion. We will touch on some al­ter­na­tive forms (con­trary and oblique mo­tion), but will con­cen­trate mainly on ways of ap­ply­ing par­al­lel and sim­i­lar mo­tion in an ap­pro­pri­ate and ef­fec­tive man­ner.

So far, we have dis­cussed how par­al­lel mo­tion of­ten re­sults in re­peated notes when the melody moves in the same in­ter­val as the ac­com­pa­ny­ing har­mony line(s). Another in­her­ent dis­ad­van­tage is that par­al­lel mo­tion doesn’t al­ways ar­tic­u­late (re­late to) the un­der­ly­ing har­mony (chords).

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