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Thread: Suggestion of easy harmony for Clarinet?

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    Suggestion of easy harmony for Clarinet?

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    Hi,

    I'm starting to arrange some melodies of Clarinet.

    What intruments do you think fit well to it? The melodies are rather slow, melancholic.

    I'm looking for an "easy formula", like, a way that I have only to pick the chords, and I can make the arrangement for all musics following a similar proceedment.

    Of course I could later refine the arrangement, but what I'm looking for now is a simple formula that works.
    Like a strummed guitar for example could work, but I couldn't do it on VSTi, and I need to do this using VSTi.

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    Well - there is no such thing as an easy formula. In the UK we still use a grade system for musical instruments - 1 through to 8, then it goes up murderously. We also have a grade 5 music theory standard - and that is probably the most complicated, hard to understand thing going! Its impossible to even attempt to explain in a topic post like this, but I'll try to explain a few essential features.

    First thing that you do NOT have to be able to play an instrument or sing to understand music theory. Much is actually maths, but maths related to frequency in the main. Since perhaps the days of the early music - think before Henry VIII in England - music started to follow rules. Rules that if followed, produced pleasing results, and if ignored ones that clashed. If you have produced a nice melody, that you can hum - then if you want to add more notes, you've automatically started to work in a musical key - assuming your melody follows normal 12 tones in an octave scales. If you start learning music theory when you are young, you tend to write music in the key of C because it doesn't use any of the black notes on the piano! The simplest music will have 3 different chords - and if you look at the notes of your melody, you will see that some fit into one or more of the notes in a simple Major triad chord. So if the melody goes C-D-E-F, your chord could move from C Major to F Major when you hit the F. Your ear and brain will tell you this - but your ear and brain might not be able to hear it. Some people just can't. If you can't, I'd personally advise giving up, because having a good ear to what works and doesn't work I don't believe can be learned. You have it, and aren't aware of it - or you don't.

    As your understanding off music theory develops, you can add in more complex chords, or chords with notes missing depending on what pops into your head. Music theory will teach you how it works. which notes support and which notes destroy. Much of the stuff goes back to the time of Beethoven and Bach - Bach Chorals being essential background for how harmony works. Music theory even covers bass notes, because back in those historic days they didn't waste time writing the bass lines, they just indicated to the player what kind of bass would be there and the players had to work it out from the clues in the music. Look up figured bass.

    Moving forward huge amounts of theory, you come to instruments and textures. Your slow melancholic clarinet could sit with a solo piano, or a string quartet, or a woodwind ensemble, or synth pads. These are not like adding a guitar - they provide a foundation for the melody line to rest on. There really is mono single set of rules that works, because that's a brain function of the composer - having an idea, trying it out, altering the spread and range of instruments - adding stuff at the bottom adding stuff at the top, using brass as punctuation. Look at the pop songs from the 40s through to maybe the 90s - the Motown stuff, the Gershwin, the big band, the original Batman TV series music - it's broad melodies with stabbing brief stuff from some instruments - it's even deliberate clashing notes that make you think. Break the rules and often it become unpleasant. Think the psycho shower string stabs. Discordant, wrong, rule breaking excellence.

    So much comes down to your abilities If you play your melody in a loop, can you find notes on the piano that support them and make the melody better? It doesn't;t matter what notes they are if they work, and can you identify ones that really don't work? If you can, your brain has already taught itself some of the music theory conventions without you even knowing. If you can't, your progress will be slow and faulty. Not knowing the rules is fine, and even writing your own is not a waste of time as long as your rules are very similar to the ones the listeners use to determine success. Not everyone (me included) can listen to atonal music, or music that uses weird scales or micro tuning - like some ethnic Asian music. I just cannot hear not without wincing. It isn't bad, it's just too different to the rules I've grown up with.

    Not everyone can arrange.Not everyone can compose. Not everyone can wear the tag musician. If you can do things, but just want a framework to work inside, then music theory can help. The question would be that why are you asking? You need to get the groundwork done. If you arrange something, it has to already exist. You already should know what instruments would work well and which wouldn't - as in bagpipes are probably the wrong choice ........ unless they're not! Picking the chords is the hard part. Melancholy often means minor chords, which are often sad rather than happy. There is no formula for success, only rules that help rule out failure. You can have a perfectly formed, no rule breaking piece that is just instantly forgettable, or you could have a rule breaking success. Listen to that old song - Dionne Warwick's Heartbreaker about 18 seconds into the intro there is a note added to the chord that is a very strange choice - it's a Major chord but with a loud Major 7th - it's kind of deliberately added to make the chord uncomfortable, and it dies away just as the melody comes in. It's wrong, but very right at the same time. It was often a thing thrown in to music exams to see if people understood. You would get loads of people justifying it musically and lots saying it simply was a terrible choice for a note in that chord. The chord my itself isn't unusual at all - just the context that messes with people's understanding of the rules. My granny taught me piano and told me that Major 7ths were horrible chord - you NEVER had a B and a C together. That was her teacher's opinion I guess, because Major 7ths I really like played quietly, Dionne Warwick makes the 7th clash a feature and it of course works.

    I'be very confused when you say you can't do it on VSTi? Why can't you do it? Do you mean you want some automatic chord generator? The first thing for many people is to use the piano or the guitar to try out your chords and their progression - once you have the chords, you can play them on virtually any instrument - real VSTi or in between. You can't decide on strumming rhythms until you have the chord progression. Or maybe you actually could do a rhythm first them work them into chords. The only rule of music club is that it exists, and you can challenge the rules, once you know what the rule is in the first place. To break the rule needs you to know the rule.

    Music theory is dull and boring (and very hard) but the skills stay with you for ever. every heard a brand new piece of music and knew exactly what the next note was going to be, and then when you heard it, you were right? That's music theory. Just be aware that not everyone can do it. if you can't that's perfectly fine, and from my teaching days, some people really just cannot do music. However - what do I know. The student I wrote off as unable to sing in tune, and without even a decent voice now makes his living as a professional singer, making far more money that I do - and he can now sing really well. I have no idea what happened.

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    I mean... anything in the orchestra could work.

    Piano works with pretty much anything.

    There are midi guitar options, but they're usually not very good.

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    If you're not remotely into classical music - see if you can even imagine the clarinet melody that goes along with any of these tracks. Kind of karaoke for mega serious clarinet fiends!
    Gade

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