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I am starting to feel the faster I push the tempo in a piece I'm working on, the harder it gets to compose? But then, there is actually less notes themselves that need to be written?

I am getting frustrated and a little bit of writer's block on the last movement of my first real attempt at a full scale piano Sonata.

I have set it at a "Presto" tempo and I am finding that at such a high tempo, close to 180 bpm, it is very hard to actually write something at this pace that is also musical. I see that I am needing less notes to fill out the voicing, actually pretty much only one voice in each hand at most parts, but finding those notes is a struggle. Vs the 2nd movement which basically wrote itself, yet the staffs are crammed full of notes and multiple voices for each hand.

I just find this curious that while the musical complexity is much simpler, the writing process is becoming so much harder.

I ask if anyone has any tips for writing when at a fast tempo? While still being able to incorporate certain themes and motifs from the prior 2 movements.

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For writing at a fast tempo, I recommend ditching your quill and using a modern ball point. It's the dipping that slows you down.



Kristofer Emerig said:

For writing at a fast tempo, I recommend ditching your quill and using a modern ball point. It's the dipping that slows you down.


Modern ball point? What is this modern ball point you speak of.
Durned smartass college kids and their newfangled ways.


David Lilly said:


Kristofer Emerig said:

For writing at a fast tempo, I recommend ditching your quill and using a modern ball point. It's the dipping that slows you down.


Modern ball point? What is this modern ball point you speak of.

Try to avoid thinking note-by-note, but instead think of groupings of notes, even whole measures or groups of measures. At a very fast tempo, each measure is probably being processed as a beat anyway.

Not sure if you write using a notation program, but let "copy and paste" be your friend, especially for sketching out ideas. You can always refine/alter the specific notes later.

Okay, in all seriousness, what you are grappling with is the question of melodic tempo (or rhythm) versus harmonic. This is only a problem if viewed as such, because it requires many more melodic events distributed across each harmonic device (change). Indeed, it can be a concept exploited to unusually rewarding ends, when the harmonic rhythm becomes uncoupled from the underlying harmonic motion, and occurs in complex time ratios. What we are touching upon is a sort of melodic/harmonic hemiola, or better, and more generally speaking, polyrhythm (because hemiola is somewhat restricted to the interplay of two versus three rhythmic relationaships).

This is of course a cursory statement on the matter, one to which I pay a great deal of attention, but it's a start toward greater consideration. If you keep your melodic statements in lockstep with harmonic changes, requiring the mere act of cramming more passing/neighboring tones into the same statement, you will find that varying tempo and underlying rhythm are at best ineffectual, and at worst, naive-sounding. Variegation in the ratio between melodic and harmonic motion often separates the remarkable from the mundane.



Kristofer Emerig said:

Okay, in all seriousness, what you are grappling with is the question of melodic tempo (or rhythm) versus harmonic. This is only a problem if viewed as such, because it requires many more melodic events distributed across each harmonic device (change). Indeed, it can be a concept exploited to unusually rewarding ends, when the harmonic rhythm becomes uncoupled from the underlying harmonic motion, and occurs in complex time ratios. What we are touching upon is a sort of melodic/harmonic hemiola, or better, and more generally speaking, polyrhythm (because hemiola is somewhat restricted to the interplay of two versus three rhythmic relationaships).

This is of course a cursory statement on the matter, one to which I pay a great deal of attention, but it's a start toward greater consideration. If you keep your melodic statements in lockstep with harmonic changes, requiring the mere act of cramming more passing/neighboring tones into the same statement, you will find that varying tempo and underlying rhythm are at best ineffectual, and at worst, naive-sounding. Variegation in the ratio between melodic and harmonic motion often separates the remarkable from the mundane.

Thank you, and DriscollMusick for the suggestions. 

I liked the idea of thinking measure by measure in terms of presenting melodic and harmonic material. I also thank you Kristofer for your 'serious' reply. I found it very thought provoking. 

Maybe by luck, perhaps inspired by the above mentioned knowledge, perhaps by a placebo affect, but the composition of the piece is moving along swimmingly now. 

Hi David,

I can tell you what my thought process is, for what it's worth.

I guess it's a mixture of what Kris and Driscoll M say. Being aware of actual time itself is a factor - 10 bars may only take 20 seconds at a fast tempo, but can take all day to write and this minutiae can skew your perception of the overall flow of the music. By flow, I mean the rate of harmonic change and melodic/motivic pacing. This is I think what Kris is alluding too (albeit more eloquently). Too much movement in either of the above over a short span of time (perhaps those 20 seconds) can sometimes end up in confusion (as too much is inputted in too short a time ) and a loss of directional clarity. Slowing down harmonic rate of change against more movement in the melodic line is a good brake and aids comprehensibility for the listener, especially if you engage in clear motivic development too (after all you are writing a sonata!). Kris is right in that de-coupling harmonic rhythm offers a rich field of developmental processes and is exciting and inspiring to explore.

Staying in local keys (or even the same key) for more bars will also stabilise your thoughts and allow extended writing over tempo appropriate time spans - which again aids comprehension. Less is best (as you are finding out) at fast tempos.

DriscollM said it right too for me in that thinking in longer phrases is the way to go. An emotional (climactic?) planned pathway over many, many bars can help, this should be melodic but definitely  harmonic  - a rate of change can be planned that will  get you to where you want to be and make any destination on that pathway inevitable. Most important is the pacing of the music and a forward, almost pre-ordained plan really helps in assessing rates of change and their effectiveness.

Just one more thing to consider is irregular bar lengths - break out of any 8-16 bar thinking as that drags your music back into predictability. 

Hope this gives you some ideas.

Agree. :-)

DriscollMusick said:

Try to avoid thinking note-by-note, but instead think of groupings of notes, even whole measures or groups of measures. At a very fast tempo, each measure is probably being processed as a beat anyway.

Not sure if you write using a notation program, but let "copy and paste" be your friend, especially for sketching out ideas. You can always refine/alter the specific notes later.

Why not write it at a  slower tempo, and then speed it up when the notes are all correct?

I do this all the time when checking notes..

Thanks Bob https://soundcloud.com/bob-morabito

As SHAO and Driscoll have already said, thinking in groupings of notes is important.  Fast music goes by quicker than it looks, especially since it often takes more time to write out! And Mike gives some very good advice as well.  

One thing I find helpful is to keep a metronome nearby.  Usually it's to check tempi of things I've come up with, and to check that everything that I've written fits into the tempo I've started with (for instance, 16th notes or semiquavers will sound completely different in a fast tempo than a slow tempo!)  But if you're unsure of something, do check it against a metronome and see how it sounds.  

Something else that will help me give more relevant advice: what is your process like?  Do you write on paper or a computer?  Do you work at an instrument?  If so, which instrument?  How much do you sketch?  

Sorry if I've bombarded you with questions, but knowing these things is useful for giving advice :)

Is it verboten to mention DAW's? You input notes at a slow tempo...increase the tempo...voila!

Here's a video that addresses this issue without using DAW's (in a kind of round-about way)...enjoy!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FDEx-YtU9mU

Let me say (in English) what I think Kris is alluding to.  You need to decide which notes are melody and which notes will fill in the chords.  An excellent example is Ravel's, A Boat on the Ocean.  He will write one accented note of melody followed by 20 notes of arpeggio, the next accented note of melody and 20 notes of arpeggio, etc.  The ear hears the melody piercing through a flood of water.  I would write out the accented melody spread out in tempo and then fill in the arpeggios after the melody is established.

     Actually I liked Kris's first answer best.
 
Kristofer Emerig said:

Okay, in all seriousness, what you are grappling with is the question of melodic tempo (or rhythm) versus harmonic. This is only a problem if viewed as such, because it requires many more melodic events distributed across each harmonic device (change). Indeed, it can be a concept exploited to unusually rewarding ends, when the harmonic rhythm becomes uncoupled from the underlying harmonic motion, and occurs in complex time ratios. What we are touching upon is a sort of melodic/harmonic hemiola, or better, and more generally speaking, polyrhythm (because hemiola is somewhat restricted to the interplay of two versus three rhythmic relationaships).

This is of course a cursory statement on the matter, one to which I pay a great deal of attention, but it's a start toward greater consideration. If you keep your melodic statements in lockstep with harmonic changes, requiring the mere act of cramming more passing/neighboring tones into the same statement, you will find that varying tempo and underlying rhythm are at best ineffectual, and at worst, naive-sounding. Variegation in the ratio between melodic and harmonic motion often separates the remarkable from the mundane.

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