Hi, after attending a class in modern harmony during this last months, I have some questions about the embellishments and chords used in a contemporary composition in A dorian, which is a little bit tricky for me. You can find the score attached to this message.

Bar 3: how do you explain the b in the melody?
Bar 5: why did the author choose a Fmaj7? Maybe he wanted to have a bass going down by step (from F# to F to E)?
Bar 9: is the f# in the melody a passing note? Do you think that the following d is an anticipation?
Bar 10: what is the semiquaver b in the melody?
Bar 11: what is the semiquaver g# in the melody? Maybe just an add#9?
Bars 20-21: how would you explain the Vmin7-IIImaj7 chord sequence?
Bar 23: what are the notes used in the melody?
Bar 27-28: why did he use IImaj6-IIIm7 (that, at least in classical harmony, is quite rare)?

I really need to know at least a few answers, so I would be very thankful if you can help me.

Chrono_Trigger_Main_Theme.PDF

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Replies

  • Hi Bob,

    I don't understand. I analysed a few other modern compositions (i.e. blues, jazz and Beatles) and all the embellishments are explainable, the harmony can be not straightforward but I understood why those chords have been used.

    This one is a video game piece from the 90s: most of the things make sense for me from a modern harmony point of view, others don't. But it cannot be always a question of "it's there only because it sounds good".

  • Bob has given you a good answer here. Music theory is primarily a tool used to help us understand the basic functions of western music. Being able to put a technical name on a sound only does so much for a listener though.

    If you are analyzing this for a class you should have been given specific structures to work with.  In practice these systems are often open to interpretation, so the choice of labeling is up to you, not one of us.  Basically, I would say that unless you are dealing with atonal music you can relate any tempered tone to a tonal center with the tools that you have.

  • Hi, thanks for the answers.

    I am studying this piece by myself and is more advanced than what I have seen during the classes.

    I don't know if there is a misunderstanding with the word "modern", but certainly what I studied about blues, jazz and some pop doesn't work and sound exactly like the classical compositions that I analysed by Bach, Mozart, Haydn and Beethoven.

    For example I feel that 7ths, inversions, secondary dominants, chord progressions, etc. are all used in a different way.

    This is what I mean with "modern", I am not sure if I am using the proper word and if we are talking about the same thing.

    At this point I feel a little bit lost, it's like when you reach the end of the road: in the past I wrote music without knowing anything about theory at all so this is not the problem, but the reason why I started to study music seriously was that I wanted to have a solid structure in my works to begin with.

    I still do not have the skills to move from compositions which follow the rules to others with more flexible rules, I need to fill the gap, to understand when it does make sense to insert some external note and when it's better to stick with the rules.

  • I think many artists spend a great deal of time studying works of other artists, either directly or through some educational institution.  I think you should define what artists (composers) have written works that you identify with and then study those artists directly. Get the scores and recordings and spend many hours studying. Studying an instrument will help with this tremendously.

    If you identify with classical composers past the common practice period of standard music theory then you should seek out an institution or individual composer who can help with this.  An alternative would be to study jazz theory, or even jazz performance.  Jazz theory addresses much of what you hear in western popular music, especially in its advanced forms. Jazz performance lets you become familiar with advanced rhythms and harmonies to the extent that you can express yourself without relying on theoretical concepts.

  • This is exactly what I am doing: the classes were mainly about jazz theory (even modern jazz), so that part is quite clear to me now.

    I am selecting some works to analyse made by the composer's that I like most, like the one posted here. I am asking on the forum only because I spent enough hours in trying to understand what is going on: I sorted out most of the doubts, the others are just not solvable for me, with my current skills.

    Right now I am searching for a good book with an accurate analysis of modern compositions.

  • Do you play an instrument? Are you working with scoring software or a DAW? Have you written some pieces? Like Bob says, theory only takes you so far.

  • I play piano and keyboards (on an average level), I used to work with cubase and finale.

    I posted something on this forum a while ago, but I wasn't satisfied with the final results (very far from what I was thinking, even if in the right direction) and it took me too much effort to write anything, because they were written by ear only.

    I will try to follow your advice and to apply what I studied, let's see what I can get now. At least my improvisations make more sense now.

  • There are many ways to approach composition, improvisation is a good way.  Cubase and Finale plus a midi keyboard should allow you record and then edit your improvisations as one approach.  You can create parameters to direct your improvisations, eg. "all 1/8th notes with alternating time signatures but only one chord". 

    Maybe create different unrelated fragments for a few days, and then go back and edit them into larger structures, apply different orchestrations and sound effects, maybe some vocalisation. Experiment! Don't try for perfection, do it and then move on.  Collaboration with others helps too, get out and mingle, there's lots of good people out there who can help.

    Alfred La Fleur said:

    I play piano and keyboards (on an average level), I used to work with cubase and finale.

    I posted something on this forum a while ago, but I wasn't satisfied with the final results (very far from what I was thinking, even if in the right direction) and it took me too much effort to write anything, because they were written by ear only.

    I will try to follow your advice and to apply what I studied, let's see what I can get now. At least my improvisations make more sense now.

    Questions about embellishments and chords in a contemporary score
    Hi, after attending a class in modern harmony during this last months, I have some questions about the embellishments and chords
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