4 part-writing exercise - need evaluation

Chords, scales, harmony, melody, etc.
rbarata
KVRist
464 posts since 6 Feb, 2005 from Portugal

Post Mon Sep 24, 2018 8:45 am

Here's my exercise (the first from a series of at least 10) of 4 part-writing.

Had a lot of issues mainly due to a poor writing between bass and soprano (if you noticed they move in similar motion most of the time).
Anyway...here it is:

Image

The key is C Maj...the software doesn't use lower case numerals so don't care about it. :wink:

KBSoundSmith
KVRian
706 posts since 6 Jul, 2009

Re: 4 part-writing exercise - need evaluation

Post Mon Sep 24, 2018 10:08 am

I assume you haven't gotten to writing with inversions yet. In which case, I'll base all advice purely around root position movement. Quick question: are you writing the bass and soprano part from scratch, or are you using a cantus firmus given to you in an exercise book (which book are you using by the way)?

As you noted, the similar motion between bass and soprano is a bit much. Whenever possible, contrary motion is preferable -- in these kind of exercises, you want to have each voice be as independent as possible so that they can all be heard as their own melody... similar and parallel motion undermine voice independence. This becomes easier as chord inversions become available in your exercises. Given this issue between the outer voices, I think you would benefit from writing the entire bass and soprano parts first and make sure they're as good as possible, before attempting to write the inner voices.

Now regarding the part writing...

The first section, IV - V - I is fine, using the solutions from the other thread.

Now the second section.

As mentioned before, the relationship between the outer voices (soprano bass) isn't ideal, too much similar motion. You've handled the movement of I - V - vi - IV mostly fine (for those of you wondering, doubling the third in the vi chord is common). But notice that you have alternating Perfect 5ths and octaves occurring between the bass and tenor -- this is generally undesirable. It is somewhat unavoidable here due to the movement between soprano and bass, so it's the correct solution given the soprano/bass parts... but better outer voice relationships would help alleviate this issue. And when you start writing with chord inversions, this will be significantly easier to avoid as well.

The movement from IV - ii has a mistake: direct octaves (8ves) between bass and alto; it is more problematic as well since they move from a perfect interval (perfect 5ths) to a perfect interval (perfect 8ves). There's a simple fix here: double the fifth by moving the alto down to an A.

The movement from ii - V also has a mistake: direct octaves between soprano and bass, again from a perfect 5th to a perfect 8ve. Starting from the voicing of the ii chord as you currently have it written, the better solution here would be to have the soprano move up to B, the alto remain on D, and have the tenor move up to G. Notice also that you have direct fifths between the bass and tenor -- this is avoided by having the tenor move in contrary motion up to the G.

Next, you have V moving to V over the bar line. This should be avoided. Generally, when moving from an area of metric or rhythmic weakness to an area of metric or rhythmic accent, it's desirable to change the chord entirely. Changing from one voicing of the same chord is fine within the context of a single measure, particularly if it's from one inversion to another, but you want to avoid doing so over the bar line, at least in your exercises. You should move directly to the I chord and end on a whole note or leave a half note rest instead.

As you noted, the relationship between your soprano and bass is what lead to most of the issues facing you in this exercise. Try to rely more on contrary motion, and the rest of the part writing will be made much easier.

By the way, good for you for attempting this type of disciplined approach!

rbarata
KVRist
464 posts since 6 Feb, 2005 from Portugal

Re: 4 part-writing exercise - need evaluation

Post Mon Sep 24, 2018 1:15 pm

KBSoundSmith wrote:I assume you haven't gotten to writing with inversions yet. In which case, I'll base all advice purely around root position movement. Quick question: are you writing the bass and soprano part from scratch, or are you using a cantus firmus given to you in an exercise book (which book are you using by the way)?
Yes, I have some practice on know how to use inversions. But as this was an exercise with just root position chords (so the bass was the cantus firmus), my poor choice of the soprano created most of these problems.
This is an exercise from Piston's Harmony (Harmonic progressions chapter).
KBSoundSmith wrote:The movement from IV - ii has a mistake: direct octaves (8ves) between bass and alto; it is more problematic as well since they move from a perfect interval (perfect 5ths) to a perfect interval (perfect 8ves). There's a simple fix here: double the fifth by moving the alto down to an A.
As the alto is moving conjunctly I thought it would be ok (same thought applied to other similar occurrences in the piece).
The solution of lowering the A won't it create direct 5ths between bass and alto?
KBSoundSmith wrote:The movement from ii - V also has a mistake: direct octaves between soprano and bass, again from a perfect 5th to a perfect 8ve. Starting from the voicing of the ii chord as you currently have it written, the better solution here would be to have the soprano move up to B, the alto remain on D, and have the tenor move up to G. Notice also that you have direct fifths between the bass and tenor -- this is avoided by having the tenor move in contrary motion up to the G.
I tried not to change too much the soprano. I thought about moving it to a B but in the next V chord there was also a B, which is "mandatory" to the resolution of the leading tone. So I decided to, for variety sake, to use other than a B.
KBSoundSmith wrote:Next, you have V moving to V over the bar line. This should be avoided. Generally, when moving from an area of metric or rhythmic weakness to an area of metric or rhythmic accent, it's desirable to change the chord entirely. Changing from one voicing of the same chord is fine within the context of a single measure, particularly if it's from one inversion to another, but you want to avoid doing so over the bar line, at least in your exercises. You should move directly to the I chord and end on a whole note or leave a half note rest instead.
That's something I was not aware of. Always learning! :)
KBSoundSmith wrote:As you noted, the relationship between your soprano and bass is what lead to most of the issues facing you in this exercise. Try to rely more on contrary motion, and the rest of the part writing will be made much easier.

By the way, good for you for attempting this type of disciplined approach!
Maybe I'll try a different version with a better soprano.

Thanks for the detailed evaluation. :)

KBSoundSmith
KVRian
706 posts since 6 Jul, 2009

Re: 4 part-writing exercise - need evaluation

Post Mon Sep 24, 2018 1:52 pm

rbarata wrote:
KBSoundSmith wrote:The movement from IV - ii has a mistake: direct octaves (8ves) between bass and alto; it is more problematic as well since they move from a perfect interval (perfect 5ths) to a perfect interval (perfect 8ves). There's a simple fix here: double the fifth by moving the alto down to an A.
As the alto is moving conjunctly I thought it would be ok (same thought applied to other similar occurrences in the piece).
The solution of lowering the A won't it create direct 5ths between bass and alto?


Ah, nice catch. It would indeed be a parallel fifth. This would actually be a good time to point out that in moving between the IV and ii chord, one or both of them are usually in 1st inversion; and when both are in 1st inversion, one of the two chords will typically have a doubled third, which helps avoid some instances of parallel fifths and octaves.
rbarata wrote:Maybe I'll try a different version with a better soprano.

Thanks for the detailed evaluation. :)
No problem. Another quick tip for when you try another soprano line, especially as you introduce inversions into your writing: you should generally lean toward using an interval of a 3rd or 6th between the bass and soprano, typically reserving 5ths and 8ves for cadences. Of course, you don't have to do those things exclusively -- but it will often make the lines more interesting and internal voices easier to write later.

rbarata
KVRist
464 posts since 6 Feb, 2005 from Portugal

Re: 4 part-writing exercise - need evaluation

Post Mon Sep 24, 2018 2:48 pm

KBSoundSmith wrote:Another quick tip for when you try another soprano line, especially as you introduce inversions into your writing: you should generally lean toward using an interval of a 3rd or 6th between the bass and soprano, typically reserving 5ths and 8ves for cadences. Of course, you don't have to do those things exclusively -- but it will often make the lines more interesting and internal voices easier to write later.
Nice tip. I have read it somewhere in the last few days but there's so many things to be aware of that I skipped it.

Thanks again. :)

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ChamMusic
KVRian
887 posts since 12 Jun, 2006 from Birmingham, UK

Re: 4 part-writing exercise - need evaluation

Post Tue Sep 25, 2018 11:21 am

rbarata wrote:Had a lot of issues mainly due to a poor writing between bass and soprano (if you noticed they move in similar motion most of the time).
Struggling to understand here...

You post it with a sentence that sums up the core problem behind just about all the other issues in there!

FANTASTIC...you've analysed it and identified a serious problem...

Why, then didn't you change it? Why not rewrite the Soprano line if you knew that it had issues?

Personally, I think it would've been better if you'd gone that far (at least) and then posted it for feedback...

I also genuinely applaud your efforts with all the harmony exercises you're doing, but...

Getting advice via forums such a this one is a delicately balanced situation which can lead to a lack of willingness to experiment and lazy thinking if you're not very careful.
Last edited by ChamMusic on Tue Sep 25, 2018 11:29 am, edited 2 times in total.
Mark Taylor
Chameleon Music

rbarata
KVRist
464 posts since 6 Feb, 2005 from Portugal

Re: 4 part-writing exercise - need evaluation

Post Tue Sep 25, 2018 11:27 am

ChamMusic wrote:
rbarata wrote:Had a lot of issues mainly due to a poor writing between bass and soprano (if you noticed they move in similar motion most of the time).
Struggling to understand here...

You post it with a sentence that sums up the core problem behind just about all the other issues in there!

FANTASTIC...you've analysed it and identified a serious problem...

Why, then didn't you change it? Why not rewrite the Soprano line if you knew that it had issues?
Well, that's my next task. Just tried to see what could be done with it. :D

User avatar
ChamMusic
KVRian
887 posts since 12 Jun, 2006 from Birmingham, UK

Re: 4 part-writing exercise - need evaluation

Post Tue Sep 25, 2018 11:31 am

rbarata wrote:
ChamMusic wrote:
rbarata wrote:Had a lot of issues mainly due to a poor writing between bass and soprano (if you noticed they move in similar motion most of the time).
Struggling to understand here...

You post it with a sentence that sums up the core problem behind just about all the other issues in there!

FANTASTIC...you've analysed it and identified a serious problem...

Why, then didn't you change it? Why not rewrite the Soprano line if you knew that it had issues?
Well, that's my next task. Just tried to see what could be done with it. :D

See my additional edit above...I'm sure you'll be fine , but just be careful that you don't rely on this forum too much! :0)
Mark Taylor
Chameleon Music

User avatar
ChamMusic
KVRian
887 posts since 12 Jun, 2006 from Birmingham, UK

Re: 4 part-writing exercise - need evaluation

Post Tue Sep 25, 2018 12:21 pm

KBSoundSmith wrote:ou want to have each voice be as independent as possible so that they can all be heard as their own melody
Everything KB suggests is spot on, but this is your other core issue here...the parts do NOT work very well as independent melodies.

It always amazes my students that when they focus on this a little more and get it 'right', everything else often starts to fall into place as if by magic! :)
Mark Taylor
Chameleon Music

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ChamMusic
KVRian
887 posts since 12 Jun, 2006 from Birmingham, UK

Re: 4 part-writing exercise - need evaluation

Post Tue Sep 25, 2018 12:25 pm

Sorry, one other quick point that always helped me when I was doing these sorts of exercises some 40 years ago now...

Don't just rely on all the rules and LOOKING at the score.

LISTEN as well.

Sometimes it will just sound wrong... and then you can have a closer look and find out why.

It is, after all, about something to listen to / perform...eventually anyway!
Mark Taylor
Chameleon Music

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jancivil
KVRAF
15356 posts since 20 Oct, 2007 from No Location

Re: 4 part-writing exercise - need evaluation

Post Tue Sep 25, 2018 4:50 pm

I just want to say that, while it was mentioned as a certain "discipline" to have all root position chords, as far as really learning how to part-write, this is not that.
So you're going to run into numerous unnecessary problems through this situation.

You need to hear everything you write. I don't know if you live somewhere where there is absolutely no school for this at all, or what.
I benefitted from a course where the teacher played every example right away.

But it's way, way past time to learn to write using real voice-leading; particularly learn how to form a good bass line. Maybe you can rely on given top line-melody for the moment but as has been said voice-leading is part_writing. You cannot expect to deal honestly with a bass line in the style with the avoidance of inversions.

rbarata
KVRist
464 posts since 6 Feb, 2005 from Portugal

Re: 4 part-writing exercise - need evaluation

Post Wed Sep 26, 2018 7:44 am

These exercises come from Piston's Harmony book.
I believe they were designed this way so that the students think about the general rules for connecting root position chords. The book, at this stage, just scraps the surface of potencial errors in part writing and worries even less with any form of style.
But these exercises are good so that students have contact with several types of errors and gain experience in detecting them. It is also important to recognize the importance of inversions as solutions to some errors while improving the musicality of the exercise.

As I write all of them in a software, I hear everything I do. In this exercise I made some changes just because it sounded not right...maybe I got into bigger problems by doing it but I used my ears. :)

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BertKoor
KVRAF
10644 posts since 8 Mar, 2005 from Utrecht, Holland

Re: 4 part-writing exercise - need evaluation

Post Wed Sep 26, 2018 8:30 am

Maybe one purpose of this excersize is to show you what troubles it gives when not using any inversions ;-)
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ChamMusic
KVRian
887 posts since 12 Jun, 2006 from Birmingham, UK

Re: 4 part-writing exercise - need evaluation

Post Wed Sep 26, 2018 8:46 am

rbarata wrote:Piston's Harmony book.
Don't just rely on one source of education on this sort of topic...

I own that and have delved many times over the years, but it's quite an inflexible tome in certain ways and doesn't work well for all. Frankly, it's methods are quite anachronistic.

Also, Piston had some quite odd theories and ideas regarding harmony which appear in later editions of his book... they can muddy the waters and confuse those with less experience.
Mark Taylor
Chameleon Music

rbarata
KVRist
464 posts since 6 Feb, 2005 from Portugal

Re: 4 part-writing exercise - need evaluation

Post Wed Sep 26, 2018 8:49 am

BertKoor wrote:Maybe one purpose of this excersize is to show you what troubles it gives when not using any inversions ;-)

Yes, that's one of the things I meant in my previous post.

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