How to use dissonance?

Chords, scales, harmony, melody, etc.
Stamped Records
KVRist
293 posts since 20 Sep, 2018 from UK

Post Wed Jan 15, 2020 1:15 pm

In melody, harmony and/or both.

Just want to open it up for thoughts to see if it matches anything I have in mind.

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Forgotten
KVRAF
7485 posts since 15 Apr, 2019 from Nowhere

Re: How to use dissonance?

Post Wed Jan 15, 2020 1:33 pm

It would depend on which approach to music that you are looking at. For the longest time dissonance in Western music was looked at as undesirable, or used sparingly for effect. The 20th century changed that, and dissonance became more common across many forms of music.

You’re mostly not going to find dissonance in melody as it’s a function of harmony, although it might occur in Asian modal music based on drones, particularly in the form of sympathetic strings, etc.

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AngelCityOutlaw
KVRist
156 posts since 4 Dec, 2017

Re: How to use dissonance?

Post Wed Jan 15, 2020 1:59 pm

You should read up on the different types of "non-chord tones" as that's the most basic and common usage.

Other than that, use of things like tone clusters, diminished chords, tritones, etc. are all very style-dependent.

Most at-home in horror scores and heavy metal

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Me-VhC9ieh0

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i9wmbfr-GlY

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Gamma-UT
KVRAF
5211 posts since 8 Jun, 2009 from UK

Re: How to use dissonance?

Post Wed Jan 15, 2020 2:01 pm

Forgotten wrote:
Wed Jan 15, 2020 1:33 pm
You’re mostly not going to find dissonance in melody as it’s a function of harmony
Palestrina woke from his long slumber and yelled "NOOOOOOOOOOOOO!".

"Mi against fa is the devil in musica" - was applied to either vertical harmony or leaps within a single melody* (the rhyme's a bit confusing because mi and fa in this case come from different hexachords in the Medieval system, so it describes a tritone interval not a semitone).

However, a lot depends on how you define "dissonance". Folk music has always used dissonance. The Medieval/Renaissance Church tried to rule it out because it was considered to be unholy. Even fourths were dissonant, despite being perfect. However, in reality it had less to do with dissonance per se than the way counterpoint worked at the time according to Palestrina's (and later Fux's) rules because of the way fourths and fifths are related.

There are lots of situations today where supposedly dissonant intervals and harmonic combinations really aren't, depending on their context and the degree to which people have got accustomed to them (eg playing "outside" vs "inside" in jazz). It's probably better to think of degrees of tension and release because the language around dissonance is so loaded.

* A Performer's Guide to Renaissance Music, p357

imrae
KVRian
900 posts since 2 Jul, 2010

Re: How to use dissonance?

Post Wed Jan 15, 2020 2:32 pm

How does one use dissonance? Usually, by resolving it.
Forgotten wrote:
Wed Jan 15, 2020 1:33 pm
For the longest time dissonance in Western music was looked at as undesirable, or used sparingly for effect. The 20th century changed that, and dissonance became more common across many forms of music.
This does not match my understanding at all. There is plenty of dissonance to be found in older music, but it is kept within (then-)tasteful limits and usually resolved to achieve a satisfying release of tension. The appoggiatura in baroque music generally begins on a dissonant note before resolving down to something more consonant (e.g. a 9th to an octave). The "amen" (plagal) cadence is used in lots of ecclesiastical music and the voicing of the IV chord is often slightly dissonant with a fourth above the (inverted) bass note.

The 20th-century innovations were in finding ways of extending dissonance or weakening tonality all together. But it didn't start there.

Rather than listen to me bang on about definitions, go check out this masterclass in using dissonance (and dynamics) to create atmosphere, tension, drama, excitement...

(Written by Haydn in 1798)
https://youtu.be/NyO4VqZP1k8

(Saw Gamma's post after writing this, will just add that Palestrina is pretty great.)

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Forgotten
KVRAF
7485 posts since 15 Apr, 2019 from Nowhere

Re: How to use dissonance?

Post Wed Jan 15, 2020 3:08 pm

imrae wrote:
Wed Jan 15, 2020 2:32 pm
This does not match my understanding at all. There is plenty of dissonance to be found in older music, but it is kept within (then-)tasteful limits and usually resolved to achieve a satisfying release of tension.
As above it depends on definition of dissonance, but I was assuming deliberate and outré use of dissonance that’s become much more normalized in the past 100 or so years.

I thought my phrase “used sparingly” was a good quantifier for CPP, but I think I like “within tasteful limits” better.

Stamped Records
KVRist
293 posts since 20 Sep, 2018 from UK

Re: How to use dissonance?

Post Wed Jan 15, 2020 3:28 pm

How much does dissonance relate to strong and weak beats? And, say I have an F11 chord that I like the sound of, F,A,E,G,B,E - write music to give dissonance to a melody of this chord?

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Forgotten
KVRAF
7485 posts since 15 Apr, 2019 from Nowhere

Re: How to use dissonance?

Post Wed Jan 15, 2020 3:44 pm

Are you sure you mean F11?

Without a melody line it’s hard to comment on where this chord might fit in.

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KVRist
293 posts since 20 Sep, 2018 from UK

Re: How to use dissonance?

Post Wed Jan 15, 2020 5:58 pm

So, there are dissonant intervals in that chord. How would I express that dissonance through melody?

That's what I took it to be but the official chord name is F9#11. I do have an E for the major 7th so I don't know why it's calling it a 9th. As long as I get the note name I'm fairly happy, I'm not gonna go splitting hairs over # or natural 11ths when I'm on my own, but it has made me curious to hear a natural 11th now, because had I built the chord on C I would have had the natural 11th.

Well anyway, here's the thing, I know it's entry level stuff but would it be fair to split that chord into an F7 below and an Em above and have two melodies or arpeggios express those chords against eachother and call that dissonance? I'm not saying that's all that dissonance is, but would that be dissonance?

If I could get a handle on dissonance, I could then alternate dissonance and consonance between two instruments ey.

Natural 11th is actually much more dissonant sounding with the same voicing, horrific.

I don't want to simplify this too much and upset or offend people, but it appears that the added notes (in terms of how the chords are named) tend to be the dissonant notes.

Does it take two instruments to be dissonant with eachother or can one instrument be dissonant by itself?

Is there a correlation between the number of voices in a harmony, and the amount of dissonance that can be achieved?

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Forgotten
KVRAF
7485 posts since 15 Apr, 2019 from Nowhere

Re: How to use dissonance?

Post Wed Jan 15, 2020 6:36 pm

That chord will sound dissonant for a number of reasons.

If it truly does have an F root then you also need to call out the flat 5th. 9th is correct because of the G, so I would call it F Maj9 b5.

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Gamma-UT
KVRAF
5211 posts since 8 Jun, 2009 from UK

Re: How to use dissonance?

Post Thu Jan 16, 2020 1:45 am

Stamped Records wrote:
Wed Jan 15, 2020 5:58 pm
So, there are dissonant intervals in that chord. How would I express that dissonance through melody?
Focus on the E-F transition: it's the most dissonant interval in the collection. If you actually had an F9#11, you'd also have the B against C. But, as Forgotten pointed out: that's missing. And it's why the natural 11th sounds more dissonant in that context, because you're introducing another minor second that you don't have in this chord.

Basically, what you've got here is a chord that fits into Lydian and, to some extent, exposes the ambiguity over whether a tritone is dissonant or not. George Russell's Lydian Chromatic book on jazz kicks off with an exercise that demonstrates that under the right context that Lydian fourth (B) sounds more natural than the Bb you'd expect in the Major mode.
Well anyway, here's the thing, I know it's entry level stuff but would it be fair to split that chord into an F7 below and an Em above and have two melodies or arpeggios express those chords against eachother and call that dissonance?
That would be a polychord. But it's not an F7, because you're missing the fifth and in all likelihood, the E would be perceived as part of the upper chord - but a lot depends on voicing.

Polychords are not necessarily dissonant or evoke tension, though they are often used to beef up the tension. This example doesn't really sound all that dissonant or tense at all. A lot depends on the voicing. The two Es that might seem to clash with the F are some way apart. What you've got here wouldn't seem out of place in sedate lounge piano jazz. Play it as a five-note cluster starting on E and it's going to sound a lot more tense.
I don't want to simplify this too much and upset or offend people, but it appears that the added notes (in terms of how the chords are named) tend to be the dissonant notes.
Chords are built on thirds, so simple chords are generally less dissonant. The extra notes are often called "tensions".
Is there a correlation between the number of voices in a harmony, and the amount of dissonance that can be achieved?
Mash the keyboard in a big 10- or 12-note cluster. Compare to the Psycho example. Which one evokes more tension? Herrmann's is pretty focused use of minor seconds in carefully chosen registers that build up instrument by instrument to pile up the pressure, and then releases it with the chord change.

https://musescore.com/user/73842/scores/94014 (you need to scroll down for the famous bit)

https://www.spitfireaudio.com/editorial ... cho-score/ (original manuscript)

Kraftwerk pull a similar trick at the beginning of Trans Europe Express (though with less obvious tension) to evoke the sound of a train approaching and then passing with the relief part as the accumulated chord changes.

However, if you want the sound of chaos, the big-ass cluster may be what you want. Looking at it from the perspective of what is "dissonant" or "consonant" may not achieve the musical, emotional target you want to achieve.

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Forgotten
KVRAF
7485 posts since 15 Apr, 2019 from Nowhere

Re: How to use dissonance?

Post Thu Jan 16, 2020 4:31 am

Gamma-UT wrote:
Thu Jan 16, 2020 1:45 am
I don't want to simplify this too much and upset or offend people, but it appears that the added notes (in terms of how the chords are named) tend to be the dissonant notes.
Chords are built on thirds, so simple chords are generally less dissonant. The extra notes are often called "tensions".
This is a good point, as it depends what you mean by “added notes”. Don’t confuse a seemingly complex named chord with dissonance, as sometimes a written chord name that looks complex can sound very consonant. It’s going to be specific intervals in a specific context that sound dissonant.

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KVRist
293 posts since 20 Sep, 2018 from UK

Re: How to use dissonance?

Post Sat Jan 18, 2020 5:22 pm

No, what I'm saying is that when we look at how the chord is constructed, it will generally be the seconds, 4ths, 9ths 11ths and 13ths that are adding the dissonance. Well, the interval is what is adding the dissonance, not either not of the interval but the interval itself, and these intervals would tend to be the added notes of a chord as opposed to the main triad itself?

Anyways, I never thought to consider the b a flat 5 in my chord. Oddly enough it would have to be a minor key to have a major flat5 so that's worth exploring a bit more tomorrow.

It's actually not that difficult using when you know what the dissonant and consonant intervals are. What's really fun, I'm finding, is building a melody, but holding the tonic note til later. Latest track opens with a melody based around some kind of extended chord and I used the aug4 interval between the 3rd and 7th degrees of the chord to open the track, then a drone lands in on the tonic later in the track and it just feels so right.

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Forgotten
KVRAF
7485 posts since 15 Apr, 2019 from Nowhere

Re: How to use dissonance?

Post Sat Jan 18, 2020 5:32 pm

Stamped Records wrote:
Sat Jan 18, 2020 5:22 pm
Anyways, I never thought to consider the b a flat 5 in my chord. Oddly enough it would have to be a minor key to have a major flat5 so that's worth exploring a bit tomorrow.
That’s why I said that if it has to have F as the tonic you need to consider the 5th as flat.

Not sure what you mean by being minor if it has a flat 5th. The I chord will be a minor 7th in a minor scale, and a Major 7th in a major scale.

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KVRist
293 posts since 20 Sep, 2018 from UK

Re: How to use dissonance?

Post Sat Jan 18, 2020 5:37 pm

Yeah, but the only occurrence I currently know of, of a flat 5 is in the subtonic of major and supertonic of minor. They are both diminished chords - so minor 3rds from the root, not major.

EDIT: A major flat 5 can land on the flat 6th of the minor mode. That's one natural occurrence that I can think of.

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