Likes Likes:  0
Results 1 to 6 of 6

Thread: voice leading for orchestra?

  1. #1
    Newbies
    Join Date
    Jun 2010
    Posts
    2
    Post Thanks / Like

    Default voice leading for orchestra?

    Hello everyone, I'm new to the forum and wanted to ask people that are way more intelligent and practiced than I am some rather stupid and probably very basic questions.

    I have a strong love for music. Even so, I chose not to pursue a college degree but decided to study independently instead. I have read (not memorized) some various books and feel like I have a basic understanding of theory, counterpoint, and orchestration.

    So, here is the precursor to my rather stupid question(s).

    My theory text spends a lot of time having you write in four-part harmony trying to avoid "forbidden parallels" and the like, all the while informing you that these rules are for common-practice music and that newer musical styles do not take them quite so seriously (if they don't disregard them completely). But, as I made the transition from my theory text to my orchestration text, there arose a question for which (as far as I was aware) neither text seems to provide an answer (Possibly because I misunderstood some obvious implication, was generally not paying enough attention and therefor missed it, or I am just plain not smart enough to have deduced the rather obvious answer...).

    And now the stupid question(s).

    A full orchestral tutti has many more than the basic "four voices" interacting and moving independently all at the same time (goodness knows that even a solo pianist can, and often does, muster more than just four voices!). I don't understand how I'm supposed to avoid "forbidden parallels" and maintain independence of the voices (while writing in a common-practice style) when such a task seems practically impossible!

    Are these rules mainly for the choral SATB style and otherwise not taken quite so seriously? I've heard multiple times that,"If the individual sections of the orchestra are written well, then the whole orchestra will sound good." Does this mean that I am supposed to make sure that the individual sections have good voice leading within themselves and the contrasting timbres of the opposing sections will cause them to maintain their independence or is the saying total poopiness and should be disregarded completely? And if I'm interpreting the saying correctly, then what about when many of the string sections are playing divisi? With the homogeneous sound that the string sections possess as a whole, how am I supposed to maintain independence in the voices? Am I just not good enough at composing to handle these situations? Is it just that avoiding "forbidden parallels" is far more important when you have multiple melodies playing in contrast to each other (counterpoint) and doesn't matter that much for the chordal accompaniment that the rest of the orchestra provides as a background in a tutti section? Why do I want this "independence of the voices" when that part of the orchestra is just providing a chordal/harmonic background to the more important melody/melodies that are playing at the same time? Maybe the practice of four-part writing throughout the text is just a preparation for counterpoint and isn't really so important in homophonic music? (If so, it would've been nice if they would let me know these things.) How would the great composers of the past have done it (taking into account the differences in style and compositional ****-retentiveness of the period in which they were composing)?

    Any help that you can give me would be GREATLY appreciated!

  2. #2
    Senior Member SuperTonic's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jun 2010
    Location
    Fort Worth, TX, USA
    Posts
    2,980
    Post Thanks / Like
    Blog Entries
    1

    Default

    First off, I don't consider this to be a stupid question at all. Learning how to write for SATB is a good way to introduce common practice era harmony, but I've always felt that music theory texts do not do enough to extend the lessons learned from those exercises to other contexts.
    To answer your question, I would say to just listen to the music and let your ears tell you what to do. The reason parallel fifths and octaves are to be avoided in SATB writing is because they stick out like a sore thumb and are not very pleasant to the ear. In other formats, you may be able to get away with it. In general I would say you should probably avoid them in the outer voices regardless of the context. But if you listen to the piece and it sounds okay to you, then I wouldn't worry about it too much. Afterall, that is really all that matters.

    This reminds of an exercise I had to do for one of my composition classes in college. The assignment was to take the harmonic progression from the C major prelude from Bach's Well-Tempered Clavier, and rewrite it in the style of a Chopin Mazurka. It was a fun exercise, but the climactic moment of my peice sounded absolutely awful to me. It was obvious that there was some kind of "forbidden" parallelism going on, but for the life of my I couldn't figure out where it was happening. I finally took it to my professor for some help and he found the problem immediately. The problem occured between outer voices, the reason I hadn't identified it was because the motion between those voices were not parallel. It had never occurred to me that you could have parallel fifths between two voices that are moving in contrary motion! Anyway, it was an easy fix, I just used the first inversion for the second chord and the parallel fifths went away.

  3. #3
    Newbies
    Join Date
    Jun 2010
    Posts
    2
    Post Thanks / Like

    Default

    This helps a lot, thank you very much!

  4. #4
    Newbies
    Join Date
    Jun 2010
    Posts
    9
    Post Thanks / Like

    Default

    Yes, you can have parallel fifths between voices in contrary motion - antiparallel 5ths and 8ves, but those things are expected to be known and are described in textbooks. If two voices are in a 5th or 8ve and then move to another 5th or 8ve in contrary motion, this is antiparallel.
    "Education" means today: to know something of everything without understanding anything at all!
    - Arnold Schoenberg

  5. #5
    Senior Member Rasa's Avatar
    Join Date
    Apr 2009
    Posts
    1,247
    Post Thanks / Like

    Default

    Hah, that is actually the most interesting question I have seen on this forum. One that is actually about srs business.

    But to answer it:

    The rules you read about SATB writing stem from the age of polyphony, and contrapuncual writing. The reason you shouldn't write 5ths or 8ths in parallell is because if you do that, there is effectively only 1 voice ( 5ths and 8ths are the closest harmonics): parallel 5ths and 8ths were common in Gregorian chant, where it was the period's practice to do so. It was considered 1 part. The whole point of counterpoint () is to write in multiple voices, so the rules exists to avoid merging the voices.

    The argument can be made that it sounds bad, but this is just a cultural acquisition after 10 centuries of no 5ths and 8ths.

    However, in orchestra writing there is the factor of "orchestration". When encountering voices that form parralel 8ths (and to lesser extent 5ths), these are not voices that have an actual polyphonic functions. They are not one of the voices so to say. Rather, they serve to change the texture of a voice.

    The question of independent voices in an orchestral score is pretty much up to the composer: how many actual voices does he use? Which voices serve to create texture? Is the harmony created by polyphony or homophony?

    The more independent voices, the more difficult it becomes to keep those voices independent.

  6. #6
    Newbies
    Join Date
    Jun 2010
    Posts
    9
    Post Thanks / Like

    Default

    Parallel 5ths and 8ves doesn't sound bad by themselves, in a objective way. Classical harmony developed from counterpoint (and chords are products of the unfolding melodic lines), where lines independency is important, hence the rule. In modern harmony (such as in jazz) the approach is more vertical, so to speak, and they are freely used.

    It is important to make distinction between "real" voices and doubling, as mentioned above - when it comes to orchestration, violin 1 could double violin 2 and these are not considered parallels.

    And classically, antiparallels are forbidden, as well.

    However, an intervening melodic interval between the two parallels, if it is big enough (a fourth), can take away the listener's attention and soften the effect. Needless to say, this appears in literature.

    Finally, parallels are not considered errors when they should appear in order to meet another requirement - a motivic one, melodic figuration, sequences, etc.
    "Education" means today: to know something of everything without understanding anything at all!
    - Arnold Schoenberg

Similar Threads

  1. Favorite opera singers in each voice type
    By Isabelle in forum Opera
    Replies: 171
    Last Post: Jan-28-2021, 09:08
  2. Which voice SHOULD I be?
    By Baroquefanatic in forum Voice and Choir
    Replies: 9
    Last Post: May-30-2012, 09:20
  3. Good voice.... born or trained?
    By jurianbai in forum Vocal Music
    Replies: 25
    Last Post: Dec-26-2011, 10:43
  4. Questions (help) and presenting myself
    By jongaleo in forum Voice and Choir
    Replies: 7
    Last Post: Oct-22-2010, 06:51

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •