Lowercase Symbols

AaWhen I was eighteen and just started playing the piano, I talked to my somewhat eccentric uncle, who was a fanatic amateur musician. He told me I should write minor chords using lowercase letters. Being impressed by his overwhelming personality, I followed his advice. And it is not a bad idea! It matches the way major and minor keys are sometimes notated in classical music (especially in European countries). For example, a violin concerto would be in D-major or in d-minor. And using uppercase and lowercase matches the way scale degrees are commonly notated.

The Sus4

4The suspended fourth is an alteration of a chord, in which the third is moved up to the fourth note (counting from the root of the chord). For example, in Csus4 the third is moved up to the f. In the classical harmony the fourth has to be resolved to the third. In jazz and pop a lot of times this chord will be followed by a regular triad as well. (Though in some styles the sus4 sounds fine as it is.)

Real Book and New Real Book

comparisonIn my work as an arranging teacher at the conservatory, I often encounter students claiming that a specific way of notating chords is wrong. Apparently they have learned to write chords in a certain way and they think that is the only correct way. That is a shame, they should have been told that there are a lot of differences in the way people use chord symbols.

The Notation of None Chords

nineIn jazz music, a ninth implicates the seventh. Thus, in C9 for example, you should play a seventh as well as the ninth. In this way, time is saved in both writing and reading chords, because most of the time you want to play a ninth in combination with a seventh. If you ever need to notate a chord with a ninth but without a seventh, you write Cadd9. The above knowledge is taught on conservatories throughout the world, and you may find this information as well in theory books and on Wikipedia.

Parallel Fifths

parallelIn the classical counterpoint, it is forbidden to let voices move in parallel fifths. Does this rule apply to pop and jazz as well? To find out, it is worthwhile to examine examples. For that purpose, in this post I have collected a couple of famous pieces of music with parallel fifths.

Examples of Arrangement Levels

pyramidIf you are looking for new repertoire for your choir, you have to estimate whether a piece fits the level of the singers. For that it’s helpful if the level of difficulty of arrangements is indicated. The scale that is mostly used for arrangements ranges from level I (very easy) to level V (very challenging).

In an earlier message we have looked at characteristics of the different levels. To understand the levels even better, in this post there are examples of the levels. All these examples are arrangements of a fragment of Rosanna by Toto.

Writing middle parts

robertaflackLast week I gave a workshop on arranging and we worked on writing the middle parts in a homophonic score. The song we used was Killing me softly. I had written out the melody in the soprano and a bass line in the bass voice. The instruction was to fill in alto and tenor:

Keys of Arrangements

yesterdayWhen you start writing a vocal arrangement, as far as I’m concerned, the key signature is not fixed. In most cases, first you decide which voice group will be singing the lead. Then you decide on the height of the melody and from that follows the key. Classical musicians often disagree with this way of working. In their opinion the key signature of a piece of music is fixed, because it’s a deliberate choice of the composer. And even in pop and jazz, they don’t dare to change the key.

New Beating Patterns

figuurSome time ago I was working drawings of beating patterns. In earlier messages I showed my version of the three-beat and four-beat patterns. Here are some new patterns. To start with, here is the two-beat pattern: