Strings, harmonies and getting my learn on

I’ve been a little quiet lately asI haven’t had much time for music, which means not a lot of things to write about here, sorry!

However I did complete one piece recently called “The Voyage to LB201-5V”. Wether or not this will see a public release is undecided at this point. It’s a piece made for something special and includes both piano and a full string quintet.

While making this piece I realized just how little I know about using a string section. Like how the different instruments relate and are meant to be used. The resulting piece is rather messy to be honest. I just kind of did things that sort of sounded good, as I had no idea what I was doing – or what I was supposed to do.
For instance I have single sections playing chords – like the 1st violins playing chords as well as the 2nd violins. On top of that while they’re playing those sustained chords, they’re also playing stacatto. I kind of knew that wasn’t really something that would happen in real life, but hey… 😛 The piece certainly has redeeming qualities and overall it’s not bad, but it does become a mess because there’s just way too much happening at one point.

So realizing that, I decided to start looking into how you’re supposed to utilize a string quintet. Not the easiest thing to find information about, but I did find a few bits and pieces and things make more sense now – at least I have a sense of what I’m supposed to do.
Likewise I also decided to learn more about harmonies, since learning to use a string section is a lot about harmonies, so might as well kill two birds with one stone. This also means I have to finally really learn to use the circle of fifths, so that’s another part of it.

So yesterday, at 5:30 in the morning, I started playing around with my string library (Hollywood Strings) and trying some things out. Basically I made an 8-bar loop that started out with basically just triad chords (C major, just to keep it super easy to deal with). I then divided everything up into each string section. The bright part and main melody is being played by the 1st violins. Then the step lower of the chord (inverted C maj chord) by the 2nd violins. And the last part of the chord, the lowest, is played by the violas.
The celli are then playing 2 octaves down the same notes (although less variation) as the 1st violins and the basses an octave more below that.

Basically for most of the 8-bar loop they stay within the base chord notes (C, E and G), but every 4th bar breaks away from that.

I started out with 1-bar long notes, which I then, mainly for the 1st violins, to add some variations between each bar, changed to 3/4 bar length and then a note change for the last 1/4 of the bar. I then did the same to a lesser extent to the 2nd violins, even less so to the violas and minimally to the celli. The basses are completely unchanged in this regard.

When that was done I started shifting notes within the scale to create different harmonies, as opposed to just sticking with the chord. Here I should probably have used the circle of fifths some, but I just went by ear for now. Next step is most certainly to incorporate the circle of fifths into it.

Enough talking; here’s the 8-bar loop (played twice) that I created. It’s nothing fantastic or anything, it’s just a very simple step on the road to becoming better. I have a tendency to try and do it all at once, but it’s just usually too much when I haven’t got enough music knowledge yet, so I now try to break things down and take smaller steps – I think that will help me progress more than just getting overwhelmed and trying to solve 40 problems at once.

Strings 01 – 01



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