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… ūüėõ 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