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#1152532 - 04/07/08 11:29 AM parallel tenths with a fifth inside.
Zom Offline
Full Member

Registered: 07/05/07
Posts: 73
Loc: United States
Even though I rarely spend much time meticulously applying common practice era techniques,I sometimes think about them for fun. One thing I've wondered for a while is, are internal fifths ok? Say you have a progression whose outer voices form tenths. e.g. C , G, E. transitioning to D, A, F. The C G and D A would constitute a parallel fifth, right? But perhaps since the outer voices form tenths, its ok? I know I have seen this sort of voice leading at least in arpeggiated accompaniment (there is a passage in the middle of chopin's b-minor scherzo which appears to do it, for example). Comments? Personally I find nothing objectionable about the sound. In fact, I know it is used in much stride music for example.

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#1152533 - 04/07/08 12:10 PM Re: parallel tenths with a fifth inside.
Zom Offline
Full Member

Registered: 07/05/07
Posts: 73
Loc: United States
My bad, I think I was wrong about the Chopin scherzo. Inspecting the same passage again, it looks as though the rising tenths with the fifth inside switch to a sixth right before the next tenth with a fifth inside. So, I guess he's not doing it.

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#1152534 - 04/07/08 03:39 PM Re: parallel tenths with a fifth inside.
JohnEB Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/20/06
Posts: 754
Loc: Belgium
I thikn the 'no parallel 5ths' edict is more appropriate to part writing, where the use of parallels like that can make the music sound medieaval, lacking in character, and disrupts the (normally accepted) contrary motion in counterpoint. It's difficult to avoid in piano music, when using common accompaniments such as stride, arpeggios, etc.
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#1152535 - 04/07/08 08:48 PM Re: parallel tenths with a fifth inside.
JamesD Offline
Full Member

Registered: 01/12/08
Posts: 25
Loc: Brandon, MS
Ah! This old chestnut of parallel 5ths has been around forever, it seems. All you need to do is get past the 19th century and you'll find it all over the place. If you're in school and studying baroque/classical part writing, sure, you have to avoid parallel 5ths. However, I hope all you serious composers out there are writing 21st century music.

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#1152536 - 04/08/08 03:31 AM Re: parallel tenths with a fifth inside.
JohnEB Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/20/06
Posts: 754
Loc: Belgium
 Quote:
Originally posted by James Davis:
Ah! This old chestnut of parallel 5ths has been around forever, it seems. All you need to do is get past the 19th century and you'll find it all over the place. If you're in school and studying baroque/classical part writing, sure, you have to avoid parallel 5ths. However, I hope all you serious composers out there are writing 21st century music. [/b]
But don't you think parallel 5ths sounds a bit weird? Yes of course they get used a lot, but they do produce a certain effect - think about Debussy's La Cathedral Englouti for instance. If you want to have that effect then of course it's fine,but if you want to write nice sounding part music, then it's a useful rule to help get good sounding music. Like any rule, if you understand why it's there, then you know when to ignore it!
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#1152537 - 04/08/08 10:39 AM Re: parallel tenths with a fifth inside.
epf Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/13/07
Posts: 658
Loc: Central Texas
 Quote:
Originally posted by James Davis:
... I hope all you serious composers out there are writing 21st century music. [/b]
Why? In general I'm not a big fan of whatever 21st century music is. I happen to like Elizabethan music up to the beginning of the Romantic era, and what I write tends to fall into those categories in terms of sound. Consequently, I tend to follow the "rules" for the development of music. Is there some reason I shouldn't do this?

Ed
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"...a man ... should engage himself with the causes of the harmonious combination of sounds, and with the composition of music." Anatolius of Alexandria

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#1152538 - 04/08/08 10:45 AM Re: parallel tenths with a fifth inside.
Zom Offline
Full Member

Registered: 07/05/07
Posts: 73
Loc: United States
I don't think they sound weird, but I do prefer the sound of thirds, sixths and tenths, in general. Not necessarily within the scale, either. In polytonal combinations I also seem to prefer these sounds.

21st century music by definition would be any music that is written in the 21st century. If one happens to prefer old styles, then you are writing 21st century music that resembles old styles. I don't think anyone could truly define what would set new music totally apart from everything in the past---unless you go down the path of Xenakis and others and write hideous ear shattering nonsense.

Nobody answered my question though---what is the general "common practice era" thought about parallel tenths with a parallel fifth inside?

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#1152539 - 04/08/08 11:20 AM Re: parallel tenths with a fifth inside.
Steve Chandler Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 02/18/05
Posts: 2702
Loc: Urbandale, Iowa
There is a practical reason for avoiding parallel 5ths. It's really very simple and has to do with psychoacoustics. The 5th is the first non fundamental overtone. The octave is the same note as the fundamental, but then again there's a rule about avoiding parallel octaves too. Here's why. When in part writing the ear hears parallel fifths (or octaves) it is more difficult to distinguish whether it's part motion or an overtone. Thus to the ear it can sound like reduced polyphony. So if you have a whole bunch of parallel octaves and fifths it will somewhat sound like a single line moving and not part writing. In a polyphonic setting this will sound at best inelegant. By avoiding parallel 5ths and octaves we maximize the perceived polyphony and achieve a richer sound.

If you want to use parallel 5ths they can be disguised internally to minimize their impact, but don't use a bunch of them in succession unless that's what you really want. That's why there's also the opposite method, use a whole bunch of them (at least 3 in a row). This has a certain sound and it is acceptable because it's obvious their use was intentional and not a careless mistake. In other words make a feature out of the parallel fifths.

Because parallel 5ths have a certain sound they tend to stick out. Which brings me to your question parallel 10ths with a 5th inside. As you determined from the Chopin example this is probably something to be avoided from a common practice viewpoint.

In orchestral writing doubling at the octave is an accepted technique for building a sound (otherwise piccolos would have nothing to do outide of the Stars and Stripes Forever). You won't find much doubling of lines at the fifth though.

Does that answer your question?

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#1152540 - 04/08/08 01:30 PM Re: parallel tenths with a fifth inside.
Zom Offline
Full Member

Registered: 07/05/07
Posts: 73
Loc: United States
I think so. Do you think it is sufficient to simply listen for line independence? It seems to me there are so many factors which contribute to line independence, especially rhythmic considerations. I can see in very lock step rhythms harmonic considerations may be the most important, but when there is tremendous variety of rhythm or rubato in all voices, independence may be perceived regardless of the psychoacoustics involved, so incidental parallel fifths in this case may go completely unnoticed. The ear will go on hearing the independent voices as a sort of "conversation," reacting to incidental vertical harmony of the voices emotionally perhaps but not hearing any specific vertical lockstep "errors" such as parallel fifths.

I think this is a particularly interesting subject especially as applies to piano improvisation---if you can't hear an incidental harmonic "error" then how is it an error? Etc. I try to remain open minded about all perspectives on these issues: from rigid common practice era rules to total, unimpeded freedom in all dimensions. If I weren't this way I think I would become too much like one style and not learn enough from the other.

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#1152541 - 04/08/08 02:50 PM Re: parallel tenths with a fifth inside.
Steve Chandler Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 02/18/05
Posts: 2702
Loc: Urbandale, Iowa
 Quote:
Originally posted by Zom:
I think so. Do you think it is sufficient to simply listen for line independence? It seems to me there are so many factors which contribute to line independence, especially rhythmic considerations. I can see in very lock step rhythms harmonic considerations may be the most important, but when there is tremendous variety of rhythm or rubato in all voices, independence may be perceived regardless of the psychoacoustics involved, so incidental parallel fifths in this case may go completely unnoticed. The ear will go on hearing the independent voices as a sort of "conversation," reacting to incidental vertical harmony of the voices emotionally perhaps but not hearing any specific vertical lockstep "errors" such as parallel fifths.[/b]
They often do go unnoticed and these are all ways of disguising parallel fifths (P5s). They can be pretty much inconsequential within a chordal structure, but I strive to avoid them anyway, call it habit. I do find that chord voicings that avoid P5s do sound more elegant. You would do well to listen and choose based on how your ear perceives them. Write a progression with P5s then correct the mistakes and decide for yourself if the effort was worth it.
 Quote:

I think this is a particularly interesting subject especially as applies to piano improvisation---if you can't hear an incidental harmonic "error" then how is it an error? Etc. I try to remain open minded about all perspectives on these issues: from rigid common practice era rules to total, unimpeded freedom in all dimensions. If I weren't this way I think I would become too much like one style and not learn enough from the other. [/b]
Within piano improvisations the moment comes and goes so P5s are probably of little consequence. I notice you're still thinking from the total freedom point of view. I prefer a different point of view, one of knowing ahead of time the effect I seek. Within that POV P5s become another color on the palette. Because I've taken the viewpoint that incidental P5s are to be avoided for the reasons discussed, when I use them they deliberately add their own unique color. This is using them by informed choice rather than by accident. It's not hard to revoice chord progressions to avoid P5s. Once you figure out some strategies that work for you then you'll be able to use them deliberately and avoid them deliberately. That's being in control of your music. You will then be the color master of your chord voicing palette.

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#1152542 - 04/08/08 03:34 PM Re: parallel tenths with a fifth inside.
Zom Offline
Full Member

Registered: 07/05/07
Posts: 73
Loc: United States
 Quote:

You would do well to listen and choose based on how your ear perceives them. Write a progression with P5s then correct the mistakes and decide for yourself if the effort was worth it.
I only improvise compositions, I do not write them out. I rely entirely on what I call "musical natural selection" or listening to my improvisations as I record them over time, gradually learning which sounds I prefer. This builds my musical vocabulary and weeds out the sounds I don't like. This may or may not include parallel fifths or any other harmonic, rhythmic or melodic device in whatever context it appears.

 Quote:
I notice you're still thinking from the total freedom point of view.
If you read my previous post you will have noticed that I try to think about music from both the rule bound perspective and the total freedom perspective to see what I can learn from each. When all is said and done though I learn most from listening to music by others and by myself.

 Quote:

I prefer a different point of view, one of knowing ahead of time the effect I seek.
This is definitely where I differ from most composers...most composers think from the beginning forward, I think from the present moment backwards and use that as a basis for what comes next. So I do anticipate what I play to a large extent. While that is largely the case, sometimes I get the sensation that something else takes over and I receive a tremendous sensation of surprise, and I develop something that my anticipatory impulses would have failed to discover.

 Quote:

Within that POV P5s become another color on the palette. Because I've taken the viewpoint that incidental P5s are to be avoided for the reasons discussed, when I use them they deliberately add their own unique color.
 Quote:

This is using them by informed choice rather than by accident.
I approach informed choice over time rather than with specific moments in a specific composition. Like I said earlier I rely on what I call "musical natural selection" to slowly develop my ability to improvise composed-sounding music. So while I employ a very different technique, I would definitely say my musical choices, though spontaneous, are very much informed by experience and by ear.

 Quote:

It's not hard to revoice chord progressions to avoid P5s. Once you figure out some strategies that work for you then you'll be able to use them deliberately and avoid them deliberately. That's being in control of your music. You will then be the color master of your chord voicing palette.
I don't think I'll ever be a "master" in fact I like to think of myself as a beginner, always...this allows me to remain open to surprises and things I might not have thought about before. If I considered myself a master I might be under the mistaken impression that I knew everything and that there was nothing new to do with my music.

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