Breaking the laws of melody and harmony

Discussion in 'Music Theory, Lessons & Techniques' started by Jeankarlo, Jul 25, 2017.

  1. Jeankarlo

    Jeankarlo SS.org Regular

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    According to music theory, every musical composition must contain harmony, rythm and melody. Yet, i've seen that many guitarists break that law in many ways. For example, some may choose to write a melody where some or most of the notes are out of key. Others might choose to mix various modes (from the same key) in the same solo, such as Joe Satriani. The one that confuses the most is when a musical composition completely shuts down all harmony and proceeds to solo. My question is: When this sort of phenomena happens, does a guitarist need to play adhering to the harmony that was played prior to the solo or is it theoretically correct to run around the guitar regardless of key or mode (as long as it sounds pleasing to the human ear)?
     
  2. Alternative-Perspective

    Alternative-Perspective SS.org Regular

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    Music theory is descriptive, not prescriptive.

    "The one that confuses the most is when a musical composition completely shuts down all harmony and proceeds to solo."

    Any examples?

    "theoretically correct to run around the guitar regardless of key or mode (as long as it sounds pleasing to the human ear"

    While art is not subjective, its perception certainly is. Lots of people enjoy technical death metal, while others don't.
     
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  3. tedtan

    tedtan SS.org Regular

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    Most musical compositions will have some element of all three, though not always.

    I consider "Grinnin' In Your Face" by Son House to be music, though it doesn't have stated harmony. And John Cage's 4'33", too.






    Does a melody cease to be a melody simply because it contains outside notes?


    This is a jazz concept, more so than a classical concept, wherein the soloist matches the scale to the individual chords rather than the overall key. But it is still theoretically correct.


    You could play to the previous harmony, implement a new (implied) harmony or simply go free form; all are valid approaches. It depends on what you are trying to express.
     
  4. Alternative-Perspective

    Alternative-Perspective SS.org Regular

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    "Grinnin' in your face" is clearly implying an Amaj or A7 or A9 chord. A standard blues progression underneath would fit it.

    John Cage's piece is a practical joke.
     
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  5. Mr. Big Noodles

    Mr. Big Noodles Theory God

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    And where are you getting this from? Not to attack you or anything, because there are critics from 1.5 millennia ago who wrote that performers are on the bottom of the musical food chain, with composers above them and critics on top. This view persisted well into the 20th century (and is still kicking, though considerably less than before) because westerners love their prejudice and orthodoxy. I don't doubt that you could find an authoritative source who says "music must contain X, Y, and Z" and respond by saying, "Yeah, that sounds reasonable." However, if you're going to rehash such an argument from before the age of pluralism, mass media and the internet, you should be ready to defend it in a modern context. If, on the other hand, these are your own conclusions, I'll gladly remind you that it's not "according to music theory," but "according to @Jeankarlo."

    The second part of your post is problematic, so I am going to leave it be for the moment. My short response: learn more, and you will see that a lot of your assumptions will change.

    Either of those will work if your compositional process is using a cookie cutter. I view composition as an exploratory process, every piece as an experiment. You use whatever tools you have—or develop new tools—to express yourself. I'm not the only one who does this: there is a long-standing precedent of innovation in western music, and model composition is as old as the hills.
     
  6. Mathemagician

    Mathemagician SS.org Regular

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    Something a guitar teacher once said to me: if you make a mistake once it's a mistake. If you do it again it's jazz. If you find yourself playing notes and you like the sound, that's all that matters. You can reverse engineer later to figure out the "what" of why it sounded that way. And then you can choose to do that on purpose or not.

    But keep in mind, after you learn the basic rules of keys and key changes etc, you actually CAN just play what you want as long as it's 1) In time 2) sounds good.

    And in some instances I suppose even #1 could be "optional".
     
  7. Grindspine

    Grindspine likes pointy things

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    On a related note, I have heard wonderful swelling soundscapes that have neither rhythm nor melody. Such tracks are definitively noise, but can still be artistically rendered.

    Technically, a drum solo is all rhythm, negating melody. It can still be pleasing to the human ear, or at least exciting to hear, though it is technically not music.
     
  8. tedtan

    tedtan SS.org Regular

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    Note that I said that there is no stated harmony, not no implied harmony.

    You'd have to go with a 12 tone row or something else totally chromatic in order to completely avoid implied harmony, and even then, depending on how the notes are laid out, you may well not succeed.


    Silence was a big component of Cage's work, though perhaps 4'33 goes a bit to far.

    But 4'33, and music concrete in general, are anything but a joke. They're an exploration of what exactly it is that constitutes music, which is quite pertinent to this thread, no?
     
  9. USMarine75

    USMarine75 Doc McStuffins Contributor

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    We had the same teacher??? :lol:

    And as mentioned above, changing modes during a solo is far from abnormal in Jazz theory. After 30+ years of playing I just got into jazz theory, and yeah the idea of changing modes in parallel or serial with the chord changes, or using out of parent scale arpeggios and leading/passing tones was awkward at first to me, but certainly it is the norm.
     
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  10. prlgmnr

    prlgmnr ...that kind of idea

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    Has anyone said

    BREAKING THE LAW, BREAKING THE LAW

    yet

    Because I feel that's important.
     
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