Writing Fugues.

Discussion in 'Music Theory, Lessons & Techniques' started by Cabinet, Apr 16, 2011.

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  1. Cabinet

    Cabinet :O

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    I really like Fugues and I would love to try and attempt to write them, but I'm not sure how I would begin. Does anyone have any tips or links that might be able to help get me started?
     
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  2. Mr. Big Noodles

    Mr. Big Noodles Theory God

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    Unfortunately, fugues are one of those things that you'll probably have to work up to. They require a really solid understanding of harmony, counterpoint, and voice-leading, and it probably helps if you're well-acquainted with form. But in addition, you have to get comfortable with imitation and various compositional manipulations (inversion, retrograde, retrograde inversion, augmentation, diminution, stretto, etc.). My suggestion is to look at some canons and rounds, pick up J.S. Bach's two part inventions, see what's going on, then go from there. This is an extremely developmental form, far beyond what most guitarists would ever attempt or understand, but that's mainly because it's pretty much the culmination of all of Western music theory into one package.

    Some canons:

    Gustav Mahler - Symphony 1, mvt. III, the first bit - Yes, that's Frère Jacques in the minor mode.


    Henry Cow - Beautiful As The Moon, Terrible As An Army With Banners - 4:33-6:07


    Some fugues:

    Johann Sebastian Bach - Toccata and Fugue in D minor (Fugue starts at 2:40) - I like these videos because whoever is making them clearly knows something about music. Notice that each voice is rendered in a different color. This also makes it easy to see the "shape" of the music.


    Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart - Coda from Symphony 41, "Jupiter", mvt. IV
    This is a fugato, which is for all intents and purposes a tiny fugue-like section. A few performances here, so you can absorb what's going on. Obviously, these few measures are taken out of context, but to put it short, he's developing every theme in the movement (the entire symphony, possibly, but I forget which). This is pretty much considered the best thing ever.

     
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  3. Cabinet

    Cabinet :O

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    Alright, thanks so much for the input. Do you know any websites that might have exercises or explanations to expand on my knowledge? I have a pretty decent understanding of theory but I'm not well aquatinted with advanced harmony, counter point etc.
     
  4. Mr. Big Noodles

    Mr. Big Noodles Theory God

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    There are a few books that I know of, but not many online resources. Any university harmony book should take you up through advanced chromatic harmony and modulations. The good counterpoint books (in English, anyway) are Gauldin and Kennan. I'd also say Piston, but I find his approach to feel a little dated.

    This is a good website, although by no means a complete resource: Dolmetsch Online - Home Page

    A teacher's probably your best bet, though. I do private lessons, as well. One thing that you can't get from a website is someone to check your voice-leading and phrasing.
     
  5. xtrustisyoursx

    xtrustisyoursx SS.org Regular

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    As SW said, you have to be rock solid on your theory. Them's hard. But I really like the Kennan book out of all the traditional counterpoint books.
     
  6. SirMyghin

    SirMyghin The Dirt Guy Contributor

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    Damn. Watching that Fugue with the voices all laid out like that was a near religious experience.
     
  7. Kodee_Kaos

    Kodee_Kaos NegRep For Free Porn

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    They was not fugue'in around.

    :ugh:
     
  8. walleye

    walleye SS.org Regular

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    just a quick question. is "fugue" my yngwie malmsteen technically a fugue by schecter whore's above definitions?

    it might not be called fugue, maybe fugue no. 5 or something? i think it was on a G3 cd at one point.
     
  9. Mr. Big Noodles

    Mr. Big Noodles Theory God

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    This one?



    Nope, no fugue. What we do have, though, is what looks like a seven-part rondo. Why he didn't call it a rondo in the first place, I don't know; it would make him seem like he knows what's going on, rather than invite criticism of his incorrect labeling of the form.

    Classical seven-part rondo: ABACABA
    Malmsteen "Fugue": AB ABCABA [CA]

    0:00 - A
    0:33 - B
    0:50 - A
    1:14 - B (This might change the form. I'll have to think about it.)
    1:31 - Transition
    1:45 - C
    2:22 - Transition
    2:26 - Ai (A little bit of a development of A here.)
    2:57 - B
    3:14 - Aii (More development.)
    3:30 - Ci (Short C.)
    3:52 - Truncated A.

    The last bit, C A, I would consider a coda.

    By the way, this rondo is totally vanilla. I could show you some stuff that will really blow your mind.

    Don't you love that? And how he ends the tocata with a cadence on the minor tonic, then gets you thinking that he'll go for the picardy third at the end of the fugue, but you get the minor tonic after that big major section. :lol:
     
  10. xtrustisyoursx

    xtrustisyoursx SS.org Regular

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    If you want the trip of a lifetime, analyze Brahams' Orgam fugue in Ab minor. One of the most rewarding experiences in my music theory career.
     
  11. Mr. Big Noodles

    Mr. Big Noodles Theory God

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    :lol:

    But seriously, that's how it goes.
     
  12. SirMyghin

    SirMyghin The Dirt Guy Contributor

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    Yes.... Sure, I definitely love and understand everything you just said :lol: I ever tell you I went into engineering not music because I thought life would be better if I got a job :cool:

    I just liked how it appeared, I had never seen anything like that.



    (incase sarcasm is lost on you, which I doubt it is, I am of course just razzing you)
     
  13. Mr. Big Noodles

    Mr. Big Noodles Theory God

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    That's okay, I've dealt with enough engineers to know. You're nothing new. :lol: Honestly, though, what am I going to do with my degree? :ugh:

    [/awkward]
     
  14. SirMyghin

    SirMyghin The Dirt Guy Contributor

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    Let guys like me pay you to teach them theory? :lol: (would you believe I just got an email with an exam... the next 60 hours suck ass. Wonder how much time I will waste procrastinating here.)
     
  15. Mr. Big Noodles

    Mr. Big Noodles Theory God

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    If I'm lucky enough to land a steady gig after I get my Master's, I'll grow a mustache and wear tweed.

    They email your exams? Yeah, expect mondo time wastage.
     
  16. SirMyghin

    SirMyghin The Dirt Guy Contributor

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    This one yes, open book, maximum rape. Essentially I become a shut in and cranky for the next few days.

    The guy who taught me the history of pop music (which was delightful) had a PHD in music, was a bassist playing in cover bands and was gravitating to teaching Kindergarteners. Shame too as he was one of the most interesting lecturers I ever had, and one of my 2 90+%s achieved in a course. Sure it was pretty light compared to my real courses, but that is what electives are for, we only get about 4 in Engineering. 3 Hour lectures were no sweat listening to that guy. A course like that would benefit a lot of the posters here and garner the music a bit more respect than it gets too. No tweed or Mustache though, he was a sessional lecturer going between a few universities in the area.
     
  17. Mr. Big Noodles

    Mr. Big Noodles Theory God

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    I asked my analysis professor about the form of the Malmsteen piece yesterday, and he agreed that it's a seven-part rondo, adding that it's a bit unusual. It makes sense, really: the essence of a rondo is a repeating A theme, so that extra B doesn't register as a huge part of the form. He then asked what piece I got the form from, and commented that he was surprised that I knew who Yngwie was. :lol:

    Education is wonderful in the hands of a competent professor. I'm lucky to have had a lot of those. I did have a horrible bio professor at the beginning of my college career, though, and I am no longer a bio major. :lol:
    It sounds really shallow to say that I changed majors because one teacher rubbed me the wrong way, but it left a profound impact on me: I had one music class and one bio class that semester, and the music class was fun and informative while the bio class was unjust and uninviting; tons of people who didn't put in even half the effort of other people in the class got higher grades than those that really poured themselves in and understood the material, and the tests were on material that we hadn't been told to study. That, and my junior college was a mecca for dispassionate nursing students. Not fun.
     
  18. Keytarist

    Keytarist SS.org Regular

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    Hi. I have been offline for a while.
    About the original post, I would suggest the OP to take classes with a good teacher. Counterpoint, is a technical skill to develop, as learning to play guitar; hence the need of formal classes with a teacher who will guide you through exercises, theory and analysis.
    Fugues are one of the most difficult forms of counterpoint, so it's much better to start with Species Counterpoint. It's kinda boring first, because of the strictness of the method; but it allows you to develop a melodical sense that brings fluidity to your music even in the most difficult forms of counterpoint. I believe that there are better methods, because the Species Counterpoint is a little bit out of date. Please drop here a better method if you know one, please (I'll be taking counterpoint classes again, in the near future). :)
    After three years of counterpoint classes, I had to compose a fugue, and the attempt was a failure. I believe that the reason was that I lack piano skills. I didn't have too much interval issues like parallel octaves when composing, but the problem was the piece as a whole. I mean that every bar had sense as a unit, but they didn't 'stick together'. Playing the piece in the piano lets you to arrange the elements in time and space (but I didn't). So best bet is also to start playing piano, just some minutes of sheet music lecture in your spare time.
    Finally, score analysis, listening to counterpoint pieces and don't forget to get a good teacher, going self-taught would be pretty difficult. Good luck!.

    P.S.1: Sorry for any mistake in English.
    P.S.2: Hi Mike, it's Rodrigo you may remember me...Well, I just want to know: from which institute/conservatory are you coming from?. I wish I could have some of your skills (both theory and teaching). Do you compose also?. Thanks for sharing your knowledge.
     
  19. Mr. Big Noodles

    Mr. Big Noodles Theory God

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    I agree that having somebody teach you this stuff is waaaay easier than trying to figure it out yourself. On the other hand, I knew a composer who did Baroque counterpoint as a hobby, and I think he taught himself. However, there are extenuating circumstances with this guy that I won't get into.

    I never took the time to learn species counterpoint, but I checked out how it basically works. It just seemed a little redundant to me from the modern pedagogy of voice-leading. The way that I learned counterpoint was through the way I learned part writing: rather than composing a melody through, and then doing counter melodies, you pretty much did all of your melodies at once. "Simultaneous composition", I think the method is called. Bach would have preferred its opposite, successive composition, but you can get the same results with both. I tend to do a little of both, but it's usually because I can picture in my head how the voice-leading will work out when I'm doing multiple parts. I cooked this up in a couple of minutes to show that you can compose a fugue either way. Keep in mind that I don't really do imitative counterpoint very often and this isn't a formal recreation of a fugue; I'm trying to display polyphony and a couple of things that make it sound fuguey - first, you can make out the distinct voices. I do this by giving different rhythms to the subject, countersubject, and answer (here, extremely condensed). Next, the voice-leading: you could reduce this entire thing to one chord per measure (two in some of them), with none of the melody there. I just build stuff off of the chord tones that I get from doing the basic voice-leading. Thirdly, I didn't pay much attention to this, but I sort of made an effort to introduce new voices at sensible times. The more you have, the more obscured the polyphony gets, so I waited a while to bring in the fourth voice so that the melody would be in your ear by the time you get there.

    SoundClick artist: Theory Examples - page with MP3 music downloads
    [​IMG]

    I have some spacing errors in the last measure. The one before that technically has the same problem, but I think it sounds fine. Also, the last measure has some sort of voice-leading problem. I believe it's parallel octaves, but I don't see any... Maybe it's the F-G in the soprano and alto voices, even though they're offset a bit.

    You're doing fine. :yesway: The only thing I notice is that you tend to use too much punctuation. Change "?." to "?" and "!." to "!", and it will look more correct. Not that most English speakers really care about correct language in the first place.

    Conservatory... :lol: I'm flattered. I'm a product of public schools. I had a great set of teachers in my junior college, and I'm attending CSU Northridge right now. I do compose, but I haven't done much classical in a while. Too much work, and I'm too busy at the moment.
     
  20. McCap

    McCap SS.org Regular

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    A good starting point is being able to write classical four part harmony, with all the rules (no parallel fifths etc...).
     

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