Yesterday I took a Graduale Romanum (a thick book of Gregorian chant) and found an Offertory for that day of the year named "Super flumina Babylonis:
Ït is based on the text of the opening of the Psalm 137: "By the waters of Babylon we sat down and wept, when we remembered thee, O Sion".
Here is what I did with this melody in order to create an organ Offertory:
1. I took the last 11 notes of the melody and created a refrain out of it and harmonized it in parallel 7th chords in mixed position (played on the foundation 8' stops).
2. The chant phrase appears between each refrain played by the right hand on the combination of 8' and 2 2/3' stops.
3. To increase the variety in the refrain itself, I start it on the last note of the preceding phrase of the chant.
4. To keep the unity in the piece, I use the mode of this chant throughout.
5. The pedals play long pedal points on the main notes of the mode.
6. Although the caesura signs in the Gregorian chant notation have 3 different levels of breathing points which should be treated differently in term of rests, I chose always to have eight-note rests.
Here is the video and the PDF file for printing if you want to play it.
By the way, if you are wondering, how to read the notes in the chant notation, it's quite simple: on the top line there is a C clef (indicating middle C), which means that the starting note is tenor F.
Sometimes there is a flat sign next to the note which is valid for that particular note (Bb). The dots, stems, and the dashes make the notes longer. Of course, there is a lot more to it than knowing the notes, but it's a good start.
NOTE: the entire melody could be transposed to any pitch level, of course, but the interval relationships should remain the same.
I made this, you can make it, too.
I would like to thank each and everyone of you who commented (through the comment section or an email massage) on my Offertory I shared with you yesterday. It seems to me I will have to transcribe my Postlude from the same Mass setting because some people would like to have it.
Today I would like to share with you this interesting transposition exercise from F major (1 flat) to B major (5 sharps). This is a very distant key (transposition by augmented 4th upward). For your convenience I have written in scales and scale degrees of both keys above the notes.
This exercise is based on the soprano and the bass parts of the hymn setting on "When All Thy Mercies, O My God". Here is the PDF file for printing and the MIDI file for listening.
After you play this exercise, you can transpose it to any other major key, if you want. You just have to figure out from the circle of fifths how many sharps or flats it will have and keep in mind these scale degrees you see above the notes.
Of course, this could be done in writing and/or playing.
Since a few people asked me for a permission to play the Prelude from my Mass for the 4th Sunday in Lent in public, I decided to share the score of my Offertory on Laudate Dominum (with video) from the above cycle as well.
You may notice that both in the Prelude and Offertory I play the shortened version of the pieces (a couple of people asked me questions about that).
You see, I first performed this Mass in 2012 during a recital of my organ compositions at Vilnius University St. John's church and had to play a slightly shortened version of the Mass because otherwise my recital would have ended up a bit too long.
Now, with this Offertory, you will have 3 pieces (Prelude, Offertory, and a Communion which I shared earlier) out of 4 parts in this cycle. The remaining Postlude was originally written later than the earlier 3 parts and is still in my hand-writing.
If it would be helpful for you to have all 4 parts of this cycle in a PDF, just let me know and I will try to complete the transcription of this Postlude with my Sibelius software as well.
I have recently edited and made a video with the score on the screen of my Prelude on "Laetare Jerusalem" - a quiet and slow tempo organ piece from my Mass for the 4th Sunday in Lent which I wrote on the occasion of my colleague playing it at the mass with the radio broadcasting.
I'm publishing this piece far in advance so that everyone who is interested in playing it in time for Lent, could have plenty of time to prepare. Of course, if you like it, I think there is no harm in playing it on some other occasion.
The piece is not difficult to master. It is constructed in a way that the ostinato chordal section moving in parallel 4/2 chords (7th chords in the 3rd inversion) alternates with the solo melody of Gregorian chant.
Enjoy it and if you like it, share it with other organists.
Here comes another of my harmonization exercises. This one is in Bb major.
Under the notes you can see the names of the chords being used. At the bottom of the exercise I put the Bb major scale with scale degree numbers and the notes of the T, S, and D chords for your convenience.
Here is the PDF file for printing.
OPTIONAL: If you want, you can transpose this exercise to C major and D major.
Don't forget to play it on your instrument.
Enjoy it but most importanly, I hope you will do something with it.
Thanks so much for everyone who replied to my question a few days ago about what would you like to learn next. One of the most common requests was of course the help with harmonizing melodies. So today, I have created this exercise for you (see the picture above).
In the top voice, you can see the soprano melody notated in the key of B minor (with 2 sharps). I used harmonic minor mode with the raised 7th scale degree - A#.
The process of the harmonization was as follows:
1. I sang the melody and indicated the place to breath - before the pick up to the 5th measure (it's called the caesura).
2. I then imagined the scale degree numbers of the B minor scale and thought about what chords could go with each note (this scale and the chords are notated below the harmonization).
3. Then I harmonized the two cadences (m. 4 and m. 8).
4. Finally, I started from the beginning and wrote the entire bass line first and filled in the missing alto and tenor parts later.
Of course, you could simply start from the beginning and harmonize the melody until the end. But completing important structural points (cadences) first (at least in your mind) helps to avoid mistakes in chord choice and voice leading.
In this type of harmonization, the rules are quite simple: avoid parallel 5ths and 8ths between the voices, use contrary motion in the bass (compared to soprano) as much as possible, avoid voice crossing (for example, the alto can't descend lower than the tenor).
The widest distance between the three top voices could be an octave. The widest distance between the bass and the tenor - much wider.
A note about the doubling of voices in three-note chords: in root position chords double the root (most often). In the first inversion, double the root or the fifth. In the second inversion chord, double the bass.
If the voice leading permits, in II, IV, V and VII+ scale degrees you could use inversions of D7 chords. Leave the D7 chord for the final cadence.
Here is the PDF file for printing and the MIDI file for listening. Play this exercise on your instrument to see if you like it and understand it.
(Optional) After you are done, transpose it to C minor (with 3 flats) or D minor (with 1 flat).
Since some of you asked for the help in realizing continuo parts, here is my continuo realization of Allein Gott setting by Johann Ludwig Krebs from the 1st part of his Clavierubung. Compare the chords with the numbers of the intervals in the original.
Basically numbers indicate the intervals to be played above the bass. Here sharps or crossed numbers mean sharp notes on the keyboard.
Here is PDF file for printing and MIDI file for listening.
Practice this setting and try to achieve the fluency in notes, rhythms, and articulate legato 3 times in a row. Also focus on the meter and emphasize the strong beats of the measure.
NOTE: the bass part could be played with the pedals. In this case, one option would be to use full Principal chorus (Organo Pleno registration) with mixtures and Posaune 16' in the bass.
For some time now we have been practicing exercises which improve hand and feet coordination, ear training, hymn playing, music theory, harmony, improvisation, and counterpoint skills.
I hope these exercises have been valuable and useful to you.
Today I would like to ask you what would you like to learn next.
Please post your answers to the comment section.
Write this 2 voice note-against-note counterpoint exercise with pencil. Version 1 will be for middle and upper staves, version 2 - for middle and lower staves.
In this type of counterpoint, no dissonant intervals are allowed (no 2nds, tritones, 7ths, augmented and diminished intervals and their compounds).
When you use the consonant 3rds and 6ths, parallel motion sounds well. but often we aim for contrary motion between the voices in order to have the balance and independence between the parts. Parallel unisons, fifths, and octaves of course are forbidden here.
The numbers above and below the notes indicate the intervals with the melody. 10 and 13 are compound intervals larger than an octave: 10 (octave + a 3rd), 13 (octave + 6th).
Here is the PDF file for printing. After you complete this exercise, post your time to comments.
By the way, if you do these types of exercises for a while, you will start to notice not only how your music theory skills improve but also your musical thinking and analytical abilities are sharper as well.
Today I would like you to try your hand at improvising an answer to a fugue subject. Basically, this exercise is quite simple - the answer is a subject transposed to the Dominant key.
In the above subject, the key is F major. Therefore, the answer will be in C major.
The only alteration to the transposition of the subject would be that in C major, the answer will be tonal instead of real. This means that the first interval will have to be a fifth (F-C) instead of a fourth (C-F). Don't forget to add B natural in your answer because C major doesn't have any accidentals.
There will be 8 steps to this exercise:
1. Play a subject with the right hand as written (the soprano voice).
2. Play an answer with the right hand in C major (the alto voice).
3. Play the subject in F major with the left hand (the tenor voice).
4. Play the answer in C major with the left hand or pedals (the bass voice).
5. Play the answer in C major with the right hand (the soprano.
6. Play the subject in F major with the right hand (the alto voice).
7. Play the answer in C major with the left hand (the tenor voice).
8. Play the subject in F major with the left hand or pedals (the bass voice).
Repeat each step slowly until you can do it fluently 3 times in a row correctly. Note that your subjects and answers have to be played in the appropriate range for each particular voice.
Here is the PDF file for printing.
After you are done practicing, post your time to comments.
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Drs. Vidas Pinkevicius and Ausra Motuzaite-Pinkeviciene
Organists of Vilnius University , creators of Secrets of Organ Playing.
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