Vidas: Hi guys, this is Vidas.
Ausra: And Ausra.
V: Let’s start episode 331 of Secrets of Organ Playing Podcast. This question was sent by Lev, and he writes:
Could you please (if you find time) take a look at my suggestions for progression T1TS2SD3DT4T in C major and a minor (Exercise 9-2 from Harmony for organists course) and give me short feedback about mistakes. I'd like to make sure I've understood the harmony stuff correctly so far.
Thanks in advance and best regards
V: Ausra and I just a moment ago looked at this file, and we were actually very impressed. Right? Because we didn’t see almost any mistakes.
A: Yes! We could not find any, except from orthography. When you put slurs in the Tenor voice, they need to look up.
V: If the stem goes up, then the slur or the tie has to go from above, too. If the stem goes downward, faces downward, like in the alto voice or in the base voice, then the note slur also needs to go from below. Right?
A: Otherwise, all the voice leading is correct.
V: This is really nice. The assignment was to harmonize, in four parts, a progression of three chords, basically: Tonic, Subdominant, Dominant, and again, Tonic. But, make the Tonic sound twice, the Subdominant sound twice, the Dominant sound twice, and the Tonic again sound twice, but not repeated, but in different melodic positions. So, that’s what we were talking about in the harmony course, so far, and Lev seems to understand the subject very well.
A: Yes, that looks like that.
V: Do you have these exercises in your harmony class, Ausra? Similar ones?
A: Yes, I have this exercise. I believe it’s taken from my course that I’m teaching.
V: You mean stolen!
A: Yes. Never mind that, it’s general knowledge. It’s actually suited for beginners.
V: Once people know how to put one chord correctly, how to connect two chords correctly, and then how to repeat the same chord in a different melodic position, then they could make a longer phrase out of four or six or seven or even eight, chords, and starting from different melodic positions. For example, in C major, you could start from the note “C” in the soprano, “E” in the soprano, or “G” in the soprano! And, you could also do closed position chords or open position chords. So, in C major, there could be, like, six versions. Right?
A: That’s right.
V: And then the same thing in A minor, also, one third below. What about your students, Ausra, at school? Do they make mistakes on this kind of exercise?
A: Well, some do and some do not. So, it’s different.
V: Of those who do make mistakes, what would they lack? What kind of knowledge do they lack, or skills?
A: I think they are probably too lazy, some of them. Some of them don’t want to apply the rules, and that’s a problem.
V: Don’t want to follow the rules.
V: They are artists, right?
V: Like myself.
A: They imagine themselves, that they are artists.
V: I also don’t follow the rules.
A: I wouldn’t call them artists.
V: Would you call me an artist?
A: Yes, but you know how to do these exercises, so don’t compare yourself with my students.
A: Who are like 16, 17, 18 years old.
V: Do you remember my harmony exercises from school like 20 or 30 years ago?
A: Yes, I do remember.
V: I did show them to you, right?
V: What did you think about them?
A: I thought that you are better at writing musical dictations than harmonizing.
V: Oh, so I have better musical pitch than head…
A: that’s right, that’s what I thought…
V: Than brain… What about yours? Do you remember what your experience was when you were in school?
A: Well, let’s face it, you know, I finished the school which is much better than yours. So… the requirements in our school were much higher than yours?
V: Why would you say that?
A: Well, because it is true?
V: Is it? Are you sure?
A: Yes, I am definitely sure!
V: Take it back!
A: No, I will not!
V: Okay, I feel so sad, I think I’m going to cry, but maybe I will continue teaching people today, too. I’ll cry after the podcast. Okay? Remind me to cry.
A: Okay, I will!
V: So, Lev is doing a great job, I think, with harmony. I wonder if he plays them—if after he writes them he plays them, because it’s really beneficial, right?
A: Yes, it is! Sometimes I think that we spend too much time on writing down things, and not enough of practicing them on the keyboard.
V: Because, the main skill that we are trying to develop is practical, not theoretical knowledge.
A: True. So, you need, of course, to do written exercise, because if you start right away doing them on keyboard, it might be too hard, and then you might make voice-leading mistakes, and do a sloppy job. But after writing them down for a while, you really need to go and practice them on the keyboard in various keys—not only in C major and A minor.
V: Right. The exercise for hymn in Harmony for Organists, Level 1 was in C major and A minor, because just in that week we have those pairs of keys. In school, Ausra, do you also assign paired tonalities?
A: Usually, yes.
V: Because it would be too much to do everything.
A: That’s right.
V: Only crazy people could practice everything.
A: But, for example, this kind of exercise, I don’t give them to do it as a written assignment. I give it to my students to play it on piano from any position in a given key, and then they have also to sing it, too.
V: Oh, that’s a different subject.
V: In which class do they have to sing it?
A: In Solfeggio.
V: Ear training?
A: Yes, ear training. I think Solfeggio is a term which even Americans should know. It’s sort of international.
V: So, Solfeggio with two Gs.
A: Yes, it comes from the French.
V: Or Italian.
A: I think from the French. We might check on it…
V: Solfège… right….
V: If “Solfeggio,” then it’s Italian, if “Solfège, then it’s French.
A: Yes. Because, ear training is not…. well… not a term that I really like, because it doesn’t describe so well what we are doing in the class, because ear training courses, as you call it, in our school….. first comes the ability to sight read things—to sing things from the score. That’s why we call it Solfège.
V: Because we use syllables: Do-Re-Mi-Fa-Sol-La-Si
A: Yes, that’s right. And of course, we do other stuff as well, so.. I prefer the “Solfège,” not “Ear Training” term.
V: Right, that’s kind of International. In talking about A minor, or any minor keys, what are some challenges that people should overcome when harmonizing these progressions?
A: Well, of course if you are in a minor key, you need to raise the seventh scale degree, then harmonize the dominant chord.
A: Because Dominant is major in both major and minor keys.
V: Why? Always ask this question, Ausra, and then you get to the bottom of things.
A: Why? That’s tradition that you need to carry on.
V: Maybe it’s a stupid tradition, you know? Somebody started it, and we are living in the 21st century, and this tradition came from the 17th century. Why should we follow the 6 or 5 centuries tradition. Maybe we should do whatever we want!
A: Yes, you can do that. I don’t mind.
V: Would it sound good?
A: Well, because then you could not resolve it to tonic?
V: Why do we have to resolve everything to tonic?
A: That’s how music works. You have consonants, and you have dissonances, and you are building tension and releasing it…
V: What if I don’t want to release tension?
V: Or Build tension?
A: Well, if you compose music without releasing tension, I think your listeners will run out of the church after hearing you for 10 minutes, probably.
V: Maybe that would be a good thing. They would run and get exercise.
A: It depends upon what your goal is!
V: Getting people into fresh air.
V: What about if I don’t want to build up tension, and just want to play things calmly—so without seventh scale degree raised?
A: Well, you could do that, but then you wouldn’t get a dominant chord. You could not call this chord in A minor key, E-G-B. Yes? If you wouldn’t have a G#, you could not call it a dominant chord. Then it would have another function. It would be more like a subdominant chord. So, that’s another story.
V: Wow. But then, people would not run out of the church.
A: But maybe they fall asleep.
V: Oh! Sleep is also good.
V: We get more refreshed after sleep, too. Okay guys! This conversation is going to the silly direction now, and I hope you got some entertainment, so please keep sending your questions to us. We love helping you grow. And remember, when you practice,
A: Miracles happen.
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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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