How to Write Five-Part Harmony - Music Theory

Music Matters
26 Sept 202222:52
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TLDRIn this video, Gareth Green teaches how to write five-part harmony, which can be challenging compared to four-part writing. He starts by presenting a short four-part harmony example, then the same music in five parts to demonstrate the fuller sound. He explains how to convert four-part harmony to five parts by padding out chord tones, though more flexibility with rules like doubling thirds is allowed. He analyzes each chord to show decisions made in adding the fifth part to avoid issues like consecutive fifths. The goal is providing initial exercises to develop skills for more advanced five-part writing, like independent melodic lines. This will equip viewers to move beyond four-part limitations.

  • 😀 Writing harmony in more than 4 parts can be challenging. Starting by writing a passage in 4 parts first can help ease the transition.
  • 👍 Doubling major thirds is more acceptable in 5 parts than 4 parts due to the extra note providing balance.
  • 💡 When adding a 5th part, ensure there is adequate space between the existing upper parts to fit it in.
  • 🎹 The 5th part could be a 2nd soprano/treble part or something more independent melodically.
  • 🔭 When stems cross on one stave due to multiple parts, treat connected upper parts as one factor and stem up.
  • 😮 Avoid choices that create consecutive octaves/5ths. Better to double a 3rd than have parallels.
  • 🤔 Look ahead when making choices to avoid getting boxed in with the next chord.
  • 👂🏻 Use good voice leading principles when constructing the 5th part.
  • 🎼 The goal is to move beyond just 4 parts to enable richer instrumentation.
  • 💪 Start simple with block chords, then build up to more independent counterpoint in 5 parts.
Q & A
  • What are some of the challenges involved in writing five-part harmony?

    -Some key challenges include avoiding parallels and consecutive fifths/octaves, avoiding doubling major thirds, and managing the spacing between parts to allow room for an additional voice. Composers also have to think ahead harmonically to avoid boxing themselves in.

  • What does the instructor recommend as a first step before writing more complex five-part harmony?

    -The instructor recommends starting by writing a short passage of conventional four-part harmony, and then trying to add a fifth part by padding out notes of the existing chords.

  • How does the instructor convert the four-part harmony example to five parts?

    -The instructor adds a second soprano part, effectively creating an SSA vocal texture in the treble clef along with the existing tenor and bass parts.

  • What are some things to consider when deciding which notes to add for the fifth part?

    -Consider voice leading so the added notes move smoothly; avoid parallels/octaves with existing parts; avoid doubling major thirds where possible; and look ahead to the next chord so you don't box yourself in harmonically.

  • Why does the instructor use a C# instead of an A in the second chord?

    -Using an A would have led to parallel octaves in the next chord. The C# doubles the major third, which is less problematic than octaves.

  • How does the instructor handle the voice leading with the D in the second soprano part?

    -By rearranging which parts sing which notes while keeping the same notes in the chord, so that the D resolves down a half step to C# without creating octaves.

  • What's the advantage of writing an initial four-part harmony sketch before expanding it to five parts?

    -It provides a framework to build on in a familiar texture, allowing composers to focus on the specific challenges of expanding the harmony before tackling more complex five-part writing.

  • What are some next steps suggested after working through this five-part harmony exercise?

    -Writing a melody line as a fifth part over an existing four-part harmony; continuing to write freely in five parts; expanding harmony to more than five parts when scoring for larger ensembles.

  • What resources does the instructor recommend for learning more about harmony?

    -The website offers a variety of music theory and harmony courses. There is also a Maestros membership program that provides additional learning resources.

  • What are some examples of five-part textures besides SATB with an extra soprano?

    -Five-part writing could involve any combination of vocal ranges or instrumental groupings - for example, two soprano parts plus alto, tenor and bass; a string quintet; a wind quintet; or a mixed ensemble.

😀 Introducing the goal of writing in five-part harmony

Gareth introduces the goal of learning how to write music in five-part harmony, which is more complex than four-part harmony. He shows an example passage converted from four parts to five parts, demonstrating the fuller sound with the extra part. He recommends starting with four-part harmony and adding a fifth part as an exercise to get used to the new challenges of five-part writing.

😊 Explaining conventions and flexibility of rules in five-part harmony

Gareth explains that rules like avoiding duplicated thirds and consecutive fifths can be followed more flexibly in five-part writing out of necessity. Doubling major thirds is less problematic with the extra note balancing things out. Some parallels may be unavoidable but should still be avoided where possible.

😃 Demonstrating chord choices and voice leading issues when adding a fifth part

Gareth analyzes the chord choices made when converting the example passage to five parts. He explains in detail the voice leading issues and options considered at each chord, highlighting problems like octaves that require rethinking previous decisions.

🤔 Showing how chord restructuring solves voice leading problems

Gareth demonstrates how restructuring chords can help resolve voice leading issues when running out of options. By reassigning notes to different parts in places, he is able to improve the voice leading while keeping the harmony intact.

💡 Concluding with advice on exercises to practice five-part writing

Gareth summarizes how working through an exercise like this example builds skills for five-part writing. He suggests trying a freer fifth part over four-part harmony as the next step before tackling full five-part counterpoint. Mastering five parts expands creative possibilities beyond four.

💡Five-part harmony
Harmony with five simultaneous melodic lines or parts. The video discusses techniques for expanding from conventional four-part harmony to five parts, which provides a fuller, richer sound. This is useful when writing for choirs with divided sections or five-member ensembles.
💡Voice leading
How individual melodic lines move smoothly from one chord to the next. The video emphasizes the importance of voice leading when adding a fifth part to avoid problematic parallels and poor resolutions.
💡Doubling thirds
Playing the third pitch of a chord in more than one simultaneous melodic line or part. This is generally avoided in four-part writing but can be more flexible with five parts. The video discusses decisions around doubling thirds.
💡Consecutive fifths/octaves
Parallel fifths or octaves between multiple parts that weaken the independence of lines. The video notes you may have to accept some with five parts but try to avoid them where possible.
💡Passing tones
Non-chord tones that create stepwise motion between chord tones. The video uses a passing tone to temporarily turn a V chord into a V7.
💡Short score
A score written with multiple parts condensed onto only two staves using shared stems. This introduces issues of stem direction that impact readability.
Vertical distance between parts. Good spacing of the initial four parts makes it easier to insert a suitable fifth part.
💡Independent parts
Melodic lines that have rhythmic, melodic, and harmonic independence. The video suggests developing more independent fifth parts after starting with block harmonization.
💡Chorale texture
Homorhythmic, hymn-like texture with all parts moving in the same rhythm. The five-part examples have a chorale texture though more independence could be introduced.
Arranging a composition for a specific ensemble. As an end goal, five-part writing prepares for scoring larger ensembles like orchestra.

Explains how to write harmony in five parts, which can be more challenging than four parts

Suggests starting by writing a short four-part harmony excerpt, then presenting the same music in five parts

Five-part harmony creates a much fuller sound compared to four parts

Converting four-part harmony to five parts involves padding out the notes of the chords

Rules like avoiding consecutive fifths can be applied more flexibly in five-part writing

When adding a fifth part as a second soprano, make sure there is enough space between upper voices

Have to consider voice leading issues when adding notes to avoid problems like parallel octaves

May need to re-engineer the four-part harmony to make the fifth part work smoothly

Good to start by adding a fifth part to existing four-part writing before attempting more complex five-part writing

Can try adding a more independent, melodic fifth part after practicing with block chords

Useful to take a four-part hymn or Bach chorale and practice adding a fifth part

Moving to five parts helps prepare for writing for larger ensembles like orchestra with many parts

Website offers additional harmony and composition courses for further study

Maestros membership provides access to monthly musical teaching live streams

Highest membership level allows submitting your compositions for critique during live streams

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