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Relationships 2



This isn’t just about intervals. It’s a detailed way of thinking about anything. The idea is to focus intently on a particular thing, and see how much change you can bring to  it. This isn’t composition as much as composition training.


Changing the interval


The original interval can be changed in 11 ways. The interval we’re working with is a perfect 4th.  The other intervals are:


  • unison
  • minor 2nd
  • major 2nd
  • minor 3rd
  • major 3rd
  • augmented 4th
  • perfect 5th
  • minor 6th
  • major 6th
  • minor 7th
  • major 7th


Here’s the original interval again.


music relationship


You can change the interval by keeping one of the original notes and changing the other.

comp ex- new interval


Or you can change both notes, and form either a different interval…

comp ex- new interval2

or the same interval as the original.

perfect 4th



Keeping one of the notes maintains a clear relationship with the original interval even though the interval changes. So does changing both notes and keeping the original interval.


Changing both notes without maintaining the original interval is the only move that cuts all contact to the original.


Melody strings

Try stringing a few 2-note ideas together. Make all of the notes the same duration (this is so you can focus on pitch relationships). If there’s something you don’t like about what you’ve got, change a note.


Be clear about what needs to change, and why. Maybe there’s a large leap that doesn’t work where it is, but might work elsewhere. Keep track of your decisions. This brings self-understanding, indispensible to being a composer.


Of course, it may not be the notes that need to change. It might be the rhythm…



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Musical relationships are created when you place one piece of musical material (note, chord, field recording, sample, etc.) after another. Once you identify a relationships, you can decide how you’re going to use it in the rest of the piece. These relationships form the basis for coherent content.


To make this clear, I’ll start as simply as I can.


Here’s one note played after another.


music relationship

There are three relationships here.

  • the interval/distance between the notes
  • the location of each note (one high, one low)
  • and the duration of each note.


Interval implies melody. It refers to how far one note has to travel melodically to get to another. More generally, it’s simply the distance between two notes. Thinking melodically makes the concept easier for some people. The location of the notes is about where we place notes on the staff. The duration of the notes creates rhythm.


Work with changing the value of these relationships.  The interval can widen or narrow. This will change the location of the notes. You can make one note duration shorter, and the other longer. It won’t take long before you start seeing endless possibilities.


If you play with this for awhile, you’ll wind up with a lot of different 2-note musical objects. Do any of these objects go together? Does it make sense to string them together into a melody? Superimpose them to make chords?


Doing this helps you see how working with small ideas leads to larger ideas.

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