Making Notes (Part 10)
Counter Melody — how to create extra melodies in your music.
Part 10: How to make Counter Melodies
This month I am using excerpts from my Organ Master Theory Book Two for starting to create 'Counter Melody' or 'Counterpoint', which is the musical term for adding extra melody notes and encouraging movement underneath the melody notes of the music. The original melody note on the manuscript will always be played in the dominant or highest positions on the keyboard so that it will still be clearly heard as the melody or theme. In Ultravox' Hymn music in this issue you'll find counter melodies used both above and below the tune.
When you are listening to a group of musicians or an orchestra, see if you can ignore or 'shut out' the melody to concentrate on what is actually being played as the 'backing'. The effects you will hear are Counter Melody, Harmony and Bass as the musicians will not all be playing the melody line. A musical arrangement is divided into parts and shared amongst the musicians, so that when each player's part is blended together, a complete melodious arrangement can be heard.
On the electronic organ, left hand chord progressions (see Part 6, June '82) can provide the harmony while the bass pedal notes will be sounding the deep rich bass accompaniment (for pedal progressions see Part 8, September '82).
If by following my articles you can now embellish a sparsely written bass stave, all that is left is to learn the technique of adding counter melody notes to transform a simple musical score into a full arrangement.
A knowledge of scales and the note numbers of left hand chords are necessary to play a counter melody, as it is not simply a case of adding any notes which take your fancy to the melody notes. However, once you have completed the first simple steps this month you should be able to play your own counter melody in any key of music. I'll now show you various forms and ways of playing counter melody.
COUNTER MELODY is created by a movement of notes underneath a melody. If the notes move in semitones it is referred to as 'Chromatic Movement', and if the notes move in tones it is referred to as 'Tonal Movement'.
One form of Counter Melody is created underneath a melody when the 3rd note of one chord resolves to the '7b' note of the next chord. In Figure 1 a 'Chromatic Movement' is created between the 'G', 'F#', 'F' and 'E' notes as each note movement is in Semitones.
In the 1st Bar the Counter Melody note is 'E', the 3rd note of the 'C' chord which resolves to 'G' the '7b' note of the 'Am7' chord. In the 2nd Bar the 3rd note of the 'D7' chord, 'F#' resolves to the '7b' note of 'F' in the 'G7' chord. The Counter Melody ends in the 3rd bar with 'E', the 3rd note of the 'C' chord.
The note movement of the Counter Melody is: 'E' to 'G' to 'F#', to 'F' to 'E'.
The example in Figure 2 shows the same 3rd to '7b' note movement creating the same Counter Melody in a different 'Key of music'.
This form of Counter Melody can be created with any number of chord changes provided the 3rd note of one chord resolves to the '7b' note of the next chord or vice-versa.
A simple bar of music with one melody note and one left hand chord can be 'filled out' by adding Counter Melody Notes. The added Counter Melody can be created from the 6th, '#5' and 5th notes of the major scale or chord indicated by the chord symbol.
Figure 3(a) shows an 'A' melody note with an 'A7' chord and an 'A' pedal. The Counter Melody is created by playing the 5th, 6th, '#5' and 5th notes of the 'A' major scale underneath the melody note. The 'E' note resolving to 'F#', the 'F#' resolving to 'F', and the 'F' note resolving to 'E'.
Figure 3(b) shows the Counter Melody played underneath the 'A' melody note which is held for the 4 beats of the bar, starting on E.
The next illustration in Figure 4 shows how a Counter Melody can be created by a moving note between the chord changes. The moving note creating the Counter Melody is shown by the arrows: 'C' to 'Bb' to 'A' to 'Ab' to 'G' to 'F' to 'E'.
Using advanced chord symbols, it is possible to create a similar Counter Melody to Figure 3(b) by playing with the left hand the moving notes between the chord changes. See Figure 5.
The Counter Melody notes are 'F#' the 13th (6th) note of the 'A13' chord, 'F' the (#5) note of the 'A7 (#5)' chord and 'E' the 5th note of the 'A7' chord.
The Counter Melody notes are: 'F#' to 'F' to 'E'.
A Fill-In uses notes from the chords of the music to create a movement between the Counter Melody notes.
In Figure 6 the Counter Melody starts with the 'C' note (7b) of the 'D7' chord in the 1st bar underneath the melody note of 'A'. The movement resolves to 'B' the 3rd note of the 'G7' chord underneath the melody note of 'G'. The 'G' melody note is held for 4 beats during the 2nd bar. In the 3rd bar the Counter Melody is created by the 3rd note of 'B' in the 'G7' chord underneath the 'G' melody note, tied from the previous bar. In the 4th bar it is created by the 3rd note of the 'C' chord 'E', played underneath the 'C' note. The Fill-In in the 2nd bar uses the 'C', 'D' and 'C' notes from the 'Dm7' chord.
Fill-in notes can also be used to create movement underneath the Ending Melody notes. The Fill-in notes are notes from the ending left hand chords. See Figure 7.
Feature by Brenda Hayward