Author Topic: Parallel Fifths and Octaves  (Read 8602 times)

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RichardMc

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Parallel Fifths and Octaves
« on: July 20, 2012, 07:02:00 AM »
This may sound like a strange question but I live in a compositional vacuum so this is where I get this sort of feedback. I have developed the habit of composing a piece and then going back and checking for parallel fifths or octaves and I was just wondering if other people do it this way or check note for note as they are writing.

Michel.R.E

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Re: Parallel Fifths and Octaves
« Reply #1 on: July 20, 2012, 07:13:34 AM »
because of my own musical language, I don't check for parallel 5ths. they are part and parcel of my harmonic language.

however, parallel 8ves (which aren't, at their root, the same issue as parallel 5ths) are something that I check as I compose. Sometimes - yes it happens - some will get by me, and I do come back and adjust them. This mostly happens during my initial "sketching stage".

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RichardMc

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Re: Parallel Fifths and Octaves
« Reply #2 on: July 20, 2012, 07:15:26 AM »
I think I had better do the same thing. It is laborious to go back through an entire composition and check for forbidden parallels. Thanks.

Jamie Kowalski

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Re: Parallel Fifths and Octaves
« Reply #3 on: July 20, 2012, 07:44:13 AM »
Like Michel, most of my music simply doesn't require looking for these because the language is far removed from traditional part-writing. That's not to say that it doesn't come up here and there. When it does, I deal with it as it comes.

Michel.R.E

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Re: Parallel Fifths and Octaves
« Reply #4 on: July 20, 2012, 07:46:08 AM »
for // 8ves, the easiest way to deal with it (finding them as you go) is to always check your soprano and your bass.

in essence, those two voices are the ones where // 8ves will be the most serious flaw.
while best to void them in inner voices as well, they CAN be more easily forgiven there.
"Writing music to be revolutionary is like cooking to be famous: Music’s main function is not revolution. – Alan Belkin "

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RichardMc

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Re: Parallel Fifths and Octaves
« Reply #5 on: July 20, 2012, 09:24:19 AM »
 
for // 8ves, the easiest way to deal with it (finding them as you go) is to always check your soprano and your bass.

in essence, those two voices are the ones where // 8ves will be the most serious flaw.
while best to void them in inner voices as well, they CAN be more easily forgiven there.

Thanks. Sounds like a sensible way to approach it.

Ron

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Re: Parallel Fifths and Octaves
« Reply #6 on: July 20, 2012, 10:04:46 AM »
Parallel 5ths are fine in my book, as long as they are done with full awareness (and not accidentally). However, in part-writing I always try to avoid parallel octaves (including approaching an octave from the same direction), because, as Michel has often said, one voice disappears momentarily.
Ron
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Michel.R.E

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Re: Parallel Fifths and Octaves
« Reply #7 on: July 20, 2012, 10:20:49 AM »
exactly.

I see parallel 5ths and parallel 8ves as two very different things.

parallel 5ths are an issue deeply rooted in common practice tonal harmony.

parallel octaves are a counterpoint issue.

contemporary harmony doesn't necessarily follow the same mechanisms as classical tonal harmony.

however, almost ALL music benefits from the principles of counterpoint in some form or other.

parallel octaves mean the sudden "merging" of two voices into what is in essence a unison.
in other words, one completely loses the sense that there are two distinct voices. this is particularly egregious when this happens for two notes here and there (the smallest amount of notes involved in parallel octaves would be two notes - or four if you count the repeated notes in each voice, two in one voice, two in the other)

this doesn't apply to a purposeful use of unison as a tool in a composition.
there are most definitely moments where what otherwise amounts to parallel 8ves is in effect nothing more than a reduction of a complete texture to a single voice. well-done, the effect can be most satisfying.
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Fermata

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Re: Parallel Fifths and Octaves
« Reply #8 on: January 16, 2013, 06:31:26 AM »
What about the so-called(?) 'mixed' parallel 5ths (I mean between a diminished and a perfect one) - should these too be used with a certain degree of caution? Sometimes I apply them when working in 4-part counterpoint because they do sound good to my ears, however, I'm not really sure whether their regular application is acceptable or not (from a technical point of view).

Ron

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Re: Parallel Fifths and Octaves
« Reply #9 on: January 16, 2013, 06:49:44 AM »

To my ear, going from a diminished to a perfect fifth is enharmonically moving from an augmented 4th to p5--which is perfectly okay because it is a kind of resolution of the tritone.

But, having said that, you have to realize that I am not bound by the rules of common practice. I belong to a group that is very much biased towards tonality. In fact, some of its members can't believe that anything worth listening to was written after 1850! But, I do join in group projects though. A recent one was setting scenes from the stories about Robin Hood to music. In musically depicting a 12th century duel, I felt free to use parallel 5ths to emphasize the "medievality" of the setting.  Apparently my section is the favorite one of the group intending to perform this work in concert. I bring this up because I could use the parallel fifths for sound musical reasons--and it worked, whereas most other members contributing could not use this technique because of their strict adherence to 19th century formal rules. So, I can more faithfully recreate "historical" music than the "historicists" can! I love irony, by the way.  8)
Ron
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Michel.R.E

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Re: Parallel Fifths and Octaves
« Reply #10 on: January 16, 2013, 06:57:05 AM »
What about the so-called(?) 'mixed' parallel 5ths (I mean between a diminished and a perfect one) - should these too be used with a certain degree of caution? Sometimes I apply them when working in 4-part counterpoint because they do sound good to my ears, however, I'm not really sure whether their regular application is acceptable or not (from a technical point of view).

as far as I know, there is no actual proscription against that movement... HOWEVER
augmented fourths (diminished 5th) also have a resolution that requires following certain rules.

In part it depends on the origin of your augmented 4th. Is it part of the harmony (ie: a dominant 7th harmony), or is it some sort of non-harmonic decorative note (ie: neighbor tone, passing note, etc...).

Before considering the linear movement of an augmented fourth in terms of "parallel 5ths", you have to consider its resolution as an augmented 4th.

In counterpoint, an augmented 4th has to resolve either inward to a 3rd, or outward to a 6th, so there is no possibility of having an aug 4th followed by a perfect 5th. (generally speaking, the only way the interval can appear in counterpoint, is as part of the 7th degree, and that harmony must always be in 1st inversion. in 3+ part counterpoint this means it will always resolve outward to a 6th. in 2-part counterpoint the interval will never be seen.)
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Fermata

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Re: Parallel Fifths and Octaves
« Reply #11 on: January 16, 2013, 07:32:34 AM »
Thanks for the reply.
The problem concerned the 1st inversion of a dom. 7th chord and its resolution, and was result of an embellishment.
So, given that I interpreted your reply correctly, this kind of parallels depicted in the situation above is acceptable (?).

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« Last Edit: January 16, 2013, 07:41:30 AM by Fermata »

Michel.R.E

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Re: Parallel Fifths and Octaves
« Reply #12 on: January 16, 2013, 08:09:03 AM »
what I see as an issue in the excerpt is the suspension in the alto playing over its own resolution.
it's always a bit hard to place voices correctly to do a 2-1 suspension in 4 parts.  what it entails is avoiding having the "1" anywhere else than the voice doing that suspension, in this case the alto.
that passage is tricky. you have the correct internal resolution of the augmented 4th in that 7th chord, except it forces you to sound the suspension over its resolution, which is wrong.
considering the chromatic passing tone you're adding in the tenor, I would prefer to leave out the suspension completely. particularly because you are delaying the resolution of the suspension by another beat (and inserting a rest before the resolution).

for the last beat of measure 1, it seems to me more normal for the soprano to drop to G#, or at least take the suspension which will resolve on G#.

the thing here is I don't know what you are working from. is there a pre-established theme? is this meant to be counterpoint? or harmony? is there a "given" material that you must hold to?
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winknotes

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Re: Parallel Fifths and Octaves
« Reply #13 on: January 16, 2013, 08:48:48 AM »
Please bear in mind I'm a novice contrapuntalist  :P barely able to do 2 part 1st species, but this does look interesting.  Like Michel my first thought was that the soprano needs to go down to g# on measure 2 which would be nice contrary motion to the bass.  But the inner voices are problematic then too.  I would suppose the tenor would resolve down to e and the alto could go back up to a b or escape to a c# resolving to a b? 
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Fermata

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Re: Parallel Fifths and Octaves
« Reply #14 on: January 16, 2013, 09:44:22 AM »
This was from one of my stupid fugal exercises. The thing in the soprano was (part of) a given subject that had to be kept. The lower three parts were mine, with the alto being an invertible countersubject and the tenore & basso just harmonic fillers.

As for the suspension in the CS I'm going to remove it then if it's wrong.
Unfortunately It seems I keep getting confused between what's pleasant to my ears and what's technically correct...




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