Piano Multi-Tonic Music Composition.

How to Compose Music using Multi-Tonic Modulation

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The Question

Last week we stumbled upon an interesting question on quora.com. Although the inquiry doesn’t seem to make sense, it helps to illustrate the misconceptions and misunderstandings that surround the music theory and the mysteries of harmony, music composition and counterpoint. On this video article, we will try to clarify some of those concepts. 

“When making a song, will it sound good if you mix minor and major positions or should you only use one of the two over and over again?”

The problem that most musicians encounter is that music has so many rules that can be paralyzing, but there is always a way around. We can’t break the rules, but we can bend them. To be able to explore the way major and minor chords blend and the effect produced by mixing one or the other, we have to try them out ourselves.  

Modal Music

On modal music, let’s say in the major or minor mode (Ionian, Dorian, Phrygian, Lydian, Mixolydian, Aeolian, Locrian) referred to as the Greek or Church Modes. When composing music using the modes the chord’s species will be predetermined by the scale of the mode. For example on the major (Ionian) mode the chords of the mode will be as follows:

Major Mode Triads

I – Im – IIIm – IV – V – VIm – VIIdim

Major Mode Seventh Chords

IMaj7 – IIm7 – IIIm7 – IVMaj7 – V7 – VIm7 – VIIm7(b5)

So if we wanted to use only major chords to compose music on the major mode, the chords would be (I, IV, V)

I: Tonic
IV: Subdominant
V: Dominant

And if we play II-V-I. It would be:
IIm7 – V7 – IMaj7

But there are also other composition techniques which do not follow the same rules as modal harmony does, such as:

Pedal (In which the bass plays the same sequence of notes while the chords change)
Ostinato (In which a melody pattern plays the same while the harmony changes)
Multi-Tonic (In which the chords descend by minor or major 3rd intervals)
Dodecaphonic (or Twelve-Tome Technique)
Constant Structures https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Constant_structure

To answer the above question regarding mixing chords of the same or different quality (minor/major) we use the Multi-Tonic music composition technique to explore the different textures. We hope the video helps to clarify some of these concepts.