MUS 211 Study Guide E (Chapter 5)

Application of Part-Writing Procedures
to Instrumental Music

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The guidelines below specifically apply to keyboard.

Differentiating Instrumental from Vocal Writing

  1. Prolonged harmonies:  In harmonic chorale style, chords frequently change on every beat.  In instrumental styles, however, a single harmony (especially the tonic) is often of longer duration.

Prolonged harmonies are effective when written in conjunction with other compositional features that highlight the continuous single harmony, such as:

  • Striking melodic motive or theme,
  • Strong rhythmic pattern,
  • Change in inversion of chord during duration of a single harmony,
  • In passages of rapid tempo,
  • Long melodic line implying a single harmony,
  • Melodic line in which the interest lies in the use of nonharmonic tones or chromatic scale passages.
  • In introductions, codettas or cadenzas.
  1. Free Voicing:  In keyboard music, it is not necessary that a given number of voice lines be maintained throughout a composition.
  1. Sonority Doubling:  Voice lines written for keyboard (or any instrumental ensemble) are often doubled at the octaves to produce a richer sonority.
  • A sonority doubling is always an octave reinforcement of a single voice line--usually bass or soprano.  Octaves between two different voice lines constitute parallel octaves, which should be avoided.
  1. Arpeggiated Harmonies:  This common device is used often in piano music.  It helps provide forward motion when a single chord or a series of chords is being used.
  1. Pedal Point:  This device is also common in instrumental music.  Several varieties of the pedal point exist, including:
  • Single pedal tone in the bass,
  • Double pedal in the bass, usually at the fifth,
  • Inverted pedal (pedal in an upper voice)
  • Interrupted pedal, in which the pedal point may be interspersed with arpeggiated figures.
  1. Melody in a Voice Line Other Than the Soprano:  The melody can be found as an inner voice, the lowest voice, or it can be divided between two voice lines.
  1. Melody Doubled in Thirds of Sixths.  Also:
  • Melody doubled at the tenth,
  • Melody doubled in thirds, plus additional sonority doubling.
  1. Range and Spacing of Voices:  Whereas in vocal music, the ranges are dictated by voice ranges, in instrumental music, the ranges are dictated by the pitch limitations of the instrument(s).

Refer to Appendix 2, pp. 459-463 for ranges and transpositions of wind instruments. Also, see here on the web:  MUS 111 Instrument Ranges & Transpositions

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