\"\"
Piano Forum logo

Why is Four-Part Harmony taught in Music Schools? (Read 3981 times)

Offline jason_sioco

  • Full Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 155
Why is Four-Part Harmony taught in Music Schools?
« on: February 13, 2016, 05:29:30 PM »
Correct me if I am wrong, but I find four-part keyboard harmony to be useless. This Harmony Course is a mandatory course in my school. I find that it is just a small dot and there is another kind of galaxy of harmony out there such as Jazz Harmony, Pop Harmony, etc. I find that once I am done taking the course, I will never use four-part harmony again in my life.

Offline iansinclair

  • PS Silver Member
  • Sr. Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 1472
Re: Why is Four-Part Harmony taught in Music Schools?
«Reply #1 on: February 13, 2016, 08:14:08 PM »
What, exactly, do you mean by "four-part harmony"?  Jazz can be in four parts.  Pop can be.  Country can be.  So can Bach.  So can Monteverdi.  (you may have to look in a reference for those two...).

If what you mean is classical harmonic schemes, with such exotica as tonic and dominant chords, sevenths, inversions, progressions, cadences and the like, it forms the foundation of almost all music.  Knowing and understanding that foundation, and the various ways various traditions and styles have worked with it, then one can play with it and work variations and changes on it.  One can create melodies with a satisfying arc to them.  One can improvise.

Walk before you try to run.
Ian

Offline dcstudio

  • PS Silver Member
  • Sr. Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 2423
Re: Why is Four-Part Harmony taught in Music Schools?
«Reply #2 on: February 13, 2016, 10:47:47 PM »
I will never use four-part harmony again in my life.

oh yes you will! :)  and it's not at all useless...   of course maybe you will be another Lang Lang and prove me wrong...  but any job title of "musical director" will entail using this skill.

why are you expected to learn SATB part-writing?   because within it lies all of the rules of tonal harmony.   It was why music notation was developed... to standardize the liturgy in the Catholic church.   If you are ever a choral director you will be very grateful you learned part-writing.  

They teach you music from the days of the Greek modes up to Schoenberg's matrix and beyond so that you understand how it developed and the linear progression to took as it has evolved.   Really, SATB was easy, I hated having to learn Renaissance notation... talk about something not in use any more.  If you don't first understand the basis for tonal harmony than branching out into jazz really isn't possible.  Jazz tends to simplify the larger wordy concepts of traditional harmony but the rules are still the same.

there really is no "pop" harmony rule that I am aware of... that's more of a structural type deal... tonic, dominant, sub-dominant, and the occasional 7th or add 9 chord--that's pretty much pop harmony... no need to sign up for that class.   Pentatonic scales, triads, open-fifths... that's about it.

It all makes sense when you get done with school--well not immediately but eventually.   All those theory classes, music history, music ed, acoustics, all of it comes together.   Keep at it! :)  

music school is awesome... I envy you.

Offline keypeg

  • PS Silver Member
  • Sr. Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 3567
Re: Why is Four-Part Harmony taught in Music Schools?
«Reply #3 on: February 14, 2016, 12:27:08 AM »
I started off studying four-part harmony the way it is generally presented.  I even tried to make sure I'd learn it deeply enough by asking for a book that was not just geared toward passing exams.  Eventually I ended up with four or five texts, because each left out something crucial.  A year or so into, and having stopped lessons, I met my present teacher, who warned me that this material would put music into a box.  Nonetheless we went through it.  One of my main books was Horwood, which was more demanding and had you create 8 measure lines to begin with.

The first thing we found was that the rules prevented you from many things that would make good sounding music.  It had to be restrictive, since it was aimed at giving students rules when their experience was still limited.  Actually listening to how your music sounded was barely on the radar, so if you were a good drone, and followed the rules, you would produce something that would pass the muster of exams.  But if you were a musician, you could not use your ear or instinct, because of the rules.

The next discovery was that Bach himself did not follow those rules, even though they tend to be ascribed to him.  Later in one of the official books used these days, I found small print for teachers, stating that everything had been simplified, and that any teacher should feel free to teach more broadly according to their judgment.

One book that was used by the RCM but has been discontinued after the last revision of the syllabus, tried to get past the narrowness.  It stated at the beginning that the rules applied to a restricted period of music history, but not before or after - i.e. especially during the Baroque period (notwithstanding that Bach himself went beyond those rules).  It began delightfully with some general principles that transcend those narrow rules:
1. the tritone, of which there are only 6 if you discount inversions and alternate names
2. the "up P5, down P4" pattern, and what this implies.
Thereafter they invited exploration of these two things, especially the tritone, regardless of what official rules they had to teach, in order to keep the door open.
The book also tried to promote musicality - which, however, could not always be done - because of the narrow restrictions of the rules.  The exercises themselves, written to stay within the rules, were often too dry to allow for musicality.

This last book also tried to give examples from actual music, and here at times it was "tire par les cheveux" - something which was actually in the middle of a transition, with a tiny section pulled out.

There is the "dominant 7" which, if you take it as being a major triad topped by a minor 7th in root position, does not always function as a dominant.  But in these studies it always does.  In some music, for example, you can have a series of these chords, which do not resolve in that way and do not have that function.  In other times, if you go by ear, you will have your "augmented 6th" chords, which the theory does cover but makes mysterious and full of rules.

When you get to later music, it gets really complicated if you try to look at music only according to this system.

The final conclusion was that "4 part harmony" seemed to be a specialized study of a narrow period of time which for some reason is taught right at the beginning.  I am still ambivalent about it.  I sort of enjoyed having my writing sound like Bach's amateurishly weak little sister.

Offline iansinclair

  • PS Silver Member
  • Sr. Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 1472
Re: Why is Four-Part Harmony taught in Music Schools?
«Reply #4 on: February 14, 2016, 01:48:46 AM »
I found keypeg's comments interesting and illuminating -- and a little dismaying, but not surprising.  And the key to all that is in the characterization as being "rules".

They aren't rules.  No music gestapo type is going to come out and arrest you if you disobey them.  As Keypeg notes, most of the better composers don't always follow them; some of them -- Chopin -- disobeys (if that is the term) with merry abandon.  Some modern composers don't pay them any attention at all (the fact that I find their music unlistenable is, perhaps, irrelevant).  What they are, though, are guides to what has been found to work.  If you are a composer and want to do something else, well and good; please do.  But as I said above, learn to walk before you run.  In another vein, remember that most musicians learn some basic things first -- scales, arpeggios, that sort of thing -- before they assemble them in various ways to make music.  In a yet more distant vein, a famous visual artist -- Picasso -- stated, when asked, that if you couldn't do classical drawing, you had no business doing modern art.  And he was right.
Ian

Offline keypeg

  • PS Silver Member
  • Sr. Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 3567
Re: Why is Four-Part Harmony taught in Music Schools?
«Reply #5 on: February 14, 2016, 03:02:12 AM »
I found keypeg's comments interesting and illuminating -- and a little dismaying, but not surprising.  And the key to all that is in the characterization as being "rules".

They aren't rules.  No music gestapo type is going to come out and arrest you if you disobey them.  As Keypeg notes, most of the better composers don't always follow them; some of them -- Chopin -- disobeys (if that is the term) with merry abandon.  Some modern composers don't pay them any attention at all (the fact that I find their music unlistenable is, perhaps, irrelevant).  What they are, though, are guides to what has been found to work.
You are totally right - they are not rules.  But they are presented as rules, esp. in texts within systems like the RCM, ABRSM etc. exams which aim for exams.  If you don't follow the rules, you lose marks, and the marks are the point.  As we delved further into it, I found, for example, the note to the teacher that stated that these were simplifications, as I wrote above.  In another section there was a part with examples from Bach, along with the caveat to students to not break the rules that Bach broke.   :o  There being good reason for this, but it gives the wrong message.

I mentioned the one book which pushed the concept of tritones, which went beyond the syllabus and I really liked.  But throughout the book, the tritone always only resolved one way, i.e. only within the context of a Dominant 7 within that function, going to the Tonic (where there is a clear tonic, not ambiguity, nothing else going on).  The problem was not the fact of the V7-I being the only context, but the danger that as a student I would have seen this kind of chord - or that kind of chord - only existing in that context.

I ended up on a kind of dual path.  On the one hand I continued with the formal studies, but then we also looked at compositions of Romantic era composers for example, and used jazz chord symbols in order to get at the naked chord without giving it any role (Tonic, etc.) - but still with the freedom of seeing those structures such as I, IV, V when they existed - and seeing what the composer was actually doing.  I've been on that dual path ever since, because I am still very much a student.

I don't know if there is a way around it.  I understand that Wagner, before he started inventing, first made sure that he had the basic traditional things down pat, but that he also understood them inside out from all sides, with his ears, and not as some form of algebra mixed with geometry.

Offline klavieronin

  • Sr. Member
  • ****
  • Posts: 541
Re: Why is Four-Part Harmony taught in Music Schools?
«Reply #6 on: February 15, 2016, 11:33:33 PM »
I think you would be surprised at just how much music is fundamentally based on four part harmony. Even if it doesn't look like it at first, when you look closer you often find the rules of four part harmony being applied (even if very loosely). Take Chopin's first Nocturne: the right hand part constitutes the soprano, and if you divide the left hand part into a bottom middle and to the other three voices can be found there.

Offline keypeg

  • PS Silver Member
  • Sr. Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 3567
Re: Why is Four-Part Harmony taught in Music Schools?
«Reply #7 on: February 21, 2016, 06:50:02 PM »
I think you would be surprised at just how much music is fundamentally based on four part harmony. Even if it doesn't look like it at first, when you look closer you often find the rules of four part harmony being applied (even if very loosely). Take Chopin's first Nocturne: the right hand part constitutes the soprano, and if you divide the left hand part into a bottom middle and to the other three voices can be found there.
And do those other three voices, as you see them, also follow the rules as they are commonly taught in four part harmony?

Offline dcstudio

  • PS Silver Member
  • Sr. Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 2423
Re: Why is Four-Part Harmony taught in Music Schools?
«Reply #8 on: February 21, 2016, 08:02:06 PM »
the rules of four part harmony or part-writing:

don't use P5
don't cross voices
use guide tones


ok so there are a few more...

my original post was kind of misleading... this is a vehicle to teach you aspects of music theory and to train your eyes to recognize and also express music in notational form.   It is very basic...that is why your 1st and 2nd semester theory classes just pound that into your brain.  It is not useless... it's kind of like having to take algebra before calculus.

Offline keypeg

  • PS Silver Member
  • Sr. Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 3567
Re: Why is Four-Part Harmony taught in Music Schools?
«Reply #9 on: February 22, 2016, 12:01:32 AM »
it's kind of like having to take algebra before calculus.
It is kind of like being taught natural numbers before calculus.  Decimal points, anyone?

Offline keypeg

  • PS Silver Member
  • Sr. Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 3567
Re: Why is Four-Part Harmony taught in Music Schools?
«Reply #10 on: February 22, 2016, 12:03:53 AM »
Your first post, dcstudio, seemed to give an overview of the study of music theory as a whole, and that did indeed give us the usefulness within the context of the music we encounter.  :)

Offline dcstudio

  • PS Silver Member
  • Sr. Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 2423
Re: Why is Four-Part Harmony taught in Music Schools?
«Reply #11 on: February 22, 2016, 12:04:20 AM »
yes the gap is quite a bit wider than algebra and calculus..lol.. just didn't want to sound all condescending and stuff.   ;D

Offline dcstudio

  • PS Silver Member
  • Sr. Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 2423
Re: Why is Four-Part Harmony taught in Music Schools?
«Reply #12 on: February 22, 2016, 12:18:41 AM »
Your first post, dcstudio, seemed to give an overview of the study of music theory as a whole, and that did indeed give us the usefulness within the context of the music we encounter.  :)

yes then I got silly about part-writing... lol.  really those were the big 3 mistakes, other than a key signature or missed accidental that they just gave you an F for as soon as they saw it.. or the TA did any way.

Offline keypeg

  • PS Silver Member
  • Sr. Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 3567
Re: Why is Four-Part Harmony taught in Music Schools?
«Reply #13 on: February 22, 2016, 01:09:05 AM »
yes the gap is quite a bit wider than algebra and calculus..lol.. just didn't want to sound all condescending and stuff.   ;D
I should be less cryptic and explain myself better.  I used to teach grade 2, so I had to relearn what natural numbers are. ;)  These the numbers 0, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10.  No negative numbers, no fractions, and no decimals.  But in real life there are fractions and things that are not precisely 2 inches long.

Similarly two of the rules that you posted in 4 part harmony as it is taught were:
- don't use P5 (parallel fifths)
- don't cross voices

Bach crossed voices in his four part harmony, and parallel fifths were used before and after that narrow period in music history.  If these things are understood as guidelines and fitting a particular type of music, rather than rules, and if people felt free to explore and know that music has more than this, then it is fine.  Just like natural numbers are the basis for 1.4, -7, and 2 3/4.  Well, something like that.

Offline timothy42b

  • PS Silver Member
  • Sr. Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 3248
Re: Why is Four-Part Harmony taught in Music Schools?
«Reply #14 on: February 22, 2016, 01:17:45 PM »
There may be things you learn from studying SATB harmony.

I seriously doubt you will ever apply actual SATB writing.  Maybe if you become a music director for a mainstream liturgical denomination - but those aren't even the majority of churches.  And a lot of them no longer have choirs that read music. 

Barbershop has a bit of a revival in my area though. 

SATB is inherently limited by the average human voice.  The piano (or the orchestra) is not.
Tim

Offline jimroof

  • Full Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 203
Re: Why is Four-Part Harmony taught in Music Schools?
«Reply #15 on: February 22, 2016, 03:51:30 PM »
What, exactly, do you mean by "four-part harmony"?  Jazz can be in four parts.  Pop can be.  Country can be.  So can Bach.  So can Monteverdi.  (you may have to look in a reference for those two...).

If what you mean is classical harmonic schemes, with such exotica as tonic and dominant chords, sevenths, inversions, progressions, cadences and the like, it forms the foundation of almost all music.  Knowing and understanding that foundation, and the various ways various traditions and styles have worked with it, then one can play with it and work variations and changes on it.  One can create melodies with a satisfying arc to them.  One can improvise.

Walk before you try to run.

Four part harmony should not be a term that needs defining.  SATB.  There you go.  Soprano, Alto, Tenor, Bass.  The very basis for vocal arranging and the most basic parts distribution for choral groups.  95% of hymns are in four part harmony.  Bach chorales?  Most in 4 part harmnoy (possibly all, but I can only speak to the ones I have actually seen).

When I was a piano performance major some decades back, choral arranging was a required course.  It was ALL dealing with 4 part harmony.  When I took a course in 18th century counterpoint... a lot of 4 part harmony.

For a musician to ask what four part harmony is... well, that is sort of analogous to an auto mechanic wondering what a distributor is.  It may not be in many modern cars, but it used to be in roughly 100% of them NOT that long ago.
Chopin Ballades
Chopin Scherzos 2 and 3
Mephisto Waltz 1
Beethoven Piano Concerto 3
Schumann Concerto Am
Ginastera Piano Sonata
L'isle Joyeuse
Feux d'Artifice
Prokofiev Sonata Dm

Offline timothy42b

  • PS Silver Member
  • Sr. Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 3248
Re: Why is Four-Part Harmony taught in Music Schools?
«Reply #16 on: February 22, 2016, 04:24:25 PM »

For a musician to ask what four part harmony is... well, that is sort of analogous to an auto mechanic wondering what a distributor is.  It may not be in many modern cars, but it used to be in roughly 100% of them NOT that long ago.

Most mechanics have never seen a carburetor.  They might need to know it exists - but they don't need to waste a semester learning to rebuild one. 

How long will your SATB lessons stick with you if you never get to apply them? 
Tim

Offline themeandvariation

  • PS Silver Member
  • Sr. Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 756
Re: Why is Four-Part Harmony taught in Music Schools?
«Reply #17 on: February 22, 2016, 04:29:51 PM »
From a pianistic point of view, understanding 4 part writing allows one the challenge of 'hearing' multiple voices distinctly, and thus being able to bring out this quality in polyphonic writing..
But one must notice it first..  Many piano compositions do tend to highlight one main voice at a time, (especially noticeable in romantic literature, and the gallant style just following baroque..)but certainly this is not always the case.
From a compositional standpoint, it is looking at the structure of How a composer Balances multiple voices..
To reduce it to a few rules, is utterly undescriptive.. And, even given those few rules mentioned, one may ask, "For What reason might these rules have been given?", before rejecting them…
I'm not saying one shouldn't compositionally break the 'rules' as mentioned… but to do so With the understanding of their purpose in the first place..
Studying  4 part writing, in short, improves musicianship - i would contend.
4'33"

Offline jimroof

  • Full Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 203
Re: Why is Four-Part Harmony taught in Music Schools?
«Reply #18 on: February 22, 2016, 04:38:14 PM »
Most mechanics have never seen a carburetor.  They might need to know it exists - but they don't need to waste a semester learning to rebuild one. 

How long will your SATB lessons stick with you if you never get to apply them? 

You CANNOT study serious repertoire and NOT KNOW what four part harmony is.  You can be a hack, a rank amateur, a wannabe, any number of other things - but you cannot be a serious student of music and at the same time be confused on this.

That was my point.  I clearly illustrated in my post that four part harmony might not be as relevant today as it once was (distributor as compared to EI today).  However, I did sort of make a mistake in so doing.  Four part harmony has MORE relevance today than a distributor does because we still have the same 12 notes to play around with and traditional harmony is still built out of triads with the inclusion of various 6's, 7's and 9's. 

BTW, I also studied 20th Century counterpoint in addition to choral arranging and 18th Century Counterpoint.

Of those three classes, the most useless, BY FAR, was 20th Century Counterpoint.
Chopin Ballades
Chopin Scherzos 2 and 3
Mephisto Waltz 1
Beethoven Piano Concerto 3
Schumann Concerto Am
Ginastera Piano Sonata
L'isle Joyeuse
Feux d'Artifice
Prokofiev Sonata Dm

Offline dcstudio

  • PS Silver Member
  • Sr. Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 2423
Re: Why is Four-Part Harmony taught in Music Schools?
«Reply #19 on: February 22, 2016, 05:42:52 PM »
Most mechanics have never seen a carburetor.  They might need to know it exists - but they don't need to waste a semester learning to rebuild one.  

How long will your SATB lessons stick with you if you never get to apply them?  

at the risk of sounding like a jerk... we don't take SATB lessons... we take theory classes.  

sure if you are a hobby pianist... no need for this stuff.    I work in music... I use the skills I acquired from part-writing every day almost.   It teaches you so much... and those rules transfer to other types of music.   Arranging, composing, transcribing, and the like will all utilize the basic skills you acquired in first and second semester theory.   Besides... how can you understand the more complex concepts if you can't handle writing for SATB.

it's like fundamental... you don't go straight to calculus...you take basic math first... without it, it's not possible.

and comparing classical pianists to mechanics and SATB part-writing to carburetors is not really a fair analogy... in fact it's kind of insulting... though you may not have meant it that way.

that being said... Universities make more money if they spoonfeed you info.   That's why at Berklee in Boston there are 6 semesters of classes on the pentatonic scale...lol

so though your analogy was kind of insulting... the idea isn't that far off.

Offline timothy42b

  • PS Silver Member
  • Sr. Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 3248
Re: Why is Four-Part Harmony taught in Music Schools?
«Reply #20 on: February 22, 2016, 06:13:34 PM »
at the risk of sounding like a jerk... we don't take SATB lessons... we take theory classes.  


For most of us nonacademic types, we will retain only what we use.

I read through my wife's music theory texts.  (She has a music degree; I have several degrees but none are in music.)  I understood them, in an intellectual way, but with no real application they didn't stick.

Fast forward a while, and I ended up running a Praise and Worship band.  Now I needed to know some theory:  how to spell chords, chord progressions, a few things like that.  Had to open a couple of those books back up.  But now there was an actual application, and what I learned made sense, and stayed.
SATB for that group?  Zero.  The only time I've seen SATB in my life has been in church; it is all so similar that I probably haven't made a mistake sightsinging that stuff in the past 50 years. 

 I also have Mark Levine's Jazz Piano.  Fascinating book, so much in there!  No SATB though. 
Tim

Offline timothy42b

  • PS Silver Member
  • Sr. Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 3248
Re: Why is Four-Part Harmony taught in Music Schools?
«Reply #21 on: February 22, 2016, 06:30:09 PM »
I'm not saying this is completely useless, by the way.  It's music from a historically significant period, and some familiarity is required by any musically educated person.

Actual modern application is a bit scant though. 

You will never need to know any SATB to play from a lead sheet, in fact it may be a hindrance. 
Tim

Offline dcstudio

  • PS Silver Member
  • Sr. Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 2423
Re: Why is Four-Part Harmony taught in Music Schools?
«Reply #22 on: February 22, 2016, 06:44:34 PM »
You will never need to know any SATB to play from a lead sheet, in fact it may be a hindrance.  

a hindrance? how? I disagree.  I am quite proficient in both SATB and reading lead sheets and I cannot for the life of me understand how one could affect the other--I play jazz piano professionally (YT link at the bottom)... it sure helps if you are an arranger... in any genre.   There are modern pieces written for chorus that still utilize these principals.   It's a vehicle to give you a foundational understanding that you will continue to build upon for the rest of your life.  I don't know how else to explain it since I took these classes that you are asking about.  

 and SATB part-writing simply means writing for 4 voices... it is not genre or period specific.  so to call it "music from a historically significant period" doesn't make sense.

modern application may be scant from your point of view but not from mine--and that's ok :)

you don't need it if you are a hobby pianist... but hobby pianists generally don't go to music school.

Offline timothy42b

  • PS Silver Member
  • Sr. Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 3248
Re: Why is Four-Part Harmony taught in Music Schools?
«Reply #23 on: February 22, 2016, 08:53:07 PM »
 I am quite proficient in both SATB and reading lead sheets and I cannot for the life of me understand how one could affect the other

YES!!!!!!!! 

We agree totally.  No more needs to be said. 
Tim

Offline timothy42b

  • PS Silver Member
  • Sr. Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 3248
Re: Why is Four-Part Harmony taught in Music Schools?
«Reply #24 on: February 22, 2016, 08:54:03 PM »
Oh.  Except if Nyi were still around he would lecture us on vertical versus horizontal harmony.
Tim

Offline dcstudio

  • PS Silver Member
  • Sr. Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 2423
Re: Why is Four-Part Harmony taught in Music Schools?
«Reply #25 on: February 22, 2016, 09:42:59 PM »
YES!!!!!!!!  

We agree totally.  No more needs to be said.  

well, what I should have said is I don't see how one could hinder the other.. SATB part-writing is how I learned notation and a slew of other things...   it's as necessary as solfege.  

it was the first time I put my own notes on a staff--the first arrangements I ever did--sorry I guess I am a bit sentimental.

they have to give you some kind of structure to work with when you start out in theory class... I mean most of us are totally clueless on the first day of theory class at a big university.   that doesn't go away for a while.   They give you four part voice scores to write because a lot of people have taken choir.  It's familiar.  Plus choral directors band directors music ministers--all of them need it in it's original form... and many many music majors end up there.  That's a pretty good reason to teach it.

all this from a jazzer... I am rebellious to the establishment as well..  all of that structure from my classical training became a cocoon of sorts that I had to escape from... but that's true for most.


Offline timothy42b

  • PS Silver Member
  • Sr. Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 3248
Re: Why is Four-Part Harmony taught in Music Schools?
«Reply #26 on: February 23, 2016, 12:48:23 PM »
well, what I should have said is I don't see how one could hinder the other.. SATB part-writing is how I learned notation and a slew of other things...   it's as necessary as solfege.  


Well, I'm not so sure it would hinder.  But for me SATB leads to thinking about 4 individual notes rather than a chord.  So there's a bit of a difference in emphasis.  Maybe that isn't true for anybody else. 

There are some fundamentals you need as a music major that a pure pianist might get by without.  I suspect traditional pedagogy leans on the experiences in choir, wind band, and orchestra - you seem to be suggesting that too.  I've lately wondered about the future, since those types of groups are on the decline, and serve mostly a pedagogical function.  You could have a career as an orchestral musician, I guess, if you're one of the top .001%, but wind bands are for all practical purposes dead.  (though there are some good ones out there)  My own kids were in choir in high school.  They learned to sing very musically and produce some impressive performances, but without reading music, so even that style has changed. 
Tim

Offline dcstudio

  • PS Silver Member
  • Sr. Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 2423
Re: Why is Four-Part Harmony taught in Music Schools?
«Reply #27 on: February 23, 2016, 02:54:39 PM »
Well, I'm not so sure it would hinder.  But for me SATB leads to thinking about 4 individual notes rather than a chord.  . 

ahhh...ok...  now it makes senses.   I get that...seriously... I am also into jazz and we have a real tendency to think vertically.   Those four notes are in fact a chord...(most of the time) and also part of 4 melodic lines unto themselves.   The idea with learning part-writing is to manipulate the harmony and melody on a written staff.  It's not really a "piano" skill but all of it helps you be a better player--or better yet...musician.

when I embarked upon music school I thought I would get out and just be a pianist...lol.   They round out your education like that because it exponentially raises your chances of earning a living.  You kind of have to be a jack of all trades..  almost any job with "music" in the description you have a shot at getting--it's figuring out how to do it that's tricky.

Offline klavieronin

  • Sr. Member
  • ****
  • Posts: 541
Re: Why is Four-Part Harmony taught in Music Schools?
«Reply #28 on: February 24, 2016, 02:52:22 AM »
And do those other three voices, as you see them, also follow the rules as they are commonly taught in four part harmony?
More or less, yes they do. It's not strictly four par harmony but if you've have ever done any voice leading analysis you can see that the general principles are there.

I'm not suggesting that Chopin was confining himself to the rules of four part harmony but I think it is in the DNA of most good music of the "common practice period" (as it was called at the university I studied at.)

Offline dcstudio

  • PS Silver Member
  • Sr. Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 2423
Re: Why is Four-Part Harmony taught in Music Schools?
«Reply #29 on: February 24, 2016, 03:04:51 PM »
More or less, yes they do. It's not strictly four par harmony but if you've have ever done any voice leading analysis you can see that the general principles are there.

I'm not suggesting that Chopin was confining himself to the rules of four part harmony but I think it is in the DNA of most good music of the "common practice period" (as it was called at the university I studied at.)

voice leading analysis...  what university was that?

Offline keypeg

  • PS Silver Member
  • Sr. Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 3567
Re: Why is Four-Part Harmony taught in Music Schools?
«Reply #30 on: February 25, 2016, 12:34:41 AM »
More or less, yes they do. It's not strictly four par harmony but if you've have ever done any voice leading analysis you can see that the general principles are there.

I'm not suggesting that Chopin was confining himself to the rules of four part harmony but I think it is in the DNA of most good music of the "common practice period" (as it was called at the university I studied at.)
Can you find an example - and for all four "voices"?

Offline iansinclair

  • PS Silver Member
  • Sr. Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 1472
Re: Why is Four-Part Harmony taught in Music Schools?
«Reply #31 on: February 25, 2016, 03:46:39 PM »
I might make one additional comment... well, maybe more than that.

First place, to confine one's thinking to only four parts is a bit naive.  The same principles -- I refuse to call them rules -- apply equally well to two part writing; to writing with a tenor and ground -- perhaps with a fauxbourdon; to writing in more than four parts (eight parts are common enough in vocal writing).  So don't think just in terms of SATB.  Try to think in terms of how the lines of each part flow along with time, and how the lines of each part interact with each other to form harmonic sequences.

Second place, a good understanding of the material in the paragraph above will work wonders in helping to understand why and how music from different traditions or times works the way it does.  The voice leading and harmonic sequencing in Celtic (or USA Appalachian, which is much the same) is very different from English or European music -- which, in turn, is utterly different from, say Near Eastern (including Yiddish and Roma), East Indian or African traditions.  Unless you understand the differences, attempts to play music from other traditions than what you learned as a youth (if anything) will be nothing more than rote exercises, or technical repetitions (sometimes, I'll grant you, very good ones) without soul.
Ian

Offline klavieronin

  • Sr. Member
  • ****
  • Posts: 541
Re: Why is Four-Part Harmony taught in Music Schools?
«Reply #32 on: February 28, 2016, 11:56:07 PM »
voice leading analysis...  what university was that?
University of Sydney (Sydney Conservatorium of Music). They teach from Robert Gauldin's "Harmonic Practice in Tonal Music" which is based on the Heinrich Schenker style of analysis.

Can you find an example - and for all four "voices"?
I'll upload an example when I get some time. Maybe in the next day or two.

Offline klavieronin

  • Sr. Member
  • ****
  • Posts: 541
Re: Why is Four-Part Harmony taught in Music Schools?
«Reply #33 on: February 29, 2016, 12:49:25 AM »
Can you find an example - and for all four "voices"?
It's been a while since I've done this so this is a little rough and only a few bars but you get the picture. Like I said, it's not strict four part harmony but the basic principles are there;

Offline dcstudio

  • PS Silver Member
  • Sr. Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 2423
Re: Why is Four-Part Harmony taught in Music Schools?
«Reply #34 on: February 29, 2016, 03:33:25 AM »
University of Sydney (Sydney Conservatorium of Music). They teach from Robert Gauldin's "Harmonic Practice in Tonal Music" which is based on the Heinrich Schenker style of analysis.
I'll upload an example when I get some time. Maybe in the next day or two.

hey that's pretty forward thinking..  Schenkerian analysis is the only way actually.   I can see how the reduction might be beneficial in learning this.   I was jazz studies though... they teach us that from the get go.   I took jazz theory and traditional theory concurrently--things make way more sense that way. :)


Offline virtuoso80

  • PS Silver Member
  • Full Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 218
Re: Why is Four-Part Harmony taught in Music Schools?
«Reply #35 on: February 29, 2016, 05:19:16 AM »
In my private lessons I stop before going into 4-part harmony. I teach how to recognize what the chord progressions are in the music, and what to call things, but even saying something like, "I to vi is a weak progression and usually you want something stronger..." I have to add, "...of course in modern music it's done all the time and works fine." So, teaching the 'rules' of 4-part harmony is going even deeper into a realm that has limited use in modern music.

It always interesting to show students that even their simple little ditty in the level 2 book is more harmonically complex than almost everything they hear in pop music. But then, what does that mean? What am I trying to say to them, we should abandon all modern musical notions? I am a prog-rocker, but more complex does not automatically make something better.

Offline dcstudio

  • PS Silver Member
  • Sr. Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 2423
Re: Why is Four-Part Harmony taught in Music Schools?
«Reply #36 on: February 29, 2016, 05:52:40 AM »



notation is really a prison that's why they are called "bars" of music


it's not meant to be a set of rules you follow forever but it's necessary to study that step in the evolution of western music so you can understand HOW to move beyond it.

it's the narrowminded and uncreative that fall into the trap of forever limiting themselves... not a talented musician.  You will evolve far beyond the box.

Offline keypeg

  • PS Silver Member
  • Sr. Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 3567
Re: Why is Four-Part Harmony taught in Music Schools?
«Reply #37 on: February 29, 2016, 09:13:27 AM »
Schenkerian analysis is the only way actually.   
How about Neo-Riemannian?  ;)

Offline timothy42b

  • PS Silver Member
  • Sr. Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 3248
Re: Why is Four-Part Harmony taught in Music Schools?
«Reply #38 on: February 29, 2016, 01:16:54 PM »
I would have said I probably will never need this stuff, but realized this weekend I'm wrong.

I need to adapt a Handel sonata for a four part trombone group.  It is written with a melody and a bass part.  BUT, there are those infamous numbers scattered through the bass.  You know what I mean, 6, 6/4, etc. 
Tim

Offline brogers70

  • PS Silver Member
  • Sr. Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 1139
Re: Why is Four-Part Harmony taught in Music Schools?
«Reply #39 on: February 29, 2016, 02:36:53 PM »
I don't listen to a lot of pop music (because I'm a cranky old retired guy whose interest in music history peaks around 1750). But when I do, I keep hearing typical chord progression from the common practice period, I-ii7-v-I, circle of fifths progression, passacaglia progressions, ostinato bass patterns. I don't look at the written down versions of the pop stuff to check for all the rules of voice leading and all that, but I hear lots of standard classical chord progressions.

I always took it as a given that the "rules" were descriptive - that they were attempts, after the fact, to systematize what successful composers had often done, rather than recipes for writing good music. I've never taken a music theory course in which it was not made clear from the start that once you had absorbed the rules you should remember that there are situations in which it works better to ignore them.

Offline dcstudio

  • PS Silver Member
  • Sr. Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 2423
Re: Why is Four-Part Harmony taught in Music Schools?
«Reply #40 on: February 29, 2016, 04:13:48 PM »
How about Neo-Riemannian?  ;)

there's nothing worse than a piano student who loves theory... :)   


Touche! ;D

Offline timothy42b

  • PS Silver Member
  • Sr. Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 3248
Re: Why is Four-Part Harmony taught in Music Schools?
«Reply #41 on: February 29, 2016, 04:53:40 PM »
I don't look at the written down versions of the pop stuff to check for all the rules of voice leading and all that, but I hear lots of standard classical chord progressions.



Wrong.

Just one.


Tim

Offline dcstudio

  • PS Silver Member
  • Sr. Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 2423
Re: Why is Four-Part Harmony taught in Music Schools?
«Reply #42 on: February 29, 2016, 05:40:23 PM »
I would have said I probably will never need this stuff, but realized this weekend I'm wrong.

I need to adapt a Handel sonata for a four part trombone group.  It is written with a melody and a bass part.  BUT, there are those infamous numbers scattered through the bass.  You know what I mean, 6, 6/4, etc.  

figured bass?  

I worked for a lady who claimed she had a degree in piano performance--she came running in my studio one day freaking out because a student had some ancient manuscript with those "infamous numbers."  lol  she said she had NEVER seen that before...  geez they teach figured bass in first semester theory.   6--means 1st inversion  6/4 -- 2nd inversion   it's just shorthand.. easy as pie to understand...  definitely separates those who went to music school from those who did not. lol. which is the single best reason they should teach it!!


Offline timothy42b

  • PS Silver Member
  • Sr. Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 3248
Re: Why is Four-Part Harmony taught in Music Schools?
«Reply #43 on: February 29, 2016, 06:14:28 PM »
Yeah, figured bass.

Well, we are talking Handel................................
Tim

Offline dcstudio

  • PS Silver Member
  • Sr. Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 2423
Re: Why is Four-Part Harmony taught in Music Schools?
«Reply #44 on: February 29, 2016, 06:50:32 PM »


if it was good enough for Handel it's good enough for Tim. lol.

although Handel was kind of crazy and got in a duel over who was going to play the harpsichord and almost died.   so yeah... we are talking Handel.   It's so nice to know that they were just as neurotic then as we are now. :)

Offline timothy42b

  • PS Silver Member
  • Sr. Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 3248
Re: Why is Four-Part Harmony taught in Music Schools?
«Reply #45 on: February 29, 2016, 08:22:53 PM »

if it was good enough for Handel it's good enough for Tim. lol.

although Handel was kind of crazy and got in a duel over who was going to play the harpsichord and almost died.   

Ah, well, he was 17.  (sometimes it's fortunate juvenile records are sealed.  just saying)
Tim

Offline timothy42b

  • PS Silver Member
  • Sr. Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 3248
Re: Why is Four-Part Harmony taught in Music Schools?
«Reply #46 on: February 29, 2016, 08:28:59 PM »
By the way, here's a humorous account of the duel.

http://www.cracked.com/article_20773_5-near-deaths-that-would-have-changed-face-history_p2.html

I don't buy that sword-glanced-off-button story anymore than I buy that my-knife-broke-on-his-belt-buckle recently in the US. 
Tim

Offline keypeg

  • PS Silver Member
  • Sr. Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 3567
Re: Why is Four-Part Harmony taught in Music Schools?
«Reply #47 on: March 01, 2016, 03:36:53 AM »
there's nothing worse than a piano student who loves theory... :)   


Touche! ;D
I had mentioned it to you quite a while back when someone who who had studied and I think taught it told me about it.  Apparently it's only been out for a couple of years, but as I understand, it addresses things from a totally different angle which might solve some problems / make them less complicated.  I haven't studied it myself but got the gist from the description.  (The person was rather good at doing that).  I was arguing for jazz chords used freely with imagination.