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Romantic themes pointers?

Discussion in 'Tips, Tricks & Talk' started by Kyle Judkins, Mar 9, 2018.

  1. not romantic era, but like love/romance themes in film...

    anyone got any pointers? Melodic, or harmonic tips specifically?

    I sat down the other day and realized I've never written a piece like that, and to be honest I don't remember those kinds of themes from anything sans leia/starwars.

    I feel like there is a pretty broad spectrum of ways to approach it - I just started the melody with a major or minor 6th leap, followed by some chromaticism. Felt cliche, but certainly would get old quick
  2. Don't forget the iiø7 chord!
  3. Here's some popular examples from film:
    Marion's Theme - Williams

    Can You Read My Mind? - Williams

    Mia & Sebastian's Theme - Hurwitz

    From Broadway/Stage:
    All I Ask of You - Webber

    Somewhere - Bernstein

    From the Symphonic/Operatic:
    Symphony No. 5, Mvt 2 - Tchaikovsky

    Intermezzo from Cavalleria Rusticana - Mascagni

    Bess You Is My Woman Now - Gershwin

    There's usually the identifiable interval motif (like you mentioned 6ths, but it could be a tritone like "Maria"). Often the theme is a melody with contour to and away from a climax. The melodic line may leap into the dissonance and resolve by stepwise motion. You're right there's a lot of approaches, but orchestration/tempo/contour I think are pretty good places to start. Would love to hear some other people's "top choices" and recommendations. If I get more time, I'll break down some of the interval/harmonic ideas in some of the examples above.
  4. To be honest sometimes, I try not to listen to stuff directly if I can avoid it... especially with something strange, because if I can get some of the theory minded tropes I can try to rebuild it but the same ingredients without too much influence

    If I remember correctly, what's it Marion wasn't Marion's theme a lot like Leia's? I feel like that's why I don't remember it
  5. Good call on leaping into dissonance and resolving step wise, that might be a significant portion of the sound that I wasn't taking into consideration
  6. That's right. They're pretty similar and there's a lot online about influences on William's writing (google korngold 'king's row' if you haven't heard it. I think we can't over estimate how much other works influence us as writers AND the impact we want to evoke in the audience. Which is why I linked a bunch of well known charts (composers have heard them and the audience likely has too). You can also sometimes hear the 'placeholder' music that studios send out to inform the 'vibe' of a scene in the newly composed stuff.

    The theory part may not explain the composition process, but I think it can serve as a blueprint to emulate. Some of the charts above are also are good studies for orchestration (solo instrument selection, duet writing, modulation to new keys, techniques to extend a phrase and develop a theme).

    An interesting side note, the superman love theme above is also in the march- a convenient way to tie together disparate works and unify the whole sound track. I'm sure that it slaps musicians over the head, but many listeners in the theater just get a sense of 'where have I heard this familiar tune before...'
  7. I know how much it influences us, which is also why as a hobbyist I go out of my way to not listen to much music that isn't my own

    I find it easier to come up with a distinctive flavor this way, but considering Leia's theme is the only Love Theme I remember at all, when I try to make a love thing that comes out too similar to Leia's theme and that's why I'm trying to get Siri related tips, rather than listening to a bunch of Love themes, and then just creating something based on what I've heard

    If I were writing for customers or something I would probably care more, but I prefer the idea of a reimagining from the ground up
  8. #8 Rohann van Rensburg, Mar 10, 2018
    Last edited: Mar 10, 2018
    Man alive, I don't get this. I don't get how some composers can apparently manage to continue to write music that isn't derivative and self-plagiarizing without listening to new music. The day I stop listening to new music and exploring is probably the day I give up composing. I totally get not listening to tons of love themes and then writing one, but if you want to know what makes a love theme sound like a love theme...isn't the answer fairly obvious? (Cue Mike: TRANSCRIBE) We're nothing more than an amalgamation of our influences with a dash of our own flair and personality. Damn near every good composer in history has ripped off (tastefully, mind you) other musicians and composers. If you want sources for love themes out of the norm, why not go scour some folk melodies?
  9. it's a matter of trying to just influence yourself enough.

    like when I get too repetitive I try to explore a bit.

    also I give myself weird theory challenges

    if I was bored of my love themes of write one and say something like "must contain significant wholetone movement"

    or half cadence but on a borrowed vi9th or something
    • Harmonize your melody in 3rds. Can be extended like in big band writing (9th,11ths etc.)
    • accented dissonance: Appoggiatura's of all kind will be your friend, but suspension especially
    • The register of the melody (high/wide for climax)
    • figure out where you want to climax (not laughing - variation by inversion is still coming up) and work backwards from there.
    • to lead up to the climax have an A and B section/or phrase that utilize inversion -start avoiding root position- for variations. Then for B a pedal for the bass note on the dominant of where you are going (new key; i.e. G bass over a series of harmonies leading to C)
    • drop down the dynamic and big crescendo
    • also add an acceleration to get into the pedal point part and as the big crescendo is happening add in a ritardando

    Lastly don't underestimate the importance of counter melodies and inner voice leading/movement. That is often what separates the best examples from the rest
    Paul T McGraw likes this.
  10. #11 Alexander Schiborr, Mar 10, 2018
    Last edited: Mar 10, 2018
    You know, I don´t want to attack you, but actually I think I don´t get the point of your posts here. First you ask about help and advice regarding romantic love themes. THen you get some really good advice and what happens? You dismiss it, like well, like I am used to reading your stuff here.
    Why you ask then if you anyways don´t think that this for you? And you know what I already thought that you would dissmis the stuff here after recalling the long chat with Adventure brass talk. Remember?
    But don´t get me wrong. I am not here to point fingers at you. But still I tell you something. For me such comments like:
    "I feel like there is a pretty broad spectrum of ways to approach it - I just started the melody with a major or minor 6th leap, followed by some chromaticism. Felt cliche, but certainly would get old quick" shows me that you just scratched the surface, well not even."

    show me that you start to dismiss things before you fucking even started with it! :) The adventure you give up didn´t started yet. Is that a general thing with you? Is that lazyness? I hope not but I can´t imagine that. Clichee is what you make out of it, in the end. If you are really interested in some late romantic love story writing indeed you have to explore at least some of the manerisms from that time. If you don´t want that, thats perfectly fine, but then this thread leads ad absurdum, and becomes just non useful for nobody here because our language is based on historical development which we take inspiration from.

    "it's a matter of trying to just influence yourself enough."

    Thats fairly utterly nonsense. Influence always relies on external factors. It needs not to be musical, but you can´t technically influence yourself just from no inspiration source. And if you start to inspire yourself from your own output (which is also based on external sources) then your vocabulary will be in the basement because you don´t learn any new stuff at least that is how I see it.

    My tip: If you really want to learn this stuff, listen to the advice you already got. :) Because some good examples were given. Peace! :D:p
    Paul T McGraw likes this.
  11. what? I asked for advice, specific advice(harmonic and melodic tips)
    I got music examples, I simply clarified that I'm trying to avoid the music examples, but would rather the theory based tropes people usually go by - that's not really dismissal - again - that's clarification. If I ask for ingredients people like to use in cakes, I didn't ask for a bunch of recipes. If they give me recipes, I clarify. Maybe I don't want to taste a bunch of cakes and recreate a cake based on what I tasted. Maybe I want to just start with a box full of cake ingredients and see how long it takes for me to figure out how to make a cake like food with them.

    I'm not saying certain artists haven't influenced me over the years - only that I enjoy my writing better when I drastically limit myself. And enjoying my own writing/experimentation is the only reason I make music, so It's more important.

    "which is also why as a hobbyist I go out of my way to not listen to much music that isn't my own"
    "If I were writing for customers or something I would probably care more, but I prefer the idea of a reimagining from the ground up "

    As far as whatever adventure brass talk - I'm sure it's a.) unrelated and b.) possibly the reason you felt like trying to derail the thread.

    So far though, I've gained exactly the kind of information(or at least embellished the concepts I already had, based on what has been added to the thread so far). And others who stumble on this thread will probably find plenty of use with the links, so it's a pretty productive thread, for the first page.

    So what do you guys think about rhythm/pacing/harmonic pacing? I totally get the rubato leading up to the climax - but in general, melodically, longer notes? I feel like that 6th leap tends to be on the beat, held for longer, while the pick up notes before it tend to be shorter... makes me wonder if the 6th being longer than the interval before it is more effective. I.E. if you leapt up from C to an A above it, would C(half) A(whole) be what you'd prefer? I suppose harmonic rhythm would ideally start out with fewer chord movement, with more development later - that said, any particular chord choices/modulations you guys have found yourself using in your work? I feel like the first thing that comes to mind is the flatted 7th, or borrowed vi/VI chords. I noodled around a little tonight with a cheesy sketch that doesn't use 6th leaps, but rather a pattern of dissonance, with runs connecting.
  12. #13 Kyle Judkins, Mar 10, 2018
    Last edited: Mar 10, 2018

    idk, That's what I came up with tonight. just trying to let a few ideas brew - so my next sketches will be more interesting. but hey - it's like a "my first romance theme", so I'm trying not to be too hard on myself - while leaving myself room to prod around and expand on it. also, my hands are REALLY clumbsy today. sometimes I think I play worse in Cmaj/Amin because it's so easy to fat finger extra notes. I think I need a midi guitar so I can input runs haha

    I could invert the leap up a 5th instead on down a 4th, which would feel like a 6th

    so maybe cello variation would be B C up to a G, ect.
    Raphael Badawi likes this.
  13. #14 Bradley Boone, Mar 10, 2018
    Last edited: Mar 10, 2018
    Thanks for clarifying. I'll present an example that covers some of the detailed points Doug wrote to demonstrate some tropes that many people on the thread have brought up (essentially, a brief score study). Before I start, I'd comment on your sketch above, but it would be easier to have a piano roll or notes (something more concrete). To borrow your cooking metaphor, I see you making the dough, but don't have the recipe you're working from to try in my kitchen!
    Note the use of suspension and resolution in the excerpt (the melody line tends to have these moments of stress and release). Also, there are numerous appoggiatura's throughout.
    In this excerpt, I'd place the climax of this phrase at the high B in the horn (5measures after A). The composer uses repetition, a decisive cadential harmonic progression (a pretty strong ii-V-I), and the appoggiatura leap to accent the moment.
    There is a lot of rubato already written into this excerpt, and it can apply on the micro level (this opening statement from the movement), and on the macro level (Tchaikovsky will repeat this tempo trope, but it is somewhat reserved in this first statement of the melody.
    So, the noble horn. The part is higher than every instrument throughout the orchestra in a projecting but controlled part of its range. The solo horn isn't buried behind a ton of stuff. It also is the main driver of suspension and resolution. The strings are written in the warmest register with some very close low voicings.
    The choice of the Clarinet to compliment the horn sound (a pretty classic pairing). Written lower than the horn throughout. The phrases interlock (where one line is static, the other moves) and have a "call-and-response" quality. Even the dynamic movement is contrary (where one voice builds, the other recedes). Another orchestration note (to clean up the mix), note where he drops out the violins when the clarinet/horn are moving in the low register (specifically measure 2-3 & 6-7 of A).
    So, there are a couple of signature intervals used: the descending 2nd (approached by leap or suspension); the inversion of the 2nd is the 7th (on display in bars 2-3 of rehearsal A); and just a melodic contour trope (if you leap up, walk down - if you leap down, walk up).
    There's a lot to unpack here, and I think Doug's talking about the overall arc of the piece, but it can apply to the phrase/section level of your piece. I provided a harmonic analysis and string reduction so you can see the harmonic rhythm (another topic mentioned and sometimes overlooked). If there are any errors in analysis or notation, then they're on my end - there are numerous editions of the piece available on IMSLP.org if anyone wants to review the individual parts. Last thought on harmonic rhythm, it is just as helpful to identify the shape of a phrase as the melody line itself. If you set up a rhythmic sequence, and answer it on the second half of your phrase structure, then you have set up an expectation for the listener and rewarded (or subverted!) them.
    This is a big topic too. So the excerpt is just a minute or so of a larger 11-12 minute long movement, so of course the composer in this style will establish a key center, and then modulate all over before returning home. One way he did it was a mediant relation starting at the "Con moto" (D and F# are a third apart, so they're mediants in theory speak). The D that resolves the horn melody line doesn't fit in F#, but it continues the dissonance/resolution by step motif that's been a signature throughout the movement so far.
    except_Symphony 5, mvt 2.png
    Edit: Originally uploaded the full size image, but even I found that annoying AF, so I recommend opening the image in another browser tab and referring to the comments. Also, grammar is tough...
  14. Bump of the decade:

    I've come a long way I hope, even though I don't think I've tried to make much in the way of romantic melodies.

    that said, even though this was more or less me practicing string arranging based on timbre/register - this shows how much more composition and instrumentation are inextricably linked, like verta mentions.

    I don't think the melody sounds nearly as romantic without that register/string change for the high note, and I'm not using a legato patch for any of this(just sustains) so can't even do the portamento trope haha.

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