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 Help Composing a Clarinet solo with Piano accompaniment
Author: GenEric 
Date:   2017-12-06 08:46

I'm taking a theory class and I've been given the opportunity to write a short two phrase melody. I don't know where to begin.

If anyone knows anything about theory, I've been using SATB form to make 4 voice melodies. However, with the clarinet, it's like adding another voice. I don't know where to start and I don't know how to combine the "2 solo voices" which are the clarinet and soprano voice on the piano.

If anyone is experienced with composing Clarinet/piano duets, how do you start? Do you start by writing the clarinet melody and building chord tones of it or do you first write the chords and build the melody off of it? Do you have any recommendations or tips that will help in the long run?

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 Re: Help Composing a Clarinet solo with Piano accompaniment
Author: brycon 
Date:   2017-12-06 09:20

I've taught harmony and counterpoint at a conservatory for about four years. There are so many issues at play for this sort of assignment; to name a few: phrase structure (periodic vs sentential), harmonic syntax, voice leading, doublings, melodic elaboration, etc. Understanding these things could take a year or more of study. I don't have the time/energy, then, to write everything down here.

But in short, if you have a decent four-voice harmonization, make the soprano voice the clarinet. Your soprano line will most likely be in regularized quarter-notes or half-notes, which means you'll need to elaborate or ornament it to make a solo-type melody (I mean add passing tones, arpeggiations, different rhythms, etc.).

The lower three voices you can distribute to the piano. But it also requires some elaboration. If you play piano, you'll be familiar with a handful of approaches, such as the alberti bass or the waltz bass.

Honestly, though, if you aren't sure about how to write 8 bars of a harmonization--e.g. start with the chords or the soprano--you're going to be in trouble. You should probably check with your teacher on how to approach it.

Four-voice harmonizations, theorists argue, are abstract reductions of more complicated music. If you peel back surface-level effects, think arpeggios and scales, you'd arrive at a harmonization. So this assignment is kinda a reverse engineering of what you do with analysis.

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 Re: Help Composing a Clarinet solo with Piano accompaniment
Author: BflatNH 
Date:   2017-12-06 17:21

Some thoughts:
1. Sometimes you have to hear the melody rather than 'engineer' it - that may happen while doing something entirely different
2. Having no restrictions can make it hard to start. If you have a type of piece in mind, maybe use that format, chord cadence, rhythm, etc. to set a framework
3. Pick a piece of writing (e.g. a poem) that may suggest a melody, rhythm, etc.
4. Noodle around on the instrument and see what comes through your fingers
5. Revisit a significant emotional event

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