Composition and Theory



The comments are mainly about people disliking the author’s music, which is a bit hard to take seriously as criticism of the book. A terrible musician can, after all, write a good book about music - just like a good musician can write a terrible book about music. In fact, a lot of great musicians have done just that - it’s apparently something to do when your career is on the decline.

But anyway:

Having browsed through the book, I think it’s a pretty good starter level introduction to basic theoretical concepts in western music. Especially if you consider that it’s free. I doubt that the people who made the comments have actually tried reading the book.


Good point… also, if they are not specially criticizing the book how do we know they even read the book?
If they didn’t read the book, it’s likely because they have no knowledge of music theory.

Many musicians (good ones and bad ones) dismiss the value of music theory based on the fact that it’s possible to make good music with little or no knowledge of theory. Generally the people who say this have no knowledge of theory… they don’t know what they are missing.

Knowledge of theory is a valuable tool. When used by a good musician it adds richness and complexity that is very challenging to achieve without it.

By the way… based on what I saw in the link provided by @st3aLth I believe they were discussing a book about EDM. I’ll look again… but do you believe the discussion was specifically about the Ravenspiral?


Ok … I checked it out carefully THEY ARE TALKING ABOUT A DIFFERENT BOOK!

WTF? Maybe you were dissing theory in general? Or just trolling?

That is a cool site though… so thank you for causing me to stumble into for the wrong reason… I guess


Dog they are talking about the Music Theory by Neon The Rex book WTF
Sorry :smiley: my bad :poop:


@1roomstudio, @Jayson

I’m buying this book today after I type this. Basically what I hear about it is that it looks at harmony in a way that allows you to obtain the same of harmonic “gravity” or pull as a specific chord by flipping it over an axis.

Boil it down you can obtain a “negative version” of the Dominant 7th chord by flipping all of its notes over an axis and that new “negative chord” will have the same type of gravity towards the tonic chord.

I’m thinking it’s a good way to access more “color” when making chord selections if you guys are interested.


Much appreciated… I can slip back into the unaltered universe now.

By the way… check out the Ravenspial. Pick one subject and apply it to a musical sketch. Your friends and family will be impressed with how much your music is improving.

Just a suggestion… no pressure. :sunglasses:


Interesting…:thinking: sounds like it might be similar to Jazz Theory. :saxophone:

Not sure what that means, maybe “choose a note (axis?) in a chord and invert the intervals?” Or it could be referring to voicing and inversions. Or it could use the Tritone as an “axis” and alter the remaining intervals, as in French, German or Italian 6th chords. Or it could be something else that would be really cool to know.

Let us know please! :pray:


Thanks for tagging me @Brogner. It’s interesting.

It looks like Jazz theory a bit, but focused on symmetrical ideal counterparts. “Ideal” because instead of inherent relationships, you’re picking the “invisible tone” (some pitch not on a piano, but could be on a violin somewhere) between two notes and making the same chordal relationship in exactly the opposite of the other. Like Kirk and Mirror Kirk in Star Trek.

Here’s a quick rundown.

It seems novel; I’m just not yet sure for what use exactly.



It should get here Monday but from what I understand it is a way to expand your harmonic pallet. Like what @1roomstudio said how you can substitute a dominant 7th chord with another dominant 7th sharing the same Tritone, you can theoretically (and in practice) use a chord that is flipped on the axis and it will still produce the same resolution but with a different flavor, or you can apply it to experiment with sounds that could very well work in practice. I just look at it as a way to expand your harmonic pallet. Once I read it I’ll make some examples.


I guess I could see myself using negative harmony in a situation where I want to make something more interesting… well how do I do that, I guess I can try some negative harmony and see what I get. If you can see what I mean


I do.

I meant more for myself; not universally.
My style is pretty heavily bent on some concepts that aren’t really about this concept of symmetry.

Mine is more about tension and energy. I write almost exclusively around that. Even if I grab a guitar and do some old school punk rock on acoustic, it’ll be one wrapped in tension at the end of the day.
My ideal song is one which is exhausting. It’s just how I tick.

So I tend to see a song as one giant chord where instruments only play a note each, and the goal is to get to a tonal center that has been teased, but never resolved upon fully, and typically doing this through both gradual pitch and volume increases in the playing and progression (rather than effects) which the full higher pitched resolve drops to a more voluminous section which ultimately repeats this pattern just in a differently pronounced way - usually by bringing forward the tonal rhythm progression which took the back row before, and by an aggressively active melody compared to the previously more causual melody.

So my use of theory tends to be one about physiological asymmetrical harmony and its relationship with physiological symmetrical harmony more than it is about cognitive harmony.
That is, the physical form of the sound in relationship to its physical interaction with the human ear. What does the waveform look like; is it lopsided, well distributed, or perfectly distributed? These are my basic building blocks, and I like to move from well distributed to slightly lopsided, back and forth while inceasing things, then climax at very lopsided which yells a resolution to very well or perfectly distributed.

This follows to the phonic soundscape as well. The stereoscape is something I see almost exactly the same way that I see chords and progression.

So for me, I have a hard time thinking of what to do with a system of cognitively contra-symmetrical harmony juxtapositions.

I’ll definitely give a look-see; I just don’t know if my style really has a use for it or not.



Horizontally I see the circle of 5ths. Diagonally to the right I see a series of minor thirds …the various spellings of the three possible diminished chords. Diagonally to the left I see a see a series of major thirds… is this the “mirror?”

Also, I’m not seeing the microtones you mentioned as the “axis”

I’m a little confused :neutral_face: but it’s interesting… tell me more, please, if you would be so kind. :pray:


Wow :astonished: I could almost follow some of that… but some went over my head.

I can relate to the use of tension and release whether it be harmonic or any other parameter. I can also relate to a call-and-response juxtaposition of tonality, atonality or quasi tonality.

The type of “alternate tonality” that @Brogner is searching for is also something I can relate to… in my college days I explored these avenues. I was particularly influenced by Bartok and Hindemith… later Stravinsky… never really liked Schoenberg… but understood and admired Vebern.

It’s useful stuff… if you can get your ears around it :sunglasses:


Actually, if you click on the image, it should open up the imgur post which the original poster includes a pretty decent break-down with visual examples on the Tonnetz chart.

It’s really actually very simple. Words are just a messy way of describing some things.
It’s easier to understand if you look at this.

What this does is take some notes (pick a chord of your choice, enter that chord’s notes - only up to four note chords supported so far - it’s just for explaining things), and then it spits out the waves, then the additive wave, and then finally a 360 degree version of that additive wave so that the symmetrical form of the wave file can be more easily seen.

Basically, the more lopsided a waveform is, the more “whop” effect the ear will experience.
Like you hear when two generators are running near each other and they run at different rates, or when you’re tuning a string and it’s almost there.
The lower the frequency range, the harder to notice the “whop” because the waveform is slow enough that our brains will translate each side of the waveform as a separate sound.
Conversely, if the frequency range is quite high, then the oscillations can be so fast that the distance between the parts of the waveform where it is lopsided effectively happen too fast to be processed and the dominant tonal form or a mix is what’s perceived.

But in the range we typically hear things, that’s where the whopping sound tends to happen.
That’s what dissonance basically is; regardless of cultural appreciation and traditions. It’s the physiological effect of an asymmetrical sound wave striking the ear.

For example, here’s what I mean.


The symmetrical one is C and its octave C.
The asymmetrical one is C, C#, and D.

Here’s the classics using C…

Root and 5th

Major triad

Minor triad

Augmented triad

So you can see the augmented triad is the most asymmetrical of the classics, but it’s not as lopsided as a chromatic chord like C, C#, D slammed together.

So the way that I write is to basically intentionally create these whopping moments of dissonance that want to snap to the more harmonious ones.
It’s basically chordal harmony 101, but exploded out over the entire song rather than all in one instrument playing chords - the song is a giant chord.



I think it’s a great tool to use if you just want to swap out a chord or maybe view harmony in a different more illuminating point of view. your approach is very interesting to say the least but it works, I remember we had a discussion about trying to analyze one of your previous songs. Was a lot of fun!


You don’t like Schoenberg? Adolf Hitler didn’t like his atonal musical compositions either. He even called him out in it in fact. But I am reading his book on tonality and musical composition and it is amazing, would totally recommend it


Hitler also didn’t like Schoenberg because he was a Jew… same as Einstein. Interestingly, there were some who compared Schoenberg’s mathematical approach to Einstein’s new physics. Schoenberg agreed it was possible there was a connection but admitted he didn’t know what the connection might be.

Schoenberg was a pivotal influence in that turning point in Western Harmony … the move towards atonality. I admire him for that… he was an intellectual giant. Personally I find his music cold and analytical. Also, his particular approach to atonality, the Twelve Tone Row, is, over time, becoming a bit of a footnote in music history. It lasted barely fifty years. A contemporary and associate of Schoenberg, Alfredo Cassela, described the Twelve Tone technique as “ …confining music to a very narrow prison.” That’s what I hear… regardless of the intellectual prowess of his work.

Schoenberg’s father told his son “…either what the French write is music, or what the Germans write is music… both cannot be music.” This was referring to the tendency of French composers to use harmony to evoke emotion versus the German tendency to use harmony in a more cerebral way… a sort of “artist versus scientist” debate. (If Schoenberg wasn’t Jewish, Hitler would have embraced him for this!) The French and Germans used the same rules of harmony to achieve a different purpose. This debate continues today in Acedemia.

There is no doubt that Schoenberg’s writings on theory will reveal powerful insight. I look forward to your sharing what you learn.


Got it! Didn’t occur to me that the chart was a link! Doh!!!

Interesting… and I will explore further. Most of those relationships are familiar to me… but this is a novel and organized way to explore them… and fill in some gaps in my understanding. Jazz Theory and use of substitutions derive similar results… but this indeed different at the heart of it.

Thank you and @Brogner for introducing and elaborating on this. :pray:


Indeed, most harmonic systems are an organized way of controlling the juxtaposition of Consonce with Dissonance. The Excel sheet is a great tool for visualizing that. Thank you for sharing and the detailed examples.

Do you use the visualization alone to construct a progression? If so, that implies that any use of leading tones, up or down, would be coincidental rather than intentional. And what about voicing? A suspended 2nd and a major 9th are very different harmonies even though they use the same note, though an octave apart. I’m fascinated by your process!

“ the song is a giant chord.” Well … that would be orchestration… unless I misunderstand you?

I need to listen to more of your music with these revelations in mind. Stay tuned! :sunglasses:


I don’t use anything usually when I write music.
Once in a while if I’m doing something very specific and complex, like a sort of counterpoint relationship between two instruments, then I might break out a different excel sheet I have for quickly visualizing a melody’s interval patterns in terms of degrees, but that’s pretty rare that I need that level of pedantic tracking.

Typically, I just write.
Stuff like that excel sheet, or song maps/charts like the one in the thread where @Brogner and I discussed my ways of writing a bit by breaking apart a song I wrote, are things that I use to articulate how I think to other people. Sometimes they also get used to help teach people.

For instance, if someone says that they’re struggling with harmony, I’d probably show them that excel file as a different way of approaching the thought process - it can be a bit more tangible or intuitive than cognitively thinking in degrees. But it doesn’t replace degrees, or normal theory.

When I write, however, I tend to think this way intuitively. It’s always been how I’ve perceived music - as waves.
So it’s rather second nature for me. I tend to inherently gravitate toward a sound that is something like a revving engine through gears that’s tearing the frame of the car apart; right on the edge of stability.
Even if it’s a soft song…there’s like a 95% chance the same pattern is embedded in there, but it’s just a soft version of that idea…like the cart ride in Year One, the film.

I tend to be voice_less_ because I’m melody heavy and so the bass, rhythm, and brass sections tend to make simple minor/major chords with a few diminished or augmented variations here and there for the tension - though I don’t think of them this way; I think more in a visual reference frame of a wave and it stressing and ripping and then stabilizing.

So the melody tends to get those attributes as transient moments passing over the other sections, rather than something that is pushed into the backdrop. This leaves me more room for the melody to flow wherever it wants - by keeping the backdrop chord simpler.
It also makes the overall sound stronger sounding.

Nope. You don’t misunderstand me.

I used to have a signature on the old forums that said that I wasn’t a producer, I was an electronic composer.

And, to me, that’s the one thing that I typically see folks do with EDM style music that I wish I could reach over the internet and slap a hand for. There’s a lot of, “here’s the bass, and then the keys which I make a chord of yada yada with a progression of blah blah, and here’s the melody of some simple kind”…and I’d wager that most of the time I see someone walking through making an EDM song, that melody sucks.
Even if it’s someone like Deadmau5…mou5e? moz25esilentQough…whatever. That guy.
He’s really damn good at what he does, and people love it a lot, but there’s little elbow room for his melodies because the keys are typically taking up a lot of room in his songs because he tends to make 5 or more note chords in polyrhythmic patterns.

That’s what I wish I could slap hands for. The keys having chords. As soon as you stop making these chords in one instrument, boom the whole yard opens up with a wide available array of options and bigger textures can be constructed.

So…yes. Orchestration is a big thing to me. :stuck_out_tongue_winking_eye:

I’ll shoot you a link in PM to a library.