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(part 14 of 20)

Composition Exercise using Baroque Dance

Try writing a bassline to go along with an existing baroque dance melody, and also a melody to go along with an existing bassline. Write out the melody from the treble clef, don’t look at the bassline. Play through this melody several times at the piano to internalize it, then work on composing a simple bassline to go along with it. Do this without thinking about theory/voice leading, simply use your ear to improvise a very slow moving bassline to fit the right hand. Start with just whole notes and occasional half notes. Make the left hand part move as slowly as you can, only changing to a different note when it sounds like it really wants to change. As you find these notes, write them down.

Next dress the bassline up a little. Add some passing notes here and there, add some rhythmic interest, make it more compelling so that it could stand on its own without the right hand. But don’t let it get more complicated than necessary, overwhelming the melody. Once you’re satisfied with it, compare your version to the original. You might find passages where you prefer your version. You are very likely to find at least a few passages where you prefer the original (try listening objectively!). Compare them carefully by playing them on the piano bit by bit.

Then try composing a melody to an existing bassline. Again start simple. These exercises can help build an intuitive sense for harmony and voice leading.