NEGATIVE Melody: An Example From Rachmaninoff [Negative Harmony]

Tommaso Zillio

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negative melody music

A while ago on YouTube and other social medias there was a lot of interest in a theory called Negative Harmony.

Some people called it a fad, but I welcome any and every interest that musicians may have in learning theory :) Also, I think Negative Harmony is fun to use. What nobody is talking about though (but they should) is Negative Melody.

Wait, there is such a thing as Negative Melody?

Well yes, it turns out that not only Negative Melody exists, but that composers knew about this for a long time before the name 'Negative Harmony' even existed. I mean there are examples of it from J.S. Bach!

It really speaks to the power of an idea when after nearly 3 centuries you keep finding new sounds by applying it...

In practice Negative Melody is simply applying Negative Harmony to a single melodic line rather than a chord progression... but this sounds needlessly complex. Why don't we go and see what Negative Melody is and how it can create beautiful melodies?

Today we see how an absolute master of melody (the composer Sergei Rachmaninoff) uses the Negative Melody trick to write one of his most famous melodies... by lifting it from another great composer and applying Negative Melody:)

Watch the video here... and then do the same to create your melodies!

So this is 'negative melody' if you want. If you are curious about Negative Harmony, then check out this video that is by far the easiest explanation of how Negative Harmony works, and how to apply it to your music.

NOTE: this video is so simple that one of the main complaints in the YT comments is that "it's not possible that Negative Harmony is something so simple". Go figure...

And if you need more practical examples, in this other video we can see together how a simple melody + chord progression can get many different variations by using Negative Harmony.

If you understood the concept but you need more help in the hands-on application, this is the video for you:

And after seeing all these videos, if you want to learn how to choose the right chords for a melody and see the harmonic options that make your music sound better, then I suggest you check out the Complete Chord Mastery course


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