09 – Melodic Permutation

How to Write for Theme & Variation – Permutation and Same Rhythm with Different Pitches.

Last time I discussed and showed you how “Inversion” and “Retrograde Inversion” were used in arranging melodies.

In this tip we are going to continue with “Permutation” and using the “Same Rhythm with Different Pitches”.

Permutation sounds more complicated than it is. It’s basically just rearrangingthe original pitches of your motive in random order. It’s similar to mixing up a deck of cards. Please look at the comparison below again:

Two Bar Original Theme
Two Bar Permutation Ex 1
Two Bar Inversion One Octave Up

As you will hear in the two audio files above I have used the same pitches but put them into a different order. However both examples still contain a motive so they can be used in conjunction with the original melody.

Lets go back to the eight bar theme & variation and utilize the 2nd permutation example:

Theme & Variation Exact Sequence
Theme & Variation Permutation

Theme & Variation Permutation with Chords

In the second part of this tip we will make use of “Same Rhythm with Different Pitches”:
The rhythm is the same as in the original theme but new pitches are assigned to each note. This is close to permutation but in this case totally new pitches are used instead of rearranging the original pitches.
These new pitches can be any note, even outside the key. Look at the next two examples:
Two Bar Original Theme
Two Bar Retrograde Inversion with Same Rhythm
Two Bar Retrograde Inversion with Reversed Rhythm
Although I used pitches outside side key, I kept in mind that it had to blend in with the original theme:
Theme & Variation Retrograde Inversion with Same Rhythm
Theme & Variation Same Rhythm Different Pitches

Try making a melody yourself incorporating these 2 techniques we discussed in this tip. Remember the order of how to compose a theme and variation?
1. Start with a two bar original theme (or motive)
2. Change the original theme in the next two bars using the techniques discussed above. Make sure that it fits in with the original theme before and after.
3. Let the original theme reoccur in bars 5 and 6.
4. In bar 7 make a connecting melody which leads to the tonic in bar 8 and functions as the final cadence.
5. Optional: Make a chord progression which is based on strong beats such as 1 and 3 in each bar.

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