Chromaticism in Modern Music: How to Create Unique and Mysterious Sounds

2 min read
Chromaticism in Modern Music: How to Create Unique and Mysterious Sounds
Photo by James Stamler / Unsplash

Today, I'm going to talk about chromaticism in music and how you can use it to make your tracks sound more interesting and unique.

Chromaticism means using notes that are not in the key you're playing in. For example, if you're playing in A minor, which has no sharps or flats, you can add notes like C#, D#, F#, G#, or A#. These notes create contrast and tension with the notes in the key.

Chromaticism can add color and expression to your melodies and harmonies. You can use chromatic notes to create passing tones, neighbor tones, suspensions, appoggiaturas, or escape tones. These are all types of non-harmonic tones, which means they don't belong to the chord that is playing at the moment. They create a sense of movement and resolution when they resolve to a harmonic tone.

Chromaticism can also help you change keys or modes. You can use chromatic notes as pivot points or common tones between two keys or modes. For example, if you're in A minor and you want to switch to C major, you can use C# as a pivot point. You can play a chord progression like Am - Dm - E - A - C#dim - F - G - C. The C#dim chord is a type of chord that leads to F, which is the subdominant of C major. By using this chord, you can transition smoothly from A minor to C major.

You can hear examples of chromaticism in classical music from composers like Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, and Chopin. But, it's not just for classical music. Chromaticism is also used in modern music to create interesting and unique sounds. Music producers use chromaticism to express their feelings. For example, the intro music for the TV show Westworld is based on a chromatic scale that starts from A minor and goes up by half steps until it reaches A# minor. The composer Ramin Djawadi, who also composed the music for Game of Thrones, uses  chromaticism and dissonance to create a sense of mystery, urgency, anticipation, tension and suspense. His music uses both orchestral and electronic instruments, and it creates a contrast between classical and modern elements, as well as between organic and artificial sounds.

The other technique called dissonance is the use of chords or intervals that sound harsh or unstable. Electronic music producers use dissonance to create a sense of friction and conflict in their tracks. For example, they might use dissonant intervals like minor seconds, which are only one half step apart, to create a jarring effect.

In summary, chromaticism and dissonance are useful tools for classic and modern music producers. It is used to add contrast, tension, uniqueness and color to the music tracks. You can use chromaticism to modulate to different keys or modes. Additionally, dissonance can can be used to create a sense of tension and suspense.

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