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If I want to create a chord progression e.g. I -> iii -> IV does this affect all instruments?

E.g. I have

  • Drumkit
  • Bassline
  • Pads
  • Melody

1.) Do I need to tune all lines e.g. the drums? Or does this only affect the bass line because it has the lowest notes (&the lowest note defines the chord)?

2.) Should the other lines start with the root key of that chord or can it use any of the chord's notes and still be harmonic? I know that you are not 100% limited to the chords notes e.g. if you want to create tension. But does it sound harmonic?

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Do I need to tune all lines e.g. the drums? Or does this only affect the bass line because it has the lowest notes (&the lowest note defines the chord)?

Tuning has nothing to do with chord progressions. If your instrument is tuned properly, it can play any chord. All instruments in an ensemble-- including the bass-- should be tuned to the same base frequency, usually A = 440 Hz (or a multiple thereof).

Some instruments, such as cymbals and many drums, are not capable of being tuned, of course, so don't worry about those.

Some instruments are pitched instruments but cannot be tuned. An example would be the xylophone. For those, you may actually wish to tune the rest of the ensemble to that instrument instead of 440 Hz.

For the most part, composers do not worry about tuning at all. Instrumentalists worry about it. Composers just assume that all instruments are tuned properly, unless they are a very avant garde composer doing something very unusual, e.g. if you want the second trumpet to tune a quarter step off so that your trumpet section can collectively play a 24-note scale.

Should the other lines start with the root key of that chord or can it use any of the chord's notes and still be harmonic? I know that you are not 100% limited to the chords notes e.g. if you want to create tension. But does it sound harmonic?

Generally speaking, different lines can play any note in the current harmony, and often play notes that are not in the harmony, e.g. passing notes. There are no hard and fast rules for this. Doubling of the root is definitely not required. If you're asking what notes "sound harmonic" (sound pleasing), there are hundreds or thousands of books written on that sort of thing.

  • "different lines can play any note in the current harmony" that means if my bassline is CMajor I, my Melody could be without any harmonic problems play in CMajor iii but not in GMajor Scale (everything is possible but maybe not usual). So I could also have multiple chord progressions for each instrument e.g. bass goes I-> iii -> IV and melody goes I-> ii -> IV -> V? – Andi Giga Jun 10 '17 at 9:45
  • Well, anything is possible, but usually there is only one harmony ("chord") in effect at a time, and all instruments play to it. Notes that are outside the harmony, in general, will fall on weak beats instead of strong beats, e.g. as passing tones or embellishments. In general. Again, there are many books on this topic and there is no black and white rule. – John Wu Jun 10 '17 at 19:21
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The point is well made: percussion instruments are either “definite” pitch (tympani, marimba, glockenspiel, etc), or “indefinite” pitch (bass drum, cymbals, concert toms). The indefinite pitch instruments, of course, have a pitch, but not a true defined pitch as related to the ensemble tuning. This is reflected in the notation for indefinite pitch percussion which uses a “null” clef. Also, on the null clef, individual percussion instruments will be placed on a line or space within some very loose conventions with lower pitched instruments lower on the staff. So... no need to consider the exact pitch or tuning of indefinite pitched percussion instruments, but relative pitches may be indicated in composition as explained, for particular effect.

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Drum kits hold little harmonic value, yet they sound more pleasant when tuned depending on arrangement.

From a sound engineering perspective, having everything play (and creating harmonies) in the same tonal regions makes instruments compete for the same frequency space and that is undesirable when mixing and could end up sounding worse than with slightly de-tuned audio.

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I've played the drums for around 30 years and I'm also a music producer and qualified musical director.

Drum kits are not tuned to song specific pitches - I have never tuned any percussion instruments to a song related key, only for intervals within the same drum kit (ie toms at appropriate intervals that match the natural pitch of each drum). There are of course percussion instruments that are tuned to specific pitch (timpani etc). If the note of the drum is long enough to perceive a pitch, you do need to make sure that it doesn't clash with the track - otherwise, you just aim for a good sound.

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