I've recently learned of a harmonisation technique called fauxbourdon (or faux bourdon, fauxbordon or false drone), used in the late Middle Ages and early Renaissance, e.g. by Giullaume Dufay; you can hear an example here.

I want to use this technique in my music production, but I can't find much information about how Medieval and Renaissance composers used it, whether it was ever used in later periods and styles, and whether it was ever used outside of vocal music.

So how do I use fauxbourdon correctly, and how can I apply it to instruments other than voice?


1 Answer 1


Seems like all you have to do is have an instrument play a single-note line that is a fixed interval below the melody line.

So if you have a synth playing a certain melody, then another synth or guitar or anything else playing the same melody transposed a 3rd, 4th, 6th or some other interval below the main melody would be using fauxbourdon. One exception is the same melody an octave below IMHO would be just "doubling at the octave", and wouldn't have the same effect or sound as fauxbourdon.

Note that I believe the intervals were usually diatonic, meaning the lower voice stays in the key and the interval might change flavor from major to minor to keep the lower voice in key. I'm not sure but I suspect a perfect 4th or 5th would not change to stay in key since doing that would possibly introduce a tritone, which would probably be avoided.

A related technique you might look at is chord planing or parallel harmony. It also is made by having other notes follow a melody line (well, that's one way to look at it at least), but instead of just one or two notes as in fauxbourdon, it's entire chords. Also, in chord planning the lines generally do not stay in key, but rather maintain the exact same chord flavor and voicing while moving diatonically or chromatically.

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