I wanted to write a simple 'classical sounding piece' of music and I find that waltz is the easiest as I have trouble finding chords. I wrote this simple meoldy in A melodic minor but I can't seem to be able to find any appropriate accompaniment chords and corresponding 'bass' notes that would give me this Classicism Period feel that I'm going for. I want it to have a calm feel but still have some tension resolution parts scattered around. Of course I know I would have to modify my meoldy all the time so it doesn't get repetitive but that's a different thing. How would I go about writing some chord progressions that suit my melody? Here is an excerpt with the basic rendition of my melody. I've added some accompaniment chords that sound horrible just to illustrate the waltz rhytm that I'm going for (the two connected notes would be the chords). Every accompaniment chord progression I came up with so far either sounds too modern or clashes with the melody. PS: I've never written any 'classical' music before
I wrote this simple meoldy in A melodic minor but I can't seem to be able to find any appropriate accompaniment chords and corresponding 'bass' notes that would give me this Classicism Period feel that I'm going for. ...PS: I've never written any 'classical' music before
Set that melody aside for the moment.
If you have never written anything in classical style, it may be best to take a fresh start and work with a model with a modest scope. One approach treats the composition process as a rhythmic elaboration of basic harmony.
Here is a simple waltz from a set of waltzes by Schubert...
That's the entire waltz. Only 8 + 16 bars. But we are looking at the finished product with all the detail of linear melody and broken chord accompaniment. Let work backwards from that finished product in stages of progressive harmonic reduction to see the simple origins.
First let's look at an each to understand example. The first bar...
...can be reduced to...
It is easy to see how the whole bar can be reduced to a single chord, because all of the notes in both left and right hands are chord tones.
But, we can do the same kind of reduction on passages that use scales like bar 4...
...where the notes circled red are the chord tones and the
C are non-chord tones called passing tones.
If we apply that kind of process to the whole opening 8 bars, we get this reduction:
A number harmonic elements are repeated in those 8 bars. I colored various repeating parts with different colors. Notice the bass in red is repeated with just a small change in rhythm and octave to the
B. The chords in blue are repeated the same except a rhythm change for the phrase ending. Part of those chords is in green and it repeats in 4 places in different octaves.
We can reduce all of that to an even more basic harmonic scheme...
Now that we have worked backwards from the finished product to a simple harmonic scheme we can re-assess the part of the original question:
I wanted to write a simple 'classical sounding piece' of music...
While it is possible to take an existing melody and fit it to an accompaniment, a typical classical approach is to rhythmically elaborate a three or four part harmonic framework.
Get a harmony textbook to learn harmony basics. Learn good voice leading from start, that's very important in classical style. Also, learn about cadences and how they are used to delineate phrases and form.
Study material for rhythm is sometimes tricky to find. But for a waltz you probably want to learn about clear metrical rhythm, harmony change over the barline, and harmonic rhythm. Often these things are covered in harmony textbooks, because harmony, rhythm, and meter are all connected.
Finally, review Schubert's waltzes and other dances. He wrote lots of them and most are small size, use these elaboration techniques, and are relatively simple in terms or harmony.
This type of harmonization is essentially what you would learn in the first one or two semesters of most music theory courses. So I recommend looking into some theory training. Depending on where you live, you may be able to take these courses at a local community college.
There are certainly other ways to learn these skills besides going to school. One that has been used for hundreds of year is copying. By that I mean taking the sheet music of a piece you like and re-writing it out note-for-note either by hand or using notation software. This technique is especially associated with young Mozart; in the manuscripts he left behind, scholars have found copies of many works by other composers written in Mozart's hand. Of course, in Mozart's day this was usually the only get a copy (neither music publishing nor photocopiers existed), but it is still a great tool for getting inside a composition. You won't learn the names of the various techniques, like you will in school, but you will begin to see various style and methods of composing and harmonizing.
Since the Classical era ended hundreds of years ago, all of that music is now out of copyright, which means the scores are widely available online (imslp.org), so there's really nothing stopping you from doing this today!