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This question bugs me since I started writing music. I'm asking in general, but I'll show an example so it would be more clear. Keep in mind the notation is arbitrary, as I don't quite know what I'm doing.

voice 1

This is an 8-bar excerpt from the piece I'm working on currently. Judging by the notes that fall on the strong beats I would guess this is somewhat E-minor-ish. The chromatic rundown skips A natural even though it is present in the first bar. So the question is does this have a chord progression, or is it just Em throughout? I can't tell. But there is another voice.

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This one is much simpler. It reinforces A natural, but it also has Bb (or should it be A#). Which would imply a flat fifth in the scale. But it still fits into the E-minor-ish sound. But there is a third voice. enter image description here

Here you have F# and G which are again notes of E-minor, the problem arises when the upper F# becomes natural. With another voice playing E at the same time this would make it a cluster of 4 semitones in a row (E F F# G). And if this is indeed E-minor that would make it so it has both natural and flattened second degree playing at the same time. But with this third voice added I feel like there appears an implication of a chord change when F# becomes natural.

Now the problem is that I have to write a bass line and without knowing what kind of harmony I'm dealing with it became an impossible task. I tried treating this as E-minor and it didn't work well. Sometimes I felt like this is centered in A-minor, but nothing came out of that too. So unless someone opens my eyes I feel like I'm stuck. So if you have any ideas I would love to hear them.

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    Maybe it's become an impossible task due to you resorting to theory. It's a very simplistic view, but whatever sounds best probably is best. The technicality of what key comes later. – Tim Aug 20 '19 at 18:10
  • There aren't any rules, just things that fit with expectations or challenge expectations. If composing were like drawing, then I would suggest the melody is like the outlines of shapes and the chords and harmony are the colors. You might draw an outline of a ball that has stitches on it so that it looks like a baseball, and then the natural colors would be white and red. Similarly, a melody might have a "natural" harmonization for it (or several). On the other hand, if you just draw a circle to represent a ball, it could be any color you like. or you could make your baseball strange colors. – Todd Wilcox Aug 20 '19 at 20:48
  • When you write an unusual melody, you might have to come up with an unusual harmony if you want it to sound a certain way. Unless you know a lot of theory to be able to just "see" a harmonization that sounds how you want it to sound, you might just have to pick at it and experiment until you find what you're looking for (or listening for). – Todd Wilcox Aug 20 '19 at 20:49
  • I suspect your piece is in A minor from the looks of it (and the repeated E is treated as a dominant), but I also suspect that your piece sounds rather like a chromatic mess because E, F, F#, G, and A are playing simultaneously at points, and one of your parts has a chord consisting of F, F#, and G. I'd need to listen to an audio clip to make sure, but it's quite possible that your piece sounds atonal in practice. – Dekkadeci Aug 20 '19 at 23:59

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