Use Opposites to Stay Interesting

Posted By: ryan On:

Photo by Dean Hochman.

I’ve written about this in the past, but the topic is so central to creating compelling work that I will never stop coming back to it.

So much music out there is BORING. And it’s boring because it’s average. Middle of the road. Medium. Lukewarm. Safe.

A simple tip to avoid falling to in the trap of neutral gray? Opposites!

Here are just a few examples of opposites that a composer can take advantage of:

Major vs. Minor
Quiet vs. Loud
Fast vs. Slow
Legato vs. Staccato
Simple vs. Complex
Thin vs. Thick
Strings vs. Winds (or Brass vs. Percussion, Piano vs. Bass, etc.)
Ambience vs. Rhythm
Steady vs. Syncopated
Single line vs. Harmony

How can exploring one of these areas help you make your work more interesting? What if you took a straightforward 8 bar phrase and split it in half, the first four bars played very loudly, and the second four played very slowly? The late Baroque and early Classical composers took advantage of these exact kinds of simple opposites, taking straightforward harmonies and melodies but making them exciting through extremes of mode, dynamics, and other treatments.

The more extreme your opposites are from each other, the more exciting and dramatic the result will be.

As they say, you can’t have quiet without having loud.

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