Nice Music Without a Key - Pandiatonicism!

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Nice Music Without a Key - Pandiatonicism!

Postby Dr_Dissonance » 17 Nov 2011 10:31

I was going to make another tutorial, similar to my twelve tone one...with a pony of some kind acting as the scapegoat for stupidity in the guide...but then I realised I'm tired and can't be bothered...:P

So instead, listen to this:

I wrote this before the age of Pony, but decided to revive it in order to explain stuff.
You see, a lot of people have either been very confused at the idea of music that sounds nice with no key, or have just given me a bewildered look whenever I mention it...

SO, the piece above has a tonal center...I think it's either F or kind of wobbles about between the two...
But there's no key at all! And the piece doesn't follow the traditional ideas of a key signature and all that implies much either. This is because it follows the conventions of Pandiatonicism instead!
(note, it's not quite Pandiatonicism, as it still has a tonal center!)

But what is Pandiatonicism? Well, Wikipedia says:

"Pandiatonicism refers to the technique of using the diatonic (as opposed to the chromatic) scale without the limitations of functional tonality."

Which is pretty spot on, it's tonal music without the limitations of tonality!

But how does that work? Well, anything you remember from any theory lessons you had kind of don't count anymore...
Does the chord progression go I V? It can do! It could go I vii if you wanted! It could go IV vii I as well! Whatever you want, you're no longer bound by the rules of tonality!
What about chords themselves? The usual 1 3 5? So, C E G? You can if you want! But what about 1 3 4 5 6? aka C E F G A? Again, you can if you want!

Of course, using traditional chords and structures kind of defeats the purpose of pandiatonicism: to make something new!
So instead, think of Pandiatonicism as taking the notes of a key and using them completely against the ideals of the key! So don't use them with I being the dominant tonal center, don't use the I V chord progression everywhere and don't use typical chords too often! Make things more interesting!

This is what pandiatonic composers did! They wrote this, what is affectionately termed, "White Note Music" and made interesting and unconventional chords and progressions that still sounded nice because they stuck to the diatonic (white keys) notes, rather than the chromatic (all keys) ones!

Why don't you give it a go? Write something using nothing but white notes BUT do not use any typical chord progressions! And maybe use some more interesting chords!

Here are some far superior examples of pandiatonicism:

Gorecki - "Symphony of Sorrowful Songs" - Movement I

Copland - Simple Gifts from "Appalachian Spring"

Stravinsky - Petrushka (Senator Myth will be pleased!)

I might write a more in depth guide later, considering I spent 2 weeks on the bloody stuff in Western Art Music...:P

But here's a taster!

PLEASE BARE IN MIND that I am half asleep when writing this, so if it doesn't make sense, say so and I'll write it all better when I reawaken!
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Re: Nice Music Without a Key - Pandiatonicism!

Postby Calamus_Dash » 17 Nov 2011 20:26

ITT: dissonance teaches me more things than I learn during the average day at school.
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Re: Nice Music Without a Key - Pandiatonicism!

Postby Navron » 17 Nov 2011 20:34

I'm starting to suspect Dr Dissonance may be my dad :P
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Re: Nice Music Without a Key - Pandiatonicism!

Postby Stars In Autumn » 19 Nov 2011 17:06

So it's just not limiting yourself to consonance chords and note progressions but staying in the key? That's pretty cool. I'll have to give it a go.
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Re: Nice Music Without a Key - Pandiatonicism!

Postby Triple_B » 11 Jan 2012 23:27


I literally thought this was how EVERYONE composed their music. I've been doing this since my musical endeavors began.

This explains, like, everything.
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Re: Nice Music Without a Key - Pandiatonicism!

Postby Feral FurE » 11 Jul 2014 23:45

From the small bits of reading about the "white note" music on this thread, and the "they stuck to the diatonic (white keys) notes, rather than the chromatic (all keys) ones!" part, I feel that I'm being lead to believe that pandiatonicism is all some really hyped talk about C Major key where no sharps or flats are used. I am very probably thinking of this incorrectly, but that is just what I'm gathering from my own sleep deprived state of mind.
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Re: Nice Music Without a Key - Pandiatonicism!

Postby Toothpaste » 11 Jul 2014 23:52

Probably about 90%+ of my music sticks to just white keys or just black keys. Why? Because I haven't learned anything about progression, or much else about music (yet). So I don't even have a clue if I've already made music like what is being encouraged here or not XP
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Re: Nice Music Without a Key - Pandiatonicism!

Postby itroitnyah » 12 Jul 2014 10:04

Wow, a 2 year 6 month necro. New record?

Anyways. I just want to say that whenever I try to compose without a key people always criticize me and my music because nothing's in scale and I feel like if I said that there is no scale they'd tell me I'm an idiot and to put it in scale.
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Re: Nice Music Without a Key - Pandiatonicism!

Postby eery » 12 Jul 2014 12:09

you're still in a key, c maj for instance, you're just not locking yourself to note progressions as far as I understand

and its an intresting subject, so I think the necro is justified.
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