Musical Composition, Theory and Songwriting/Chromaticism (oh not again)


Hi, Dr Colin

Thanks for your reply. Hope you enjoy your travel in Indonesia. Now I have to admit that I didn't get your answer very well. But here's the question again, I'll try to make it simple as possible. I want to write a composition using these chromatic elements. Yet I don't know how to use it in structural and ornamental situation. I've read a book that said structural means substituting, while ornamental means inflecting and therefore is not genuine. For instance, In C major key when you have a melodic line c-c#-d, that means c# is an inflection of c. If the line goes d-db-c, that means db is inflecting the d and belongs to d as opposed to c. Thus, in harmonic situation, the A in progression C A Dm is an inflection chord of C, and Db in progression Dm Db C64 is an inflection chord of Dm. Is this correct? Moreover, If I want to substitute c#, Should it goes Bdim A Dm? but what about Neapolitan chord in C Db G, should it be called inflection because there's a c-c#-d line going on?


Hi Hafiz,

Thanks for getting back to me. Sorry that my previous explanation didn't help very much. However, you say that you "want to write a composition". Before I go on, I must say that it is absolutely not necessary to know whether C sharp is an inflection of C or whether Am is an inflection of C. It honestly doesn't matter. When you are composing the most important thing is the sound, not technical definitions. A composer concerns himself always with what sounds good (or appropriate), not whether it is technically "correct". No professional composers would be interested in whether one chord is an inflection of another, and some highly successful professional musicians who I know probably wouldn't have the remotest idea what it means!

It's a bit like writing a poem and wondering whether one phrase is the future perfect simple tense or the future perfect progressive tense. It is, quite frankly, irrelevant and will only serve to hinder the creative process. I am sure the same applies to music. When you are composing something, your whole mind should be focused on what it's going to sound like and what the listeners are going to make of it. I am worried that you are so concerned about issues which will not be very helpful in the creative process.

Having said all that, you clearly have a very inquiring mind and you have a strong compulsion to get these things sorted out in your head. Well, of course, that's fine as long as it doesn't get in the way of the composing process.

I am wondering whether you are getting confused over harmonic issues here. For example, in a melodic line which goes C - C# - D, are you wondering how it should be harmonised? That would be a reasonable question and would depend largely on the speed of the music. If it were reasonably quick, you'd probably treat the C# merely as a passing note and harmonise the C and the D differently.

You quote that "structural means substituting, while ornamental means inflecting and therefore is not genuine." Now to my mind, that simply doesn't make sense, partly because in western music there is no concept of something being "genuine". I really don't know what the author is talking about at this point. Later on, you say that "the A in progression C A Dm is an inflection chord of C". I don't think many people would describe it in those terms. You could say that the A chord is a "transition chord", because the C# in the chord leads the ear towards D minor.

I think this might be a basic misunderstanding of the expression "inflected chords". These are chords that have had additional notes added to them - usually chromatic notes. We could say that a chord consisting of C-E-G (basic C chord) plus F# and G# is an inflected chord of C. In the case of your D flat example. I wouldn't say that the D flat is an inflection chord of D minor. It is a completely different and largely unrelated chord.

We seem to have got a bit stuck here because I have not come across the term "inflection" used in this way. I would very much like to see the music that you are writing because we can then focus on the real issue. If you have the facility to scan the music and send it to me, we'd both be focused on exactly the same thing. You can use my personal email address if you want, which is: and I think using that would make sending an attachment easier.

Feel free to get back to me so that we can try and sort everything out.

Best wishes


Musical Composition, Theory and Songwriting

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Dr Colin


I can answer questions from students of "classical" composing, arranging, notation problems and music theory, writing for instruments and voice and writing music for education. I can answer questions about orchestration but I do not cover questions about pop or rock music, pop song writing or electronic music.

I taught for many years in UK up to "A" level theory and composition. I have spent many years in music education, initially (like everyone else) as a teacher. Then I moved on to advisory work (teaching teachers!) and also lectured, giving many workshops for teachers in developing music education skills and techniques. For a time I worked as a teacher-lecturer at London University's Institute of Education and eventually worked full-time as a Music Education Adviser to schools in part of London, offering advice on music education and curriculum development.


I started composing music at the age 14 (it was mostly rubbish, since you asked) and now have a large number of compositions to credit as well as many publications, especially for instrumental music and choral music. I have also written several acclaimed works for large orchestra and choir. My work has been published particularly in the UK (under different names)(notably by Boosey & Hawkes, Novello, and Schott) but also in the USA and the Netherlands.

My music for elementary players (several publications) has been performed and broadcast worldwide. I am now retired from my previous job as Music Education Adviser. These days I spend most of my time composing and arranging. I am currently working on instrumental arrangements of world national anthems for my National Anthems website and also completing a suite of very easy piano solos and duets for elementary players. For many years I have used the music program "Finale" for all my music writing activities.

International Society for Music Education; Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts.

"The Times" Educational Supplement; "Hi-Fi News and Record Review". For several years, I used to write for many of the state music education periodicals in the US and I also wrote several influential articles on instrumental music teaching for "Music Teacher" magazine in the UK. (UK).

PhD(Hons); MA(Hons); FLCM (compositon) ARCM, LMusTCL,(music diplomas)

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