Overtone-imitation, a great tool in chamber-music


Playing chamber music is, for me personally, the best thing that one can do in music. There are quite some aspects in chamber music that are very different from playing solo. One of those features is what I like to call 'overtone imitation'.

Very often, in chamber music, one has the pleasure to play with multiple instruments the same melody at the same time. Sometimes this melody is played unison, a 3th, a 6th, an octave or even a 10th higher. Overtone imitation works the best when the melodies are unison or an octave higher. When there are intervals like 3ths and 6ths the relationship between those notes have a very different meaning, more based upon major/minor type of sound-colors.

This compound melody is a (often) used tool by composers to highlight or to sustain the other instruments. Knowing how to work with this chamber music aspect will create a special sound-connection between the instruments.

Basically what one has to do is to start to play the melody on the piano very soft. Then one can increase the sound a bit and find a 'color' in sound where it looks like both instruments are fully integrated and sound like one instrument. It is quite simple actually and the results are just incredible.

The reason I call it 'overtone imitation' is because one should think that one is playing an actual overtone for the other instrument. In this way one creates a compound sound that makes it seem as one instrument is playing. Maybe it looks like you loose your individuality but in the end it creates a whole new entity. Instead of '2 people playing their instruments' you will have ' 2 people playing their instruments but making it completely sound like 1'.

One might ask, what is so special about this? It is just a balance thing. Well, yes; it basically is a balance thing but it is a next level.

Often 'the right balance' as people like to say doesn't mean that this balance should be everywhere the same. One gives and takes space during playing depending on the importance of the part. Overtone imitation is especially for the melodies, which multiple instruments play in the same time in unison or octaves.

picture source:

ByMusicMaker5376 at the English language Wikipedia, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=17413304<br>