Improvising Like Rachmaninoff

Today I am going to attempt to teach you how to compose or rather, improvise like Rachmaninoff. Here we go!

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I based my little composition off of two Rachmaninoff Pieces, Prelude in G Minor and Prelude in C Sharp Minor. Measures 1 to 4 are based off of Prelude in G Minor and measures 5 and 6 are based off of Prelude in C Sharp Minor. First of all, if you want any thing to sound like Rachmaninoff, you must compose in minor keys only. Get to know all your minor keys backwards and forwards! Next if you want to have that Russian Romantic Sound, dang out the piano with gigantic chords. It was known that Rachmaninoff had the biggest hand span on a piano, and wrote many pieces with these large chords reaching up to 13ths and crazy stuff like that. Another device that he used was the addition of the chromatic scale to the compositions. As shown on beats 2, 3, and 4 on measures 1 through 3, I augmented the chord such that the chord still has the minor 3rd and 5th of the tonic, but the root of the chord goes down chromatically a half step. It is very crucial that you use the minor 3rd and 5th in whatever key you compose or improvise in, you don’t want the piece to sound atonal if you are not incorporating these devices in. To fix this problem, I added a low G octave to reinstate the tonic whilst augmenting the chord chromatically. Lastly to make the music resolve to the tonic at the end, I used a device that Rachmaninoff used in Prelude in C Sharp Minor, the 6th to the 5th, and finally the tonic. Augment the 5th chord by raising the 5th a half step and or adding the major 7th to add some color end with a large chord expressing resolve. Work with different chords and colors but keep these things in mind. They will help you when you want to sound like Rachmaninoff!

Happy Composing!

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