Hello! I have returned, and I've officially migrated my blog directly to my timcoxcomposer.com site. There are a few reasons for this:
)So I suppose the first question on some people's minds would be, "What even is planing?" Lets break things down into core components:
First off, planing generally involves chords, chords are three or more notes played together. Another important aspect is that those three notes must be unique from each other (e.g. C - G - C⁸ᵛᵅ would not be a chord but C - E - G would be).
Secondly, the notes of whatever chord in question are spaced a specific distance from each other, in the case of our C Major chord, they are all spaced by thirds. This is the key concept of planing.
So what is it? It's simple, really.
Planing is the movement of chords by way of constant intervallic relationships. Or, more simply, your chords remain spaced the same way. If your C Major is root/third/fifth your next chord is the same (this rule gets bent very quickly if you're staying diatonic and would technically be considered diatonic planing). Now, if you play an instrument like guitar, this is second nature. It's how bar chords work! Everything is planing in a lot of guitar music, so why is this a big deal? It's because in classical music it just wasn't done. Everyone followed the "proper" voice leading of the baroque and classical period so when composers started maintaining interval relationships throughout the whole orchestra it was somewhat revolutionary. More specifically than that, planing is often used outside of standard diatonic writing (sometimes this is called chromatic or non-diatonic planing as a catch-all term). A standard "trick" is to make runs in major or minor triads which has an angular but still recognizable sound. I guarantee you've heard it and you don't even realize it. The first example that comes to mind is A LOT of trumpet work in John Williams' scores. More specifically action sequences. Often times you will hear clear examples of three or four part trumpet lines chromatically planing around the key. In these situations, should you arrive at something that calls for it, it's best to listen to them as a texture and write accordingly. You're trying to spice up the music with an atonal and angular phrase.
Here's an example from one of my pieces, what I had was a chromatic line up into the final big chord which I then orchestrated for regular ascending triads (it's just a bit after 0:59):
The effect achieved is a ramping up of the excitement which might not be achievable with standard diatonic harmony. Obviously the chromatic lift into the last chord works on its own but the added texture (there's that word again) creates a full bodied atonal drive into it. The triads have a familiar sound to the listener so they're accessible but they're also out of key so the excitement is heightened, what's happening? Where are we going? AH! We made it!
Planing isn't a new concept but it's very useful for a composer. You can fill out orchestration in a unique sounding way that breaks away from some of the monotony of diatonic harmony. Try it out!