Six Models for Diminution
- Long notes (no diminution)
- Repeated notes and tremolos
- Repeated note with octave displacement
- Upper and lower neighbors, mordents and trills
- Goal oriented diminutions
- Arpeggiation and polyphonic melody
Remember that diminutions are meant to add more notes in shorter durations (so don’t just use long notes).
Also, make sure that you infer the key area from the figured bass as accidentals may appear in diminutions earlier than in the figures.
Long notes are expressive and lyrical. Particularly in passages where one pitch remains in common, this can be the best choice.
Repeated notes and tremolos
Repeated notes and tremolos are similar to long notes and only require the choice of division of the original duration. In instrumental music of the 18th century repetition is very common whereas long notes are more rare.
Repeated note with octave displacement
Repeated note with octave displacement are very common in the bass but can also be used as engaging thematic material
Upper and lower neighbors, mordents and trills
These ornaments are, by definition, great diminutions.
Goal Oriented Diminutions
Goal oriented diminutions:
The idea of goal oriented diminutions is to use stepwise motion towards the next note of a voice-leading diminution with less regard to what preceded it. The figure should be in the implied local tonality.
Callahan sites six such figured from Wiedeburg
- The Schleifer consists of three pitches ascending or descending to the goal note.
- The Doppelschläge is a turn around the goal tone.
- The Schneller is a double neighbor to the goal tone.
Arpeggiation is the process of outlining a vertical sonority as a melodic figure. This may be in ascending or descending order or may leap back and forth. Arpeggiation of any interval beyond the third will often create a ‘polyphonic line’, i.e. a single line that suggests several voice-leading patterns.
Unless the arpeggiation is very long and virtuosic, make sure your arpeggiation and polyphonic melody expresses an actual voice leading pattern. This is especially important in cadences – where the leading tone should resolve. However, it is also important in sequences and other progressions.
Some interesting examples and observations are included in this article: