Composing music is quite a conscious activity in itself, but there is certainly an argument to say that paying more attention to harmony and thinking carefully about modulations between keys can be of great benefit.
To help you with this, video game composer Sebastian Karikra created Mindful Harmony, a free web-based composition tool based on that old music theory called the circle of fifths.
This encourages you to think carefully about the relationships between different keys and scales, and to create more complex chord progressions that have greater potential to stir the emotions of your listeners.
The action takes place in the Writer tool. This includes a graphical representation of the circle of fifths and a docking area that lets you choose chords and play them.
In addition to all major scales and harmonic/melodic minor scales (you can choose between them), the circle represents the six modes derived from each. These all contain the same pitches, but have different fundamentals (root notes).
Mindful Harmony encourages you to introduce subtle or extreme modulation into your compositions by creating chord progressions that move around the circle as you modulate between modes to create less ‘obvious’ and more complex music.
Chords can be selected by clicking the plus button in the dock and choosing your next circle destination. The smaller the distance between the keys, the more subtle the modulation. If you want a more dramatic shift, choose a destination key that is quite a distance from your original key.
Once you’ve done this, you’ll be presented with a new window where you can select the mode and chord, with further options for creating extended chords and changing the voicings. To give you a helping hand, chords with one or two notes that were not present in the previously selected scale are highlighted.
The chords in your list can be played in order or individually using the built-in piano, guitar, snare, and chiptune sounds. You can also download a MIDI file of each chord or copy the chord list as text. Chords can also be labeled for verses, choruses, etc.
We think Mindful Harmony has the potential to be a very useful, inspiring tool that can really help with both songwriting and music theory understanding (there’s a handy Learn section that explains how everything works). As we mentioned, it’s completely free (with no ads), but if you find yourself using it, you can reward Sebastian for his hard work by buying him a cup of coffee (i.e. making a donation).
You can now get started on the Conscious Harmony website.