Mentoring Program

Jazz Piece

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This is a jazz solo alto sax composition. I am composing this piece for my honors program senior capstone project. It is currently a twelve-bar blues, but I intend to expand it into a larger composition (1-2 pages.)
Grade Level: 12
Intended For: Not Sure
Software Used: Noteflight
Instrumentation: Alto Sax
Key: G Major
Meter Signature: Common
Tempo: 120
Status: Work in Progress
Noteflight URL: Website Title

Comments   

#11 Erik Nielsen 2018-01-18 10:10
Dear Natalie,
It was great actually meeting you last week at the Showcase in Hartford, even though it took me a minute to place you. I think it was because you were demonstrating as a conductor rather than as a composer. In any case, thanks for posting the latest version of your piece. I think your new idea is a good one. Let me see whether I can help you out with it.

1. It seems to me that with the change you've made to bar 1 and the general shape of the first section, especially the use of mostly F natural rather than F# (which appears only in bar 2 and briefly in 3 and 5), that C is much more the tonal center through bar 12 than G and that G acts more as the dominant. All this changes in the second section which is clearly in G. That's good. I like the use of different rhythmic elements, such as the quarter note triplet in 13 and the eighth-and-two- sixteenth figure (the reverse of what's in the opening section). Both these give these bars a familiar-yet-di stinct feel.
2. What I'd suggest is that you repeat 13-18, starting in 19 with the lower D you have there now. I'd repeat the first two beats of 13 down an octave in 19 and then move up an octave for the quarter note triplet and do a modified repeat of 14-16 (beat 1). Then I'd work to try to expand the idea that follows in the rest of 16 through 18. It's a good idea and could develop into much more than is there now. You could also use the expanded idea as a transition either back to the beginning (if this is meant to be a short piece) or to go on to a new section.

Natalie, you keep making progress. I know that as a senior you've got a lot on your mind these days, but the more often you work on this piece (15 minutes a day is better than an hour once a week) the more progress you'll make. So give what I've written some thought and let me know if you have questions. I look forward to your next posting.

Best wishes,
Erik
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#10 Natalie Charron 2018-01-18 09:13
Hi Erik,

I have composed a few more measures for my piece. I'm a little stuck on what to do next. I'm not sure if I should repeat the last few measures of my new entry on different pitches, or maybe return to the original melody, or maybe create a new melody altogether. Please let me know your thoughts.

Thanks,

Natalie
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#9 Erik Nielsen 2017-12-20 16:10
Dear Natalie,
Thanks for posting the latest revision of your piece. This is definitely a step forward. Your opening four bars now establish G as the keynote much more strongly. In addition, bars 5-8 hold together better now and give you more material to work with later.
The only suggestion I would make is to take the figure on beat four of bar 11 and move all three notes (EGC) up one note. It will make the G sound much more convincing as the keynote and make a stronger end of the first section.

I do think you're ready to work on the next section of the piece. There are two obvious ways to go. One is to do a modified repeat of the opening 12 bars, not a completely literal repeat, but a repeat with a few changes, perhaps starting the changes in the fifth bar and ending the twelfth bar somewhere besides G so that the piece can move into new material smoothly. This means not just ending on a different note from G but also preparing us for that new ending. One additional approach to this way of moving forward is to give the melody to the piano and put the sax in the background for bars 13-24, assuming you're still planning on using piano.

The other obvious way to go is to start a new section. This can use a new tonal center (same key signature, just a different pitch as most important, such as C or D) and completely new material, or it can take some of the material we've already heard and do more with it. I am thinking particularly of the music from bars 5-8, since we've only heard them once and they have a very different feel from bars 1-4 and 9-12.

Natalie, these are just two ideas for moving forward. Part of the decision will depend on how long you plan to make the piece. That will help determine whether a modified repeat of the opening is in order right away. If you're only planning to make the piece 36 bars long, for example, a repeat might be more appropriate for the final twelve bars, but if you want a longer work, having a modified repeat in bars 13-24 might be a good idea. In any case, give all this some thought and let me know if anything I've written is unclear. I hope you enjoy your break and look forward to working with you on this some more in the new year.

Best wishes,
Erik
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#8 Natalie Charron 2017-12-20 09:26
Hi Erik,

Thank you for the suggestions. I tried to incorporate G more often and fixed the sixteenth note triplet. Please let me know if you have any further suggestions concerning these twelve bars. I would like to begin expanding the piece by a few bars, so if you feel that I am ready to do so and have any suggestions as to how to begin this process please let me know.

Thanks,

Natalie
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#7 Erik Nielsen 2017-12-15 12:57
Dear Natalie,
Thanks for posting the first revision of your piece for alto saxophone. This is definitely a big improvement. You've got a main theme that has real rhythmic character and a good shape.
The biggest issue for me is that without any accompaniment to emphasize G as the keynote, the opening with all the F naturals really leans toward C as the keynote instead. You could easily substitute a C instead of a G for the downbeat of bar 5 and it would sound like the keynote. The middle bars (5-8) do center around G, but then the return of the opening phrase makes 5-8 sound like a contrast (we've been in C, now we're in G for 5-8 for a change, and then back to C for the end).
What's to be done about that? Well, if you do have a piano accompaniment you can make sure that the bass plays a lot of G in bars 1, the first half of 3, 4-5, 9, the first half of 11 and then 12. That way the F naturals will just sound like the sevenths we so often hear in jazz.
The other thing I'd like to bring to your attention is that 16th note triplet in bar 7. It's so fast at this tempo that it sounds rushed. Not only that, but it's the only time we hear such a figure. You might want to consider making it an eighth note triplet and putting the E that's on the second half of beat 3 on the first half of beat 4 with the D as the second half. I'd also suggest using the figure a bit more often so it becomes more a part of the piece.
Natalie, this is fine progress. Please think about my suggestions and let me know if you have questions. I look forward to your next posting.

Best wishes,
Erik
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#6 Natalie Charron 2017-12-13 19:42
Hi Mr. Nielsen,

Thank you for the feedback. It was very helpful. I have made some of the changes that you've suggested and believe that the piece sounds much better. Please let me know of any other suggestions you have.

Thanks,

Natalie
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#5 Erik Nielsen 2017-12-01 13:23
Dear Natalie,
Thanks for fixing the sharing settings on your file. I've been able to look at and listen to your piece now. Your melody has some nice moments in it so far. I especially like that there's a really good up and down flow to it.
There are two issues that I want to bring to your attention. The first is that you've listed this as a jazz piece. Ordinarily, jazz music "swings", that is, the eighth notes look "normal" (that is, equal in length), but pairs sound "long-short" rather than "short-short". So if you want the piece to sound jazzy, you might want to write Swing above the score and also go into the playback menu and make sure that the settings are changed to swing.
The other issue is bigger and has two parts. First, although you have listed the key of the piece as being in G and there is one sharp in the key signature (that helps indicate that G is the keynote), the MUSIC itself doesn't center around G at all. In fact, there's only one short phrase that ends on G in bar 9. For this to BE in a key, the keynote music be emphasized more.
And that brings me to the second part of the issue, namely that the piece at the moment not only does not have a keynote, it doesn't have a clear melodic line (or "theme"). It's like a story without a main character. In order to have an effective theme, not only does it need a strong sense of the keynote ("home"), it also needs repetition of ideas, especially rhythmic ones, and a sense of flow. By that I mean that one phrase leads to another, just as the words in this sentence seem to lead clearly to the words of the next sentence. At the moment, the piece has no idea repetition, and has lots of eighth notes in a row rather than a variety of rhythmic values, and all the phrases are isolated, that is, they don't seem to have much to do with each other.
How to solve this? First, pick out a phrase that's your favorite. See whether you can give it a clear rhythmic "fingerprint" and make it your main theme. Let's say, for example, that bar 9 is your favorite part of the whole piece so far. It's already got a very clear rhythmic idea with the groups of eighth and sixteenth notes. It also leads very clearly to G. One thing you could do if this were your first bar is to repeat the bar a whole step higher for bar two, then play the first two beats of the first bar twice in a row within bar 3 (that is, replace the half note with the rhythm of the first two beats of bar 9), then repeat the rhythm of bar 1 in the fourth bar, but end on D instead of G. Then you could start the next four bars by repeating bars 1-2 as 5-6, then do something completely different for bars 7 and 8, but make sure bar 8 ends on G. Et voila, you have an 8-bar melody with a clear keynote and a clear motif and that repetition of the rhythm will make the tune easy to remember.
Natalie, this would of course be much easier if I were there to show you, but let me summarize to help you as much as I can:
1. Make sure to mark the music Swing at the beginning.
2. Make sure that you have a main melody that uses rhythmic pattern repetition to establish a clear character (again, to borrow from the world of fiction, a clear character as a saint, an outlaw, a ballerina, a dog-catcher, etc.).
3. Make sure that the melody emphasizes the keynote. If that's G, fine. If not, you can always change the key signature to better reflect where "home" is.
So go to work on this and please let me know if anything I've written is unclear. I look forward to seeing your first revision.

Best wishes,
Erik
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#4 Natalie Charron 2017-11-30 12:59
Hi Mr. Nielsen,

Thank you for your help. I have changed the sharing settings on my composition so you should be able to view it now. I look forward to receiving your feedback.

Thanks again!

Natalie
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#3 Erik Nielsen 2017-11-27 12:38
Dear Natalie,
I hope you had a good Thanksgiving break. Unfortunately, I still can't see your piece to comment on it because you haven't enabled sharing. Here are instructions as to how to do that:
Please fix by following these steps.
1. Go to your Noteflight score so it's on the computer screen.
2. Go to the Sharing tab.
3. Change so it reads "Who can access this score, "all site members."
4. SAVE.
Once you've fixed the sharing settings, please send me a message here in the discussion area. And please let me know if you have questions. I really do want to work with you, but need to see your piece before I can do that.

Best wishes,
Erik
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#2 Erik Nielsen 2017-11-15 15:10
Dear Natalie,
I'll be your primary mentor on this piece, so I want to welcome you to Music-COMP. I look forward to working with you once sharing is enabled for your Noteflight file. Please let me know if you have questions.

Best wishes,
Erik Nielsen
Senior Mentor
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