Mentoring Program

Jazz Piece

Composer Name: Natalie Charron
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   

#17 Erik Nielsen 2018-02-15 10:29
Dear Natalie,
Thanks for posting the latest version of your piece. And thanks for eliminating the unnecessary accidentals and for giving a 12-bar improvisation framework. Let me see whether I can help you on this.
1. Your choosing chords for the improvisation, based on the first theme, helps to point out some problem pitches in the theme. For example (and I know I've said this before), bar 1 leans more toward C than G harmony because of the C at the end of beat 2. If you change that to a B the G chord will be correct. Otherwise, it's always going to sound a little "off". The same thing is true at the end of beat 2 of bar 3. Take a look at bar 9, with its B, and listen to the difference in sound.
2. Choosing just one chord per bar doesn't always line up with what you have melodically and harmonically by implication in bars 1-12. And I'd choose a few different chords in places. So let me give you the chords I'd choose. Please note that in some bars there will be more than one chord and the change will happen on beat 3 except for bar 11 (I mark the changes with a /):
G (with the note change on beat 2 from C to B); Em/D; G/D; Gm; C; Am7; C/D; G/D7; G; Am7; G7/C (b.3)/Dm; G. Please let me know if you have questions about this.
3. Since you are doing an improvisation on the first theme, after it's done I wouldn't go back to the top since we will have just heard an improvised variation of it (or at least the harmony). I'd instead say that a return to a modified version of B would be more appropriate, followed by a return to A for the finale. Think about that.
Natalie, the disadvantage of writing this stuff out in words is that it can get a bit confusing. If my chord progression isn't clear, please let me know right away. The same thing is true if you have other questions. The piece is really taking shape now, so keep up the good work. I look forward to your next posting.

Best wishes,
Erik
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#16 Natalie Charron 2018-02-15 09:33
Hi Erik,

Thanks for your feedback. I've added twelve bars of an improvised solo section based on the chord changes in the A section. Please let me know if these chord changes are incorrect or if there are any substitutes I can use in order to avoid repetition.

I agree with your previous comment about returning to the A section after the improvised solo, but I was wondering how to approach that. Would it be an exact repeat or a variation of the section?

Thanks,
Natalie
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#15 Erik Nielsen 2018-02-05 12:51
Dear Natalie,
Thanks for posting the latest revision of your sax solo. You've really made good progress with this revision. The changes you've made near the beginning have helped clarify and reinforce G as the keynote, and the way you've extended the piece and modified the return to the opening theme have been quite successful.
A quick word about accidentals and then on to more substantive matters. The only accidentals needed in this piece so far are the Bb in bar 4 and the first F natural in bar 11 (that accidental is good for the entire bar, as I'm sure you know, so the second one isn't needed). All the F# in other bars as well as the B naturals in bar 22 are unnecessary as they are implied by the key signature. So please get rid of them.
What you do next depends on what you want out of the piece. Bar 40 sounds quite convincing as an ending, but it's true that the piece is less than a minute and a half long by then. If you want more, an improvised 12-bar solo could work, depending on what you use as the basic material. The reason I write that is that there's more material in the B section (bars 13-31) than in the A section and it's much longer (18 bars as opposed to 12). Will you improvise around the opening theme, something from the B section, or do a free improvisation? And what will happen after that? A return to the opening might be in order, and in that case, the improvisation will function somewhat like a C section in a rondo.
Natalie, a lot of questions here that only you can answer. Give it some thought and then try something and see how it goes. Please let me know if you have questions. Otherwise, I'll look forward to your next posting.

Best wishes,
Erik
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#14 Natalie Charron 2018-02-05 09:43
Hi Erik,

Thank you for your suggestions. I've applied them to the piece and added a few more measures. Please let me know what you think of the new material. I am thinking of incorporated a 12-bar improvised solo section into the piece. Do you think this is a good idea? If so, is this a good place to add this section? Please let me know.

Thank you,

Natalie
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#13 Erik Nielsen 2018-01-23 10:06
Dear Natalie,
Thanks for posting the latest revision of your piece. You are certainly making progress. Your additions to the B section have increased the length and feeling of substance of the piece. I have a few suggestions.
1. I must confess that I'm puzzled throughout the piece by the use of chromatic notes. They always seem arbitrary in a way that jazz chromaticism doesn't. For example, why is there B flat in bar 22 but not in the rest of the B section? And why F natural in bar 20? The same is true in the A section with F (F#) and B (Bb), but having this same ambiguity show up in the B section made me write. If you used a Bb as a grace note leading to a B natural on beat 3 of 22 that would then make sense as long as beat 4 had a B natural as well. Using "bent" notes in that fashion (either going up or, less often, down) would make the music sound much more in the blues/jazz tradition. Please let me know if what I've written confuses you.
2.What you do hereafter depends on how long you want the piece to be. Whether you want this to be a substantial piece that's longer than, say, 48 bars or so, OR if it's shorter (c. 48 bars), I think the next step is to to a modified repeat of bars 1-12, especially since the B section is longer than the A section. After that, if you want to wrap it up, just add a bit of a coda (4-8 bars). If you want it to be longer, I'd say to think of this as rondo or verse-chorus and come up with a new C section.
3. Two other things, one small and one large. The small one is that I don't think the half rest at the end of bar 17 is helpful at all. It stops the momentum and puts a hole in the musical flow. I'd make the half note at the beginning of the bar into a dotted half at least, or even a whole note.
The second thing is to figure out once and for all what the keynote is. If it's G, you'll need to use F natural a lot less, especially in the A section. And even more to the point, starting off with so much E and C in bars 1-3 establishes C very clearly as the keynote. If C is home, that's fine, just end the piece on a C and it will feel right. But if you want G, try changing the Es to Ds in bars 1 and 3 and the Cs to Bs in the same bars and listen to the difference.

Okay, Natalie, that's it for today. Please think about what I've written and be sure to let me know if anything I've written is unclear. Oh, and do remember about our Opus 33 coming up. The instrumentation , as I told you a couple of weeks ago, is any combination of the following: brass quintet (2 trumpets, French horn, trombone, tuba), piano, 2 percussionists (mallets and drum set, basically) and SATB singers (one on a part). All you need to post is a few bars by Friday next week (February 2), we'll assign you a mentor and you have until March 22 to finish the piece. Let me know if you have questions. I look forward to hearing from you again soon.

Best wishes,
Erik
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#12 Natalie Charron 2018-01-23 09:06
Hi Erik,

I have added a few measures to my piece. Please let me know of any suggestions and what you feel my next step should be.

Thanks!

Natalie
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#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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