Mentoring Program

Journey

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This piece was inspired by Money in the desert a song by Bill Laurence. I wanted to have a piece that seemed to have a story, so I started with a conversation between violin and piano that develops into something bigger throughout my piece.
Grade Level: 9
Intended For: Live Instrument Performance
Software Used: Noteflight
Instrumentation: Piano, Violin, Bass, and Flute
Key: D minor
Meter Signature: 4/4
Tempo: quarter note=100
Status: Completed Work
Noteflight URL: Website Title

Comments   

#11 Erik Nielsen 2017-04-03 15:06
Dear Melissa,
Thanks for entering your piece for Opus 32. Unfortunately, it was not chosen for performance. However, I congratulate you on the work you put into it and how far the piece came. I'm particularly heartened that no matter how hard you found this, that you learned a lot during the process. That's the most important thing, and it will stand you in good stead in the future. I enjoyed mentoring you, and encourage you to keep composing. I look forward to seeing more work from you in the future.

Best wishes,
Erik
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#10 Melissa Neff 2017-03-30 19:42
Dear Erik,
It has been a long and difficult time working through this piece but thank you so much. I feel that I have learned so much about music comp, and you have been so helpful every step of the way.
Thanks,
Melissa
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#9 Erik Nielsen 2017-03-30 11:52
Dear Melissa,
Thanks for re-posting so soon. I congratulate you on being willing to stretch yourself and try out some new things. Your piece is much more effective now. Using the "Alberti bass" (i.e., the arpeggiated chords) in piano lightens the sound and gives much more variety to the piece.
I do have some suggestions that I think will help strengthen this even more and ought not to take that long to put in, I hope before tonight's deadline.
1. There are a few places where the cello and piano get in each others' way. Look at the end of bar 6. They clash on the final note. If you're going to have a unison, keep it up to the end of the bar by giving the piano a B flat at the end rather than keeping it on the C. Likewise, at the end of bar 15 the piano A at the beginning of beat 4 doesn't match the G in cello, so please change the piano note to a B flat and it won't clash.
2. The piano plays for the entire piece. We'll tune it out after a while. There are two places where it's just filling in sound and it's not needed or needs to change and where just hearing the flute and strings would be welcome. The first is bars 17-19. The cello already is covering the root of the chord, so leave the piano out. Is it an emptier sound? Yes, but that's a good thing here. The second is bars 24-31. I know it's a big spot and a tutti section, but just having banging half notes on block chords isn't very effective. Right now it's basically doing the same thing as cello but in a less interesting way. Can you give the piano a whole note on 24 and then give it a line at least some of the time in 25-31? If you use chords some of the time in these bars, vary them a bit more so they aren't all half notes. It will make both the piano part and the rest of the music there more interesting.
3. I'm sorry, but this is a piece that's clearly in D minor, and ending on a C chord when the music sounds (to me at least) as if it's aiming toward D minor is very unsatisfying. Can you give everyone a D minor chord whole note, marked p at the end? Try it out and see what you think.
Melissa, please keep in mind that all I'm doing is making suggestions. You always have the final decision. Your piece has grown by leaps and bounds each time you've re-posted and it's close to complete. Now if you can take what I've written and try out some things as well as adding a few more dynamics, your work ought to be just about done. Please let me know if you have questions.

Best wishes,
Erik
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#8 Melissa Neff 2017-03-29 20:44
I tried something out and I really like it. Please let me know what you think and any technical details I need to fix before tomorrow night.
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#7 Erik Nielsen 2017-03-27 18:39
Dear Melissa,
Thanks for the note. I knew that what I was suggesting would change the sound significantly. Keep in mind that it's your piece and what I offer are suggestions, not commands. The final decisions are always yours.
That said, here's why I suggested what I did. What you had with piano was basically something keeping the beat, like a bass drum but with pitches. As a piano part it is extremely limited, only using one hand and almost totally doing block chords. You can get pretty much the same effect of a full sound by adding a viola (or even just keeping only flute, violin and cello) and redistributing the piano notes to the remaining parts. Are there pop songs with a piano part like yours? Yup. Do I think that's necessarily a good idea for your piece given how far it's come? Nope.
If you want to keep the piano here's what needs to happen in three days:
1. The part, even if it's only the left hand, needs to become more varied, including lines as well as chords, some time off (!), more range, more variety in how the chords are voiced (right now they are mostly in closed position, that is, 1-3-5 from bottom to top). If there were a right hand that did more melodicially, that would be great too.
2. The other parts (especially flute and cello) need to come out more and take some of the chordal function of the piano so it's not the only one taking the harmony.

Melissa, the choice is yours. However, I wouldn't be doing my job if I didn't call it as I hear it. Can this piece have a successful piano part? Sure, but at the moment, the piano is the weak link in the piece. It's getting in the way of the other parts and their lines. Even allowing that Noteflight playback is poor, the piano as it's structured now is just filling in beats rather than adding much musically. There are so many good ideas in the other parts that either the piano needs to match that level or get out. At least that's my view. Please continue to ask me questions (though I have to say I'm pretty fried after a long day, so I doubt I'll answer this evening). I really appreciate your hard work.

Best wishes,
Erik
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#6 Melissa Neff 2017-03-27 18:22
Dear Erik,
Wow, removing the piano is a lot makes my piece sound a lot different. I am finding that it looses some of the warm quality it had before. I also am finding that i sounds empty to be like something is missing. I know that there needs to be rhythm changes also to fix that, but without the piano it sounds like something is missing. I was wondering what you would think about just having me change the rhythm of the piano, so there is not the open sound.
Thanks,
Melissa
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#5 Erik Nielsen 2017-03-27 16:46
Dear Melissa,
Thanks for your note. It's clear you have worked hard on this and your piece is getting clearer in intent. Time is short so I'm going to get to suggestions.
1. I'm going to make my most radical suggestion first. Get rid of the piano part. I can feel the shock waves over this, but let me explain my reasoning. With the exception of the eighth notes in bar 6 and the quarter notes in bars 9-11 the piano serves no melodic function in this piece at all and the harmonic functions are handled with just block chords that don't add anything and actually get in the way because of their percussive qualities. You can distribute the harmonic notes to cello (it can play two notes at a time) and flute, both of which are still underused. The piece will sound smoother and it will also make your work easier without having to worry so much about another instrument.
2. Your piece is building well at bar 31, but why not use harmony between flute and violin rather than unison in 32-35? As for moving toward an ending, I'd suggest a modified repeat of 32-35, with perhaps some ornamentation in the flute line, a slightly different accompaniment in violin (or melody in violin and harmony in flute) and a slightly changed cello. Then you can just add a couple of bars to finish off well in D minor and you could be done.
3. I'm still not a fan of the repeat in bars 16-19. If you really want that music repeated, add four blank bars after 19, put in 16-19 and build it up more to get to what is now 20. In other words, have eight bars that build, rather than four that build and then do a repeat that's an anticlimax.
4. There are still gaps that you've begun to fill with the cello very nicely (see bar 2 to see what I mean). You need to keep this up using one instrument or another to enliven the piece more.

Melissa, this work has made a lot of progress in a short time. Please read my comments carefully, and think especially about eliminating the piano. I think it will make the work much more effective if it's a trio. I know you started this piece as a sort of pop-song-influe nced sound, but it's evolved a lot since then and the piano really no longer fits. In any case, please let me know if you have questions. I'll be around right up to the deadline with very few exceptions, so post as much as you like and I'll try to get back to you quickly.

Best wishes,
Erik
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#4 Melissa Neff 2017-03-27 16:12
Dear Erik,
Thanks so much, I have been working very hard. I am actually having a lot of trouble at the end. I feel like a lot of y piece is build up and I need a climax. I added a new part today and would love to know what you think of it. Please let me know.
Thanks,
Melissa
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#3 Erik Nielsen 2017-03-27 15:47
Dear Melissa,
I don't want to add to any pressure you may already feel, but your piece is due in its final version this Thursday by midnight. You've made such fine progress that with a bit more work you ought to be able to finish on time. Let me know if there's anything you need from me.

Best wishes,
Erik
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#2 Erik Nielsen 2017-03-22 14:53
Dear Melissa,
Thanks for the email letting me know about the changes. In future, just let me know with a note here on the site. I'll get an email notification.
Wow, were you right that you've made changes! This is almost a completely different piece with only the first bar of the new melody as something from the original version. Goodness, this has improved! You've really got a stronger theme, the piece now has a very strong sense of the key (D minor; you ought to correct that in the Description), a much more coordinated harmonic progression, much better use of instruments, particularly flute and violin, more use of imitation. . . I could go on and on, but you get the idea. Good work!
Having said that, I have some suggestions for you.
1. Be careful about what your bass note is, whether in cello, piano or both. First, make sure those two (i.e., cello and lowest note in piano) agree harmonically. Look at bar 4 and make sure you really want a Gm7 chord (i.e., G-Bflat-D-F), because that's what you have with G in cello and a B flat chord in piano. There are a lot of similar spots, so I just want to make sure that's really what you want.
2. Both the cello and piano are underused. The cello really ought to get more melodic work in place of so many whole notes, in order to make it a more equal partner with the flute and violin. Its only places to shine at the moment are bars 10-12 and 28. And the piano only has a left hand part and its all block chords, almost all of them whole notes. So both these parts need some attention.
3. Be careful about having active parts in flute and violin in the same register at the same time. What you have in bars 28-30 where the two parts are in harmony is more effective than bars 19-24 where the two instruments are either playing in unison or are in competition for our attention. Try to figure out who has the lead and separate it more vertically (make it higher or the other part lower) and make the accompanying part less active.
4. Bars 19-20 lead up to bar 21 so well that the repeat spoils that. I don't see the need to repeat bars 17-20 at all.
5. Now you need to find ways to do more with imitation and playing with the thematic material, especially getting the piano and cello involved. And remember, not everyone needs to play all the time.

Melissa, I know I've given you a lot a suggestions, but that doesn't lessen the fact that you and your piece have taken a HUGE leap forward. Please do keep up the good work and remember that the final deadline for Opus 32 is just over a week away, on Thursday, March 30 at midnight. Please let me know if you have questions. I look forward to your next posting.

Best wishes,
Erik
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