Mentoring Program

Penny Lane Variations

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The song "Penny Lane" by the Beatles with variations on the theme.
Grade Level: 10
Intended For: Not Sure
Software Used: Noteflight
Instrumentation: Piano, Cello, Electric Bass, Trumpet
Key: B Major
Meter Signature: 4/4
Tempo: 111
Status: Work in Progress
Noteflight URL: Website Title
Located in: MMU AP Theory


#21 Travis Ramsey 2017-03-29 21:09
Hi Audrey, thanks for adjusting those notes. I hate to tell you "do this," instead of letting you explore, but an out-of-range note is an out-of range note, right? There's another low B at the end of bar 4 anda low D at 15 (e is lowest note) that I must have missed, too.
The triplets at the end really propel us to the finale, too. Nice!
#20 Audrey Pearl 2017-03-28 18:28
Hi Travis,
thanks for the feedback! I moved the last bass note up an octave and shifted the trumpet part down an octave in measures 50 and 51. In terms of the flute in measure 39, I couldn't find a way in noteflight to have a whole note (of the high F) while another part moved in the triplets below it. Let me know if there is a better way to notate that. I would love any more suggestions that you have as well.
#19 Travis Ramsey 2017-03-24 20:19
Hi Audrey, fun ending! I don't know that you have to label it at all, actually, so I wouldn't worry about that. As for having a clear enough theme, you've done that. A few suggestions and questions for this week are:

- The cello can play more than one note at a time, which we call a double-stop. It is possible for a cellist to play three notes even (a triple-stop). Four notes is almost impossible because of how the instrument is put together. So if you are looking for a sound like you hear in Noteflight, you would need three or four cellists. If you add the word "divisi" or "div." near those cello chords we'll understand that that's what you want.

- The E. bass only goes down to E, most likely, so your last note won't be playable. But remember that everything it does play SOUNDS and octave lower than it looks. So all your second-line B's will actually be sounding in that octave below the piano.

- I'd keep your trumpet part lower than flute until the very end if I were you. It will blare away much louder than the flute.Your spacing in 39-49 looks great, but when the trumpet goes higher than flute in 50 and beyond you'll lose the flute sound.

- And, a question: are all the tied notes in the flutes at 39 a way to fit two flute sounds on one staff? I'm guessing that you only wrote it that way because it worked. If not, let me know and I can explain how it should look. But my guess is that you are just working around a noteflight limitation.

Enjoy the weather...
#18 Audrey Pearl 2017-03-22 20:58
Hey Travis,
Here's the first draft of my third variation. Not really sure what to label it as, but I wanted to end the piece on a really dramatic and grand note and I had fun with the triplets and having everything pretty much in unison at the end with some suspensions (which we've been learning about in class so I wanted to try to utilize them). I can't tell if this section doesn't have a clear enough theme though- look forward to getting your thoughts/opinio ns/suggestions. Thanks!
#17 Travis Ramsey 2017-03-17 21:23
Audrey, it does really help to start with piano and bass first, I think. I wonder if the bass would be even cleaner-soundin g if the piano were to keep playing chords instead of resting at times?
Your bass notation looks a lot better. One little thing, though: it happens first in m. 25 but then several more places. The durations of the 3rd and 4th note in the measure need to be switched. It won't sound different, but the measure should go: quarter, dotted-eighth, sixteenth that's tied to eighth, and then the last 3 eighths as you have it.
If you're looking for ideas for where to go next with your variations, I've noticed that you seem to really like the B-C#-D-natural motive. It inspired you to do a variation in B minor, and you ended this last variation with it too. What about sitting yourself down at the piano and just playing around with those three notes until you find something new to do with it? Just an idea.
One other general note is that anytime you have your trumpets written much below the staff (the low B's you have could be OK but not anything below that) a trombone would sound much fuller on it. The trumpet parts in measures 3-4 in particular would sound really great on trumpet with trombones playing the lower notes.
Cool stuff this revision - looking forward to what comes next!
#16 Audrey Pearl 2017-03-14 15:28
Hi Travis,
Thank you so much for the feedback, I was really excited to hear that you liked the bass line! I took all of your suggestions, having the bass and piano play the first time through and then adding the trumpets and the flute (up an octave) and I tried to clean up the notation of the bass. Now to figure out what I'm going to do for the next one... I have no clue!

PS- Sorry about getting Penny Lane stuck in your head! Although I could think of many worse songs...
#15 Travis Ramsey 2017-03-09 21:21
Audrey, that bass line in your new variation is really good! It has a great groove, and it works (I think) because of the invention in the rhythm of measure 25. Here are some things that I think will help make it sound happy-ish.
1. Syncopations are a wonderful thing but I think it helps to have something stable and steady for the syncopation to go "against." I also think it would be in the jazz style to give the piano simple chords on the quarter note beat to plunk away on. It will be easier for the bassist to find those funky spots, and the relative stability of the piano will help "glue" the ensemble together.
2. Notation. I think your rhythm at 25 in the e bass is harder to read than it needs to be. Your double-dotted eighths obscure the position of beat 3. Personally I'd find it easier to read if the D was a sixteenth note tied to an eighth note. That would give a performer a much better chance of getting it right on the first try.
3. Orchestration. Flutes are easily covered up by louder instruments, and two trumpets definitely counts. A good rule of thumb is to never write the flute part "within the staff" (below the top line F) is anyone else is playing. I'd suggest popping your flute up an octave against those trumpets. Even if it were amplified in a jazz setting it would still have a hard time cutting through, and even though it will look awfully high it's not hard to play.
4. Last suggestion: this bass part and your rhythm is good enough to do more than once. You should have twice as many measures in this style here I think. Maybe a direct repeat, or a repeat with different instruments over the bass? Or, my favorite, let the bass and piano play this idea once and then add the flute/trumpet the next time around?

PS - Now Penny Lane is stuck in my head again!
#14 Audrey Pearl 2017-03-08 21:12
Hi Travis,
So here's the start of my second variation. I wanted to play around with syncopation and having the bass line carry more of the melody. Even though the rhythm gives it a more busy, hectic feel I want to make sure that it sounds happy and maybe a little bit jazzy- a stark contrast to the minor variation. I look forward to getting your feedback and suggestions.
#13 Travis Ramsey 2017-03-02 20:30
Here's an example of what I mean. This piece is mostly in A minor. The key change at the beginning of the 5th system is to the parallel major, A major. If you listen closely you'll hear that the bar just before the key change uses the dominant (E major) chord to get back to A, but it's not A minor or A major, just the note A by itself. When the piece goes on, it picks right up in A major as if it had been there all along! This happens 48 seconds in.
At 2:08 (the end of the second page), Mozart uses the same trick to get back to A minor. We have a dominant E chord, a single A, and then the next phrase takes off in A minor again. Sneaky, no?
#12 Travis Ramsey 2017-03-02 20:25
Hi again, glad you like the trumpets that way - they really can play sensitive music, I promise! Will this be performed by live musicians, or is it destined for electronic playback only? I ask because you have written your flute part very low in its range, and it has a tendency to get overtaken by brass. Did you know that it can play everything you have written for it, an octave higher? As a rule of thumb, if there are other instruments playing at the same time I try to keep my flute parts above the staff.
I do find myself losing track of what's going on musically at measure 20. Unless your specifically going for a very chaotic sound you might be happier sticking to more chord tones there.
One last suggestion is that if you can order your staves from highest to lowest (top is flute, then trumpet, then piano, then cello, and bass on the bottom) it might be easier to keep track of everything.
Shifting back to major is really easy, actually. You are using what we call the "parallel minor" when you go from B major to B minor. So all you need to do is use the dominant chord (which is F# major: F#A#c#) and you can jump right back into B major with it.

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