Mentoring Program

Jessica Theme and Variations

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This is a draft for a theme taken from the instrumental Jessica by the Allman Brothers Band. I am planning on adding more orchestration for the statement of theme.
Grade Level: 10
Intended For: Computer Instrument Playback Only
Software Used: Noteflight
Instrumentation: Currently only grand piano.
Key: A major
Meter Signature: 4/4
Tempo: 140 bpm
Status: Work in Progress
Noteflight URL: Website Title
Located in: MMU AP Theory


#16 Matthew LaRocca 2017-03-30 07:32
Hi Rober,

You know, I don’t really think it’s all that silly. I like it. It is very different, which is kind of the point of a variation…and it’s cool.

in general, the music keeps wanting to build up a little more, but you don’t let it get there. When we think of a piece building, there are a lot of different things that can be used to build the sound up.

1. Volume - which can be crescendos or just adding instruments. This is a place where I think that after measure 41 you can gradually add in all the instrument to create a bigger feel to the music.

2. Harmony - You actually start to build the harmony in measure 44, but it only lasts a measure before you go back to the single notes. Keep building up that harmony, until you’re getting to full A major chords. Add in a single line at a time, until it sounds full.

3. Timbre/Feel - This is a more subtle way to build music, but very effective. If you change the feel or timbre of the sound, it can propel the music forward. Doubling instruments is when two instruments play the same melodic line. Rather than going back to just the violin melody the second time around, double the melody with one of the cellos or the piano. Right hand, left hand, doesn’t matter.

But I think you should aim for having all the instruments playing by the time you get to the end. That will be a good way to get a big, fun ending.

#15 Robert Russell 2017-03-29 21:35
Alright, here's my submission for my third variation. It's pretty simple and perhaps a bit silly, but I wanted something a bit happier sounding after all the slow piano! I think it works to cap off the whole thing with a smile.
#14 Matthew LaRocca 2017-03-17 21:13
Nice! It's really got a different tone now, and feels like a true variation.
#13 Robert Russell 2017-03-15 22:52
Here is my completed submission for my second variation.
#12 Matthew LaRocca 2017-03-11 08:54
Hi Robert,

I can see where you going with it. Right now, though, it really feels a lot like the first variation, just with things moved down an octave. There are some ways you can help change the feel to make more of a difference.

-Tempo. It doesn’t all have to be at 140. Slow it down, maybe. See if that helps.

-Rhythm. If you don’t want to change the tempo, what if the melody was rhythmically augmented? Instead of eighth notes, they’re quarter note. Instead of quarter notes, they’re half notes…everythin g is doubled.

-The chords behind it…how can you change the feel of them. Long held notes, which the strings can do perfectly, over two or three measures perhaps? Or string tremolos (bowing back and forth as fast as possible). Or pizzicato? Lots of options.

But I definitely think once you get some more time, you can just make everything more different. Really push the variation to make it feel like something new.

#11 Robert Russell 2017-03-08 21:26
Ok so this really isn't much of a motive and I've just been busy and haven't had a ton of time to put one together. Basically, I want to put the melody back in major and move it to the bass, and give it a smoother more intricate and flowing voice-led harmony, probably all on the piano. I'm thinking I can make use of some inversions and non chord tones in the accompanying voices to sort of ornament and make something that suggests kind of a sonata feel.
#10 Matthew LaRocca 2017-03-01 08:31
Cool. Two quick points, you still need to take all the 3 note chords out of the cello part - they actually physically can't play them. 5ths are OK, but the 3rds are actually very difficult. The only time you can do 3rds is when one of the notes is an open string of the cello: C,G,D,A - here are where those notes are actually located.!Cello_open_strings.png

And I think I perhaps didn't convey the eighth notes well last time. If you feel like editing it, it would be a different (and I think very cool) feeling to change quarter notes to two eighth notes, and half notes to 4 eighth notes. It could be a little more intense that way.

Nice work, though. What's next?

#9 Robert Russell 2017-02-28 20:46
I honestly may tinker with this one some more because I left it kind of till the last minute and had to rush a little bit, but I've got it to a point where I feel ok calling this a submission. I've added a second cello part to complete the chords and varied the rhythm to include more 8th notes like you said. I like this effect but I don't love it everywhere and I'm probably going to change it a little in a couple spots.
#8 Matthew LaRocca 2017-02-24 13:45
Hi Robert,

Nice - I like it in the minor version. Spooky and yet still has the right feel for it.

For this section, a few things. A single cello can’t really play chords - they can do doublestops (two notes at once), or some triple stops (three at once). But you have to be very careful with what you write. I could see a few ways of working around this. Cellos can play open fifths easily. You could have the cello have the root and fifth of each chord (so the D and A of the first one), and give the third to the violin. Or you would have to add more cellos to cover all the notes. Or you could easily omit the third and just have the root and fifth of the chord - like a power chord on the guitar.

With the rhythm too, I would consider adding more variation to it. You could even try doing something as easy as changing the quarter notes to two eighth notes, the half notes to 4 eighths etc. Repeated eighth notes as chords is very often seen in string writing. It gives it a much different feel from the long held bow strokes you can get. Try it out and see if you like it. Also, remember that a cello can go down to a low D too, which is a pretty awesome sound. It could add a nice intensity to the minor variation as well.

#7 Robert Russell 2017-02-22 21:02
I have a draft for my first variation. I've shifted to minor, moved the melody to the piano, and lowered it an octave. I've added a little phrase that differs from the theme in measure 19 because I found my ear lost track of the rhythm there without it. I'll probably add more ornamentation of this type. I've given the harmony to a cello section. I really like the effect it produces, but I'll have to monkey with the rhythm there too.

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