Mentoring Program

Theme and Variations (untitled?)

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I don't really have a plan yet. Sorry! I'll edit this later! I'm just trying to write something simple (and playable) for viola. I'm hoping what I have right now will be easy to manipulate — ex. having it start on Bb, emphasizing or de-emphasizing dotted rhythms, or turning it into a round with other string instruments.
Grade Level: 12
Intended For: Live Instrument Performance
Software Used: Noteflight
Instrumentation: viola, cello
Key: I dunno (Bb major, first/last note is D)
Meter Signature: 3/4
Tempo: 100 bmp
Status: Work in Progress
Noteflight URL: Website Title
Located in: MMU AP Theory


#13 Travis Ramsey 2017-03-24 20:33
Hi Iris,

Do you know that you still have an F natural in the cello part in measure 24. It is a striking change from the D major chord that's going on there. If you are really hearing that it needs to be F I'd like to help you make it sound intentional -- otherwise I think you just missed a sharp. Also, remember that the violist in that same measure only needs the first note marked with the sharp to play them all that way.

As for the chords at the end, your idea of going to an F chord and then forming a cadence on the Bb chord is a good one, but I think our ears just need a little more time to get used to the idea first. Try this: can you find a measure just before this to throw in a Bb major chord? 57 looks like a good candidate. This will prepare us for hearing that chord. then, stretch our the F chord over four bars or so, and stretch out that Bb chord for a while. This will make it seem gradual and less of a surprise. Let me know if it works for you!
#12 Iris Lewis 2017-03-23 06:12
Hi again!
So, I finished the third variation instead of working on the major variation, just because a draft of the third variation is due. I haven't forgotten about the major variation, though! I still want to fix some of the chord tones, and I'll try to do that this week.
For the third variation: the end is kind of a mess, so if you have any ideas for better chords, I'd be (very) willing to change mine.
#11 Travis Ramsey 2017-03-17 21:51
iris, I really like the revisions, and the transition into the G major section makes a lot of musical sense now. some suggestions:

1. in measure 24, you only need to mark the first F# in the measure - the musicians would know to play it for all the F's. Also, I think the lower F# would speak better after the A in measure 23. And if something sounds funny here, your cello is playing an F natural!
2. As for chord-tones, the best way to clean them up is to print out what you have, and write down the chord that you see in each measure. Circle any notes that don't fit. Some are probably on purpose. In measure 1, for example, that's a G minor chord but your voila uses E-flats on purpose. This can be a good way to check things out and make sure that everything is where you want it to be. Over time you'll get faster at checking chord tones but I highly recommend a printout and a red pen. I think the G major variation is the place where you will find the most out-of-chord notes.

Other goodies: First of all, your transition back into G minor is incredibly sneaky! I absolutely love that you give us that lovely G chord in 41. Then, we hear an E-flat in 43 and it's a very long time until we hear a B-flat again. It can be jarring to go suddenly from major to minor and your idea to delay that B-flat makes it much smoother. Also loving the pizzicato writing!

Do you know Tchaikovsky's 4th Symphony? You should definitely check it out, speaking of pizzicato.
#10 Iris Lewis 2017-03-15 20:19
Hi again,
Sorry — when I said I used a D major chord, I meant in measure 25 and not 24! 24 was definitely in G. I just now changed it to D, though, so it should sound different!
I also changed a couple other notes to keep everything a chord tone — but I'm not very good at that kind of thing, so I may have done it wrong. Also, the last variation isn't done yet, which is why it stops in the middle of a measure!
#9 Travis Ramsey 2017-03-11 20:13
Iris, if you were talking about the D major chord being added in at measure 24, that is a G mjaor chord (G-B-D). I think either you meant to say that yuo used a G major chord, or you entered the chord wrong. A D major chord is D-F#-A and I think it would work even better than your G chord at measure 24 to bridge the two variations together.
In your second variation, I think you should be careful about which chord your parts are filling. Sometimes it's not clear what you mean. In measure 9, for example, your violin outlines G minor but your cello has F'a and A's. Being really clear about what chord we are hearing will help your music make sense to an audience. It's especially important for the lowest voice and any long notes to be from the same chord.
I like the idea of being in major for the second variation, and the tempo change will help it stay 'bright.' Looking forward to hearing more!

#8 Iris Lewis 2017-03-09 06:33
I'm not quite done with my second variation yet, but I want to post something because of our Wednesday deadlines! So: I'm working on a major variation in a slightly faster tempo (I may even up it to 120), between only the violin and viola.
Also, I ended up using a D major chord for the end of the second variation! Now I just need to add some more measures to get it to a better length.
#7 Travis Ramsey 2017-02-22 21:28
Iris, I don't think you should worry about a piece sounding "too major" unless you think it sounds too major. If you are decided that major chords are right, but it sounds too bright you can always do an inversion - that keeps the chord as it is but makes it sound darker. I can explain what that is if you'd like.
To transition to major, you need to use what we call a "pivot chord," which is a chord that can fit in both keys, G minor and G major. There aren't any chords that fit without using accidentals, but there are two that make sense. I'd suggest you try them out around measure 23 and see whether you like the sound of them or not. The first is a C minor chord (C-Eflat-G), and the second is a D major chord (D-Fsharp-A). Do you like either of those?
#6 Iris Lewis 2017-02-21 19:21
Yeah, sorry for not clarifying what I was doing: my first variation is a lot like the original, but more orchestrated. After measure 15 is an extension to make the variation longer. It's the earlier cello bass line moved to the viola, with the violin taking over the melody (down a third). I just rewrote the m. 15 violin part now, along with changing the beginning — I'm not sure if it sounds too major? Also: help with the transition to G major would be great! I wrote it just to remind myself to do a major variation next. I definitely won't keep the switch without some editing, though.
Thanks again for your help!
#5 Travis Ramsey 2017-02-16 20:17
Hi Iris, Your piece is taking shape now! I see that you have your 8-bar theme, and then some new material. I like the idea of adding a violin melody over the top of the existing theme, and also that change of cello from pizz. to arco. Can you help me understand what the new material after m. 15 is? Is it a new theme?
Also - Tell me about the coming section in G major. Where will it take us?
Suggestions for this week are a few: first, please order your staves so that violin is on top, viola in the middle, and cello on the bottom. Second, are you interested in ideas for how to make the transition to G major smoother? the B-natural sounds very very surprising.
#4 Iris Lewis 2017-02-15 21:11
Ok, so I changed the bass line a little, but I'm not 100% sure it's all chord tones ... I decided on a low D for the measure starting with A, though! I also added some simple dynamics. I'm not sure if I'm done or not, so I might change more going into the first variation. I'm thinking about taking out the grace note in the bass line (but I haven't decided).

Also: thank you for your advice, and I'm definitely going to listen to the Prokofiev when I get the chance!

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