Mentoring Program


Composer Name: Natasha Farrar
I want it to be a journey. I'm planning on it starting with a similar tune, then becoming upbeat, then morose, then victorious.
Grade Level: 10
Intended For: Live Instrument Performance
Software Used: Noteflight
Instrumentation: Trumpet 1&2, Tuba, Piano, open to more instruments
Key: G Minor
Meter Signature: I'm not quite sure
Tempo: 100
Status: Work in Progress
Noteflight URL: Website Title


#8 Travis Ramsey 2018-02-23 19:36
Hi Natasha, measure 6 is clearer. I'm still not sure about measure 3, though. That A against G on the first beat makes it hard to feel the tonic. I know that you use this tuba theme again but it's very common in writing of this style to make slight alterations for reasons like this. What would you think of either of these options: (1) adjusting the rhythm in measure 2 so that the A falls on beat 4 and a G at the beginning of measure 3, or (2) just changing that A to a G. try them maybe and see if you like them?
Yes, a little something at m. 13-19 would be nice. A harmony tip for you: try just adding one voice instead of whole chords, and try just using 3rds and 6ths above what you have. You can always add more but often times this gives you more creative license than if you plop in a whole triad.
For a victorious ending I;d think you'd want all the instruments, and playing loudly. So keep you instinct to have that trumpet walk up to high G, but give the piano and tuba more to do. You could also look up some piano music to see how composers build up endings. A lot of videos on youtube will show the notation and play a recording which is super helpful.
Here's one example - not my favorite piece but shows some reasonable piano writing and a victorious ending, I'd say. It's for two pianists, not one, though.
#7 Natasha Farrar 2018-02-22 13:01
Hello Travis,
I went through my song and fixed measure six so that it's a bit easier to get the chord from it. I'm thinking about adding a harmony to parts of measures 13-19. Do you think this is a good idea? I'm going to bring back the tuba part at the beginning of the piece for my victorious bit. I'll have to change some notes if I want to make it into a canon due to dissonance that would get worse with each added part. I think that the first trumpet melody would be good for the very ending though. I'm going to do my best to work on the victorious part over the next week. Are the any suggestions you have for me for the piece? Do you think that measure 6 is better or that is still not clear and I should edit it more? What are your thoughts on my idea for the victorious ending of my piece? Thank you for the help so far!
#6 Travis Ramsey 2018-02-15 20:05
Hi Natasha, let's tackle your questions one at a time. Yes, I think a canon at the end would be really cool. Which of your themes are you likely to use for it? I would recommend starting with a short theme, on the order of a measure or two, and leaving it within a single triad for starters. Once you get the hang of it we can work to develop it a bit more.
Yes, nice work on rhythm. I find it much cleaner to read, and so will the performers.
Based on how little you needed the trombone and the fact that the notes you did give it could easily be played by a tuba, I think taking out the trombone would make sense.
As for suggestions, there is one but it's a doozy. You have a very good instinct for writing good, independent lines, the beginnings of writing great counterpoint. My concern is that your melodies are all very singable and make good sense but when they all are played at the same time, they don't always make chords that our ears can understand. What you should do is make sure that every measure is clear enough in its harmony that you know what chord is there. Here's an example, below.
Measure 23 is clearly a G minor chord. Your trombone (soon to be tuba) is giving us the bass note and that trumpet is outlining the triad. It's OK that the last beat is a C and not part of the chord -- not every note needs to belong. Measure 29 is another clear example. You have an F chord, followed by an E-flat. Now compare these to another measure earlier in the piece, say measure 6. I'm not sure what I'd call this chord here. I think your piece would benefit the most from a very close look at each measure. If you come to one where you can't sort out what the chord is, see if you can clean it up by putting more chord tones on the beat.

Sound OK?
#5 Natasha Farrar 2018-02-14 12:02
Hello Travis,
I've thought about the canon idea and decided that I'm going to put it in the end part where the song becomes victorious. I made the technical changes you mentioned. I linked a few of my ideas together into the song. Should I take out the trombone? Are there any changes you suggest for the piece?
#4 Travis Ramsey 2018-02-02 21:06
Canon 101

So I'd like to start with sort of the precursor to a canon, a round. It's really no different than getting 4 people to sing Row Row Row Your Boat in a round. The hardest and most frustrating way to go about it is to start at the beginning. The easiest way is to figure out what it will sound like when all four parts are playing and work backwards from there.

Step 1 The first step is to write a simple, short melody. It's important at this phase to only let the melody hit chord tones (in this case we'll use a G minor triad, G-Bb-D) on each beat. You'll see my melody at #1 in the attached image.
Step 2 The second step is to write three more melodies. "Pretend" that they're all to be played by the same instrument, and it's very important to keep the ranges easy. I'll stay between low D and high D. So at #2 you can see my four melodies. Each is simple and only hits chord tones on each beat. Also, if possible try to make each of your new melodies end near the note the next one starts at. (Check out the dashed lines.
Step 3 Now, you're ready to explode your writing. Label each melody as you see in #3, and then copy/paste them so that each player plays first melody 1, then melody 2, etc.
Step 4 Finally, we need some different instrumental colors. So go ahead and pull a trumpet or two down to get some low brass. One octave down is comfortable on a trombone, two octaves for tuba. We'll tackle Horn at a later date if you're interested but it's a little more complicated. So in #4 I swapped out two trumpets for tbone and tuba.

Summary So this was the quickest way I could think of to get you to a canon. If this topic interests you we can dive much, much deeper. The real thing I'd like you to get into is the formal study of counterpoint. For now, though, go write some canons!

PS - Fugues are infinitely more exciting but also get pretty complicated.
#3 Travis Ramsey 2018-02-02 20:42
Hi again Natasha, melody is a great place to start. As you work as a composer, do whatever you can to get as good as you can at writing down melodies. They can be ones that come to you or ones you just overhear, but the more you hone your skill at transcribing what you hear/imagine to what you can commit to paper, the easier time you'll have of composing!

First feedback is a nit-picky thing but it's best to get it out of the way before you write a ton more. When you write syncopated rhythms like that first measure it's important that the beaming is accurate. Performers will have an easier time interpreting it. So... your first G is correct. The Bb and just the first D 8th note should be beamed together. Go ahead and tie that D to the one on the next beat. The two C's can be a quarter note, and then the last Bb is right. Your treatment of the D and Bb in the piano part at m. 6 is correct if you want to compare it. But again, the two A's in that measure can be a single quarter.
The second topic is canons/fugues. This is a fantastic tool to use for chamber music. It's an area that I've studied quite heavily and so I'll try to be somewhat brief in my description ... but know that it's not a simple explanation! Here goes ...
What you are going for here is more like a canon. There's a shortcut I've found for writing them that I'm happy to share with you. I'll start it in a new post as it's kind of lengthy. And PLEASE let me know if it isn't clear. Sometimes these things are hard to type out. Back in a bit,
#2 Natasha Farrar 2018-02-01 21:05
Hello Travis,

My inspiration is usually my feelings or stories of written or read. I usually write the melody of my song first and then add another part that usually adds a counter melody. Feedback in general on my piece would be really helpful.

The opening melody is something I’m going to try to add in to the different parts, whether it’s changing the speed, or the key. I heard the G being stronger than the Bb and changed it so it starts with the G as the first beat. It would be nice to have some help with layering the song, I’m going to try to do a bit more research into canons and fugues to have a better understanding. There’s a few different parts in the song that are currently just parts of melodies I’m going to try to add in.

Are there any methods you use to write music? Is there any changes you recommend I make to my song?

#1 Travis Ramsey 2018-01-30 20:41
Hi Natasha, and welcome! I'll be your mentor this spring. I am curious about you: what inspires you to write music? How do you write? And most importantly, what kind of help can I give you that will be the most helpful to you?

I'm looking at your composition now. Here are some things I see.

1. Your opening melody has a very memorable rhythm. I'm curious to see how you will use it throughout the piece. When the music becomes upbeat, then morose, then victorious, will this melody be used for each of those or will you use a new melody?

2. I'm wondering about the rhythm of that opening tuba melody, too. If I listen without looking at the score, I hear the first G as the first beat, not a beat-4 pickup. Do you hear it too? If you like it the way it is, keep it by all means. But if you think about it and decide that you're hearing the G stronger than the Bb it might make sense to start on beat 1.

3. It looks like you're planning to layer your entrances and have each player come in playing that same theme, like a canon or a fugue. Can I help you sort that out? It can get tricky to make all the parts make sense together but it's a GREAT device to use.

4. Where will you use the melody in trumpet at measure 10? I like it. It's cool that it starts with long notes and then picks up speed, and also that it has a logical shape: a leap down, steps up, a rising idea, and then a fall. My ears want one more note, though, a Bb above that last F to finish it off. Do you hear that too?

Hope this is enough to get the conversation rolling. Happy composing, and please let me know how I can best help you!


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