#1
Say you want to analyze something small musical work some like a Chopin prelude or Schumann Scenes from Childhood. Is there a formal type of analysis music theorists use for this? I'd like to know how to pick apart musical structures and learn how those devices work. Also it would be a helpful memorization tool. I have an intuition of how an idea is repeated, transposed, inverted, developed and how, as I like to call, the piece moves and breathes - but that is all they are intuitions. The biggest question I want to know is 'why?' why did the composer do this here and change things there. Yes, I know using your ears is important, but formal nomenclature does help as an aid to sort and process your ideas in an abstract sense.
#2
Analyzing a piece is all I've heard it called. Pick out motifs, observe the harmonic structure, voicing, instrumentation, etc.

That's all I know about. Seems like experience is what will yield better results.
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#3
Quote by BladeSlinger
Analyzing a piece is all I've heard it called. Pick out motifs, observe the harmonic structure, voicing, instrumentation, etc.

That's all I know about. Seems like experience is what will yield better results.


Yea I've heard the same. I just need to know how to do it by self study and if its worth the time investment or its more of an academic exercises. Probably need some examples to know if I'm doing it right
#4
Don't think of analysis as some rigid construct. Analysis is just a word people use to mean "learn from music." Here are my 3 steps to analysis:
1) Find a piece that interests you (this is a REALLY important step. If you don't find the piece interesting, there's no point in analyzing it).
2) Identify what interests you about it (is it the form, is it what's happening harmonically or melodically or how the composer is using his motives, etc).
3) Look into that/those interesting elements.

There's nothing that says you have to do a harmonic analysis. In fact, I analyze a lot of music both for school work and on my own and I rarely if ever do a true harmonic analysis. To me there are more useful and interesting things to look at in the music, but you might be totally different.

As for why a composer does something, that can be a really difficult question to answer if he didn't say himself. Most of the time, all you can look at is what is going on and then draw your own conclusions as to what might have been going through his mind.
#5
Traditional theory is all about classical music, so I'd just pick up a used textbook or something. If you already have a grasp on diatonics and basic harmony it shouldn't be too hard to grasp. Most if it's just learning how harmony/melody concepts interact with musical structure.

Learning "classical theory" is actually a great way to start thinking of harmony as more than individual chords. When you put it into form, you start to see how phrases and whole parts of tunes are built harmonically to keep the energy moving.
Last edited by cdgraves at Sep 20, 2013,
#6
Thanks for the responses above. These are some good things to keep in mind. Im going to analyze Chopin Prelude no. 3 and see whats going on to start. I known Chopin is big on chromaticism and ostinato accompaniments. I have heard something about him, Bach and Beethoven being masterful at prolonging the dominant tonic relationship. I known what those are but I don't know if that's worth noting. Also confused about how a phrase makes a complete thought - is it always followed by a cadence? I'll see what I come up with and post my thoughts and try to figure out some of the eccentricities.
#7
http://imslp.org/wiki/Special:ImagefromIndex/84753

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OOdAQ7SMkC8

The score is on page 2&3 if anyone wants to follow along. This is a miniature prelude and should be easily analyzed. Here is what I have came up with but if anyone wants to add corrections or whatever else could be of interest (and I know there are few errors and things I have missed), that would be helpful.

m. 1 is the bass figure accompaniment that repeats for 6 measures.
m. 3-6 is the motif. The progression follows V-I-V-I to complete the phrase. There is tension and release with major thirds and then major fifths twice in a row to end the phrase.

m. 7 key change? the motif is transposed up to F then down to D twice. The figure repeats twice.

m. 10 feels unresolved like a question mark and then it resolves to m. 12 to start the motif again.

m. 13-16 new motif is introduced, but the rhythmic feel is still intact, maybe it's a transformation of the orginal. Has a series of anticipation tones that lead into I and I think this modulates to C, which is possibly why there is a natural on the second note of the 3rd 16th series of notes. m. 14 there is a G which I think sets up the modulation to C.

m. 17-19 motif is repeated.

m. 20 there is a F# sharp now in the bass, not sure why. New key?

m. 21-22 repeat.

m. 23 goes back to G to setup for the coda till the end.
Last edited by sweetdude3000 at Sep 21, 2013,
#8
Quote by cdgraves
Traditional theory is all about classical music, so I'd just pick up a used textbook or something. If you already have a grasp on diatonics and basic harmony it shouldn't be too hard to grasp. Most if it's just learning how harmony/melody concepts interact with musical structure.

Learning "classical theory" is actually a great way to start thinking of harmony as more than individual chords. When you put it into form, you start to see how phrases and whole parts of tunes are built harmonically to keep the energy moving.


Yea I think it's more about the intervallic movement of individual voices acting as a whole to form a series of progressions on a micro level, rather than thinking of a bunch of blocks that should form a series on a macro level. You can get more unique and varied progressions that are the product of knowing how to move the voices in the order you wish. Maybe this is the subject of voice leading of which is built on a bunch of precepts that be broken tastefully depending on your musical goal. I am haven't read much into voice leading yet, so I am just throwing that out there.
#9
Without even looking at the score, not every accidental indicates a new key.
.
#10
Quote by jazz_rock_feel
Don't think of analysis as some rigid construct. Analysis is just a word people use to mean "learn from music." Here are my 3 steps to analysis:
1) Find a piece that interests you (this is a REALLY important step. If you don't find the piece interesting, there's no point in analyzing it).
2) Identify what interests you about it (is it the form, is it what's happening harmonically or melodically or how the composer is using his motives, etc).
3) Look into that/those interesting elements.

There's nothing that says you have to do a harmonic analysis. In fact, I analyze a lot of music both for school work and on my own and I rarely if ever do a true harmonic analysis. To me there are more useful and interesting things to look at in the music, but you might be totally different.

As for why a composer does something, that can be a really difficult question to answer if he didn't say himself. Most of the time, all you can look at is what is going on and then draw your own conclusions as to what might have been going through his mind.


Thanks. This is what I am looking for. If I am playing something I hear and I like what the composer did there, I want to break it down into it's constituent parts. I'd like to analyze it further and see how it is explained theoretically. I don't know if there are formally constructs to do this or how helpful it would be. Does Schenkerian analysis reveal much?
#11
Quote by Nietsche
Without even looking at the score, not every accidental indicates a new key.


This is true. Chromaticism is a large part of Chopin's sound. I'd like to know if there is a key change though and how to spot it.
#12
Quote by sweetdude3000
Thanks. This is what I am looking for. If I am playing something I hear and I like what the composer did there, I want to break it down into it's constituent parts. I'd like to analyze it further and see how it is explained theoretically. I don't know if there are formally constructs to do this or how helpful it would be. Does Schenkerian analysis reveal much?

It kind of seems like you're trying bite off a bit more than you can chew. Have you looked at others' analyses before? Not to toot my own horn, but there's a link in my sig to my analysis of some Stravinsky and Xiaoxi also did an analysis of a Brahm's piece (the link is in my thread too). If you don't want to check either of those out, I still recommend looking at some other people's analyses. You'll get a better idea as to how you can approach this kind of stuff and some of the various tools you can use.

P.S. Schenkerian analysis requires a pretty sophisticated understanding of harmony before it even becomes remotely useful.
#13
Quote by jazz_rock_feel
It kind of seems like you're trying bite off a bit more than you can chew. Have you looked at others' analyses before? Not to toot my own horn, but there's a link in my sig to my analysis of some Stravinsky and Xiaoxi also did an analysis of a Brahm's piece (the link is in my thread too). If you don't want to check either of those out, I still recommend looking at some other people's analyses. You'll get a better idea as to how you can approach this kind of stuff and some of the various tools you can use.

P.S. Schenkerian analysis requires a pretty sophisticated understanding of harmony before it even becomes remotely useful.


Thanks for the heads up. I will check both those out. I'm know it requires a lot of time and focused study. It's been years since I have been back in school. I'll stick to mastering the basics for now before I branch off. I forget how long it takes to learn and master these concepts.
#14
Quote by sweetdude3000
*analysis*

The type of analysis you're doing and what most people do is not very useful. You're just making a laundry list of what's happening. It's not really going to help you in any substantive way.

You need to ask why, not what. What is easy and boring. What doesn't tell you anything that you don't already know.

The why part is how the music actually comes into fruition. It's why that separates the masters from amateurs. There are very good reasons why a piece works so well and others don't. Grasping the why will help you realize where you should go in your own musicianship.

...modes and scales are still useless.


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#15
Schenkerian analysis is the way to go. It is hard to find a good work on the subject but there are a couple of good books. (Like An Introduction to Schenkerian Analysis.) It avoids the laundry list xaoxi is talking about goes into the deeper inner structures of the music itself (And how certain aspects interact with each other.)

Also, the wikipedia article on schenkerian analysis actually isn't that bad.
#16
Quote by sweetdude3000
This is true. Chromaticism is a large part of Chopin's sound. I'd like to know if there is a key change though and how to spot it.

Well, not only that, but an accidental can also give away a V - i motion in the tonic key, because the leading tone-tonic motion is a pretty powerful resolution, and because minor lacks a leading tone, some smart cookie decided to raise the seventh to make the 'v' chord major, and thus resolve better (or, they just borrowed the 'V' from the parallel major key. I never really understood which one is the more-accepted of the two).
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#17
Xiaoxi and Jazzrockfeel thank you for your write ups. I got something out of them. Ill have to reread them but they definitely gave me a new appreciation for Brahms and Stravinksy. Chopin's writing style is more pianistic. He really didn't write in other forma outside a piano concerto. I think these preludes are a nod to the Bach WTC. Chopin uses more flourishes for effect, chromatic harmonies and the rhythmic motifs are more unusual. If I were to analyze this, I could talk about how the motif uses solfege and inverts the parts to give it symmetry and an undulating quality to propel it along and how he develops the main ideas. There is not much going on in this work anyway. I want to know how he makes complete statements without rambling on so for a beginner I assume that can be explained with the cadences. I see what you are saying though... the analysis above more like a grammar flowchart instead of a subjective analysis.

What textbook would you reccomend to get a good grasp of the fundamentals of terminology? I work for a university so maybe if you could suggest a course or two to take, I'd do it since I get a discount.
Last edited by sweetdude3000 at Sep 22, 2013,
#18
I looked into Schenkerian analysis. From what I read, it's a subjective art that needs to be practiced with an expert in the area to get any immediate benefits. It's not like studying upper level math.

I take it one is better off by learning the craft by working with a mentor or studying the works of your favorite composers rather than learning a series of rules unless you have some guidance.

A deeper analysis did reveal something more. I looked at the economic variation of the material and how he provides tension and release throughout. The previous prelude has a similar structure except the tone is murky and languid, while this one is frantic and light. I see there are 3 motifs and each one is developed somewhat from the other which gives organic cohesion rather than just throwing new material out there. The rhythmic figure is intact throughout and acts as a background but IS linked to the foreground motif. Interestingly, the motif does mimic the intervallic leaps in the bass figure -> up down, UP, down. Chopin probably introduced the figure in the first two bars to get it in your ear and then repeats it in a similar fashion with the motif. M. 10 acts a V7 much like a question with a terseness and the bridge on m. 11 ends on with exclamation.

Instead of transforming the figure, he transposes economically for variation. The bars 12 resume once again. M. 16 & 17 are more interesting because he sets us up with even more uncertainty with a dissonant tritone and repeats a G note for added suspense. In m. 17, he alters the last note in the figure to set us up for a smooth modulation to C as the new tonal center for incredible resolve. The next measures are similar to the end of the other motifs in that the harmonies just rest. In m. 24 I think he reintroduces the G to signal we are returning to the home key. And he does, by finishing the work in an ascent and conclusion in the coda, where the first three measures play with your intentions a little with that up and down feel but goes up to conclusion.

So it is good to see how the key signature is just shorthand for the work, but the tonal center starts at G and shifts to C and becomes ambiguous in certain places and you can introduce accidentals for several purposes.