what is the practical use of these types of analyses?

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Write_Rich
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Re: what is the practical use of these types of analyses?

Post by Write_Rich » Thu Dec 17, 2015 10:14 pm

When I first started learning classical guitar - my first guitar professor would often give an in depth musical analysis and interpretation of the piece the class was to learn at the time. I still remember the first classical piece I ever learned which was analyzed in this way. The simple Andante Op.31, No.01 in C by Fernando Sor.

My initial impression looking at the sheet music was:

"Holy crap how am I going to play all those notes?!"

But my professor broke it down measure by measure pointing out the chords and musical structure while offering musical interpretation ideas such as which notes to emphasize, volume modulation, tone, color etc etc.. What was once a jumble of notes on the sheet music became recognizable chords and chord progressions which made learning the piece much easier to interpret, learn and play musically. I was a beginner back then so most of the deeper musical and harmonic theory went above my head but suddenly realizing that I could play a large portion of the piece using a simple C maj chord made all the difference! I believe musical analysis can be quite beneficial for a classical guitarist be it a beginner or an advanced player. I try to do some analysis on every new piece I learn (I wish I was better at it!) and I feel I am a better classical guitarist for it.
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Jeremiah Lawson
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Re: what is the practical use of these types of analyses?

Post by Jeremiah Lawson » Tue Mar 29, 2016 3:54 am

I admit I'm very late to this discussion but as a composer I would say analysis can be very valuable. It's hard to study counterpoint from 18th century music or later without a grounding in harmony of some kind somewhere along the way. But even if you're not looking at what might be called contrapuntal music harmonic analysis (if it is connected to formal analysis at other levels) helps you, as others have pointed out, know what you're dealing with.

For instance, in Sor's E flat etude from his Op. 29 set, once you recognize you're dealing with a variant of sonata form that should inform everything about how you interpret the work. It explains the modulations from E flat to B flat; it explains the structural repeat of the first section, it also explains how the ideas are recapitulated in the second part of the work (although Sor's approach to recapitulation is not "textbook" and so seems to often get overlooked as an example of sonata form in Sor's overall output for some understandable reasons. The C major etude from the Op. 29, the #17 one is also a sonata form, if memory serves, but one with a hybridized recapitulation in which theme 2 and elements of theme 1 are brought back.

Charles Rosen's book on sonata forms was helpful for me--it helped me recognize that when guitarist composers like Sor and Diabelli employed sonata form they were doing what was possible and normal within their time even though it didn't fit the "textbook" definition of sonata form I had been taugh tas an undergrad.

The risk in formal analysis, at least in my experience, is taking a form as a fixed cast mold rather than a thought process. There's no necessary way to write a fugue or a sonata00it depends on the nature of your starting materials, but it can be tempting to think of some of the more complex formal procedures as having to fit a mold. Actually studying a sonata form by Haydn can show that the "textbook" definition doesn't necessarily coincide with what composers actually did. So long as you don't mix up a simplified explanation with what you actually may find in the literature, or decide to write yourself, formal analysis can give you not just a way to understand what you're aiming to play but give you ideas to work from as you compose work of your own.

Something I've been doing over the last six years is exploring ways in which the harmonic and melodic vocabulary of composers like Sor, Diabelli, Carulli, Giuliani or Matiegka can have potential overlap with the ragtime composers like Scott Joplin or James Scott. If I hadn't spent years doing formal analysis of Sor's Op. 29 etudes I wouldn't have spotted that with a few rhythmic adjustments his E flat etude could be transformed into a ragtime sonata hybrid. If we hope to create new kinds of music inspired by old kinds of music formal analysis can be one of the most valuable processes we can employ to get there.

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djajasoekarta
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Re: what is the practical use of these types of analyses?

Post by djajasoekarta » Tue Mar 29, 2016 5:51 am

Thank you very much for this Jeremiah, really a food for thought regarding Sor.

:bravo:
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thesixthfret
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Re: what is the practical use of these types of analyses?

Post by thesixthfret » Sun Apr 17, 2016 1:10 am

I'm a huge theory fan. Some good points have already been made, particularly the discussion about being a musician vs being a guitarist. I'd like to add that if you don't know how to analyze the harmonies and scales in your pieces, it will be very difficult to consistently identify passing tones, which notes are chromatic embellishments and appoggiaturas, which notes need to have their resolutions brought out, and which dissonances or voice leading to emphasize. How are you going to connect the chord progression a composer made 2 minutes prior with the new melody that has the same underlying chord progression in a new key if you don't know what the chords are? How deep and thoughtful of an interpretation are you going to be able to provide your listener?

Hypothetically, if I tell you there's a passage with a key signature of F major but it has a B natural in it, it is important to be able to understand whether the B natural is a passing tone, the B natural is completing an Fmaj#11 chord, or whether the whole section is in F lydian and the piece is actually modal music. Each of those three interpretations implies music from a completely different style or era and that should inform how you would perform it. You may be able to occasionally discern these things through sheer musicality, but you won't be able to memorize them in this extra way, and you certainly won't be able to explain yourself and your musical decisions to other musicians in a universally recognized manner.

Another example, if you think of Walton's 5th bagatelle, it's a much different level of understanding and memorization to know that the bulk of the piece is a series of shifting dominant 7 #11 chords being sequenced together and/or shifted by 3rds (if i remember the pitches correctly), which is a fairly common chromatic harmonic gesture from the turn of the 20th century. This helps you understand the piece's structure and draw connections between sections.

A final example is Villa' Lobos' prelude 3. It's one thing to see a bunch of ascending notes and memorize the fingering pattern. It's another thing, and much more efficient and secure for your memory to look at that bunch of notes, label them in your mind as an ascending G Dominant 7 arpeggio with a chromatic C# resolving to the 5th of the chord (D). Knowing that tells you to play the the C# as the climax and the D as its resolution.

So in short, analysis makes you play better. And labeling harmonies informs your ability to hear them, which makes you a better musician!

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Anthony Campanella
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Re: what is the practical use of these types of analyses?

Post by Anthony Campanella » Sun Apr 17, 2016 2:44 am

Basically we have vertical and horizontal markers
Often its the movement of voices with periodic harmonies that we are trying to phrase
An understanding of the relationships of the chords and melodies can help with that

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Tom Poore
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Re: what is the practical use of these types of analyses?

Post by Tom Poore » Sun Apr 17, 2016 5:53 am

Think of it this way. Which would you rather have to memorize and perform? This:
  • Beep scelo pi sovon yoaxals axage eep baxathols fleudd belth upen zis cenkinonk pit jod naxatien, cencoivow din rifoltupp, pi podicaxatow te zo plepesitien zaxat axarr von axalo cloaxatow oquaxar.
...or this:
  • Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth upon this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.
Most likely you’d prefer to memorize and perform the second sentence. Why? Because the first sentence is gibberish. The second sentence is something you understand. Comprehension confers meaning. And meaning makes something easier to work with. It’s easier to remember and easier to craft into a convincing performance.

The more you know about music, the more meaningful it becomes. Here’s an example. Suppose you encounter a deceptive cadence in a piece you’re playing. That’s a useful bit of information. Knowing a cadence is deceptive colors how you might play it. You’ll understand that the essence of a deceptive cadence is its surprise. You’ll want to heighten that surprise. Somehow, you’ll put it across.

But suppose, on the other hand, that you’ve no idea what a deceptive cadence is. In that case, why bother doing anything with it? Hey it’s just a bunch of notes. And one bunch of notes means pretty much the same as any other.

Just like gibberish.

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thesixthfret
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Re: what is the practical use of these types of analyses?

Post by thesixthfret » Sun Apr 17, 2016 6:07 pm

Tom Poore wrote:Think of it this way. Which would you rather have to memorize and perform? This:
  • Beep scelo pi sovon yoaxals axage eep baxathols fleudd belth upen zis cenkinonk pit jod naxatien, cencoivow din rifoltupp, pi podicaxatow te zo plepesitien zaxat axarr von axalo cloaxatow oquaxar.
...or this:
  • Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth upon this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.
I love this example. Thanks for this post!

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mc1
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Re: what is the practical use of these types of analyses?

Post by mc1 » Mon May 02, 2016 1:56 pm

Tom Poore wrote:Think of it this way. Which would you rather have to memorize and perform? This:
  • Beep scelo pi sovon yoaxals axage eep baxathols fleudd belth upen zis cenkinonk pit jod naxatien, cencoivow din rifoltupp, pi podicaxatow te zo plepesitien zaxat axarr von axalo cloaxatow oquaxar.
...or this:
  • Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth upon this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.
Most likely you’d prefer to memorize and perform the second sentence. Why? Because the first sentence is gibberish. The second sentence is something you understand. Comprehension confers meaning. And meaning makes something easier to work with. It’s easier to remember and easier to craft into a convincing performance.

The more you know about music, the more meaningful it becomes. Here’s an example. Suppose you encounter a deceptive cadence in a piece you’re playing. That’s a useful bit of information. Knowing a cadence is deceptive colors how you might play it. You’ll understand that the essence of a deceptive cadence is its surprise. You’ll want to heighten that surprise. Somehow, you’ll put it across.

But suppose, on the other hand, that you’ve no idea what a deceptive cadence is. In that case, why bother doing anything with it? Hey it’s just a bunch of notes. And one bunch of notes means pretty much the same as any other.

Just like gibberish.

Tom Poore
South Euclid, OH
USA
Interesting thoughts, but I think a better analogy would be between learning that bit of speech aurally vs by reading from text. One could be a fine speaker, or even writer, without consciously knowing the rules of grammar.

Similarly, a musician might play a deceptive cadence very musically without the slightest clue as to what it was called, and conversely, a musician who knows its name and theoretical function might play it rather unmusically.

Surely it is more musically worthwhile to recognise the deceptive cadence from its sound rather than from notation or theory.

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Tonyyyyy
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Re: what is the practical use of these types of analyses?

Post by Tonyyyyy » Mon May 02, 2016 11:27 pm

mc1 wrote:.....One could be a fine speaker, or even writer, without consciously knowing the rules of grammar.
Similarly, a musician might play a deceptive cadence very musically without the slightest clue as to what it was called, and conversely, a musician who knows its name and theoretical function might play it rather unmusically.
Surely it is more musically worthwhile to recognise the deceptive cadence from its sound rather than from notation or theory.
Definitely both are very worthwhile, and go together, or should do. Intellectual theorising isn't worth a lot without being able to relate it to sounds

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Re: what is the practical use of these types of analyses?

Post by JohnEllis » Tue Jun 14, 2016 4:58 am

"The advice I am giving always to all my students is above all to study the music profoundly... music is like the ocean, and the instruments are little or bigger islands, very beautiful for the flowers and trees." —Andrés Segovia
If music be the food of love, play on. --Shakespeare, Twelfth Night, 1.1

2handband
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Re: what is the practical use of these types of analyses?

Post by 2handband » Wed Nov 30, 2016 3:39 am

Um... wow. Is this question even being asked?

Look... I mostly teach rock guitar but I'm always drilling the following into my students: you must know the underlying harmony of anything you play. You can learn the riff to smoke on the water almost without trying, but if you don't know what chords you are riffing over you're pissing in the wind.

Knowing what you're playing, for one thing, makes you much less likely to screw up. Even if the physical movements elude you momentarily if you know that the next chord is the IV in first inversion (and ideally if you can HEAR that) you're much more likely to land in the right place.

Notice the emphasis on HEARING. If you have to analyze the notes to know that you're going to the IV chord an essential part of your musical training is missing. Look, if you can HEAR what the chord is it becomes even more difficult to play the wrong thing. Here's a test: play the melody to a favorite tune and stop on a random note. Quick, no analysis... what scale degree is it in the key you're in? You need to be able to hear this stuff.

Another thing... and some are gonna scream heresy... what when you DO screw up? It happens to the best of us. Are you gonna grind to a halt with a dumb look on your face? Screw that... no matter how gracefully you handle it the memory most prominent in the minds of your audience will be when you had to stop the tune. A thorough understanding of the music means options. Presented with any chord you should know off the top of your head what notes are in it, how it fits the key you are in, how it can be extended, and what scales will work over it. Knowing all that means no matter how bad you screw up you can play SOMETHING credible and most of your audience will never know.

Yes, you need a thorough understanding of harmony, and you also need to develop your aural skills so you can know what it is without having to analyze.

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Re: what is the practical use of these types of analyses?

Post by Anastas » Sat Dec 24, 2016 5:25 am

Some practical point of view, related to the preliminary idea about the structure of the piece, which I find useful.

First- get an idea about the general structure- have a brief look at the whole piece and find its sections - ABA, ABACA or whatever.
Second- See what happens in that sections- in the case of more complicated and long pieces there might be different sub-sections or parts... have a look from that perspective
Third- look how the phrases into each section/part are organized,

In general - finding repetition of music material into the pieces is always useful

That is in short. I find this way of very simple structural analyses very useful especially (but not only) for sight reading and memorizing

Jeremiah Lawson
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Re: what is the practical use of these types of analyses?

Post by Jeremiah Lawson » Mon Dec 26, 2016 6:19 pm

pertinent to earlier comments I made about the vocabulary of ragtime and early 19th century guitar sonatas ... there's a set of posts up (finally) discussing that topic. For Delcampers who remember someone's old pen name the posts are over somewhere with that pseudonym as the site title.

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Re: what is the practical use of these types of analyses?

Post by Bill B » Tue Dec 27, 2016 5:44 pm

i think it is a lot like building something from a complex diagram. or Maybe drawing a Celtic knot. sure you can maybe pull it off ok without analyzing the original, or the plans, but the better you understand what it is you are working with, the greater the likelihood you will do it well. classical music often has more going on than you might catch if you don't learn to analyze pieces this way. i doubt anyone does it for every piece they play, but it's a way of thinking about music that will affect how you approach a score forever once you have really learned how to do it.
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