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#425554 - 01/16/03 02:16 PM What is involved in analyzing a piano piece?
BeethBaChopin Offline
Full Member

Registered: 11/15/02
Posts: 235
Loc: Atlanta, Georgia, USA
I thought this topic would help us beginners get some details of what is involved in analyzing music.

The book "fundamentals of piano practice" has it that it involves music theroy. All I know about music theory is identification of chords. What else is involved? And what more is involved in music analysis other than good reading and identification of chords (keys) in a piece?

The book also indicates that analysis is the fastest and most-effective way of memorizing and executing pieces. So please help. Thanks.
_________________________
"...the luckiest man I know." - Arthur Rubinstein about himself and his love of performing.

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#425555 - 01/16/03 04:32 PM Re: What is involved in analyzing a piano piece?
mkesfahani Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 02/26/02
Posts: 836
Loc: Irvine, CA
Well other than just finding the chords, you always want to look for melodic material often times hidden deep within the harmony (ie Rachmaninoff). Also look for sections of development where you can change your playing style to create more tension. That's all interptretive. There is strict harmonic analysis as well like finding secondary functions, modulations, nonchord tones, pivot chords, augmented sixths, yada, yada, yada... I don't think that stuff comes in too handy when learning a piece, but more for composing.

That sort of analysis isn't going to help much with memorizing a piece in my opinion, but there's a book called "Piano Technique" by Walter Gieseking that explains a method of analysis I've used forever and has helped me learn music very quickly. It's too much to explain here, but I recommend it.

Mike

400! Yeah!!

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#425556 - 01/16/03 05:04 PM Re: What is involved in analyzing a piano piece?
Stanza Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/18/02
Posts: 1458
Loc: Chapel Hill, NC
Basically, go from the general to specific. First, time and key signatures, looking for any changes in key or tempo. Look for repeat large sections. Then look for themes. Break these into chord structure, then finally melody notes. It helps to verbalize your analysis to lock it in.

However you must also superimpose expression and dynamics on this. It is probably easiest to let your ear do this. If you know a part is supposed to sound pp and you practice is as such, it is unlikely that you will loudly pound it out playing from memory.

Good luck.
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#425557 - 01/16/03 06:48 PM Re: What is involved in analyzing a piano piece?
Brendan Offline



Registered: 05/26/01
Posts: 5351
Loc: McAllen, TX
If, like Kreisler and I, you enjoy pain, then you will favor this method:

Schenkerian Analysis
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#425558 - 01/16/03 08:50 PM Re: What is involved in analyzing a piano piece?
Matt G. Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/22/01
Posts: 3789
Loc: Plainfield, IL
 Quote:
Originally posted by Brendan:
If, like Kreisler and I, you enjoy pain, then you will favor this method:

Schenkerian Analysis [/b]
Ja! Ursatz für Alle!

On a somewhat less painful level, my suggestion is to first understand the overall form of the piece. Is it a binary form (two contrasting sections), ternary form (think minuet and trio, e.g.), one of various rondo forms (repeating section interspersed with contrasting sections) or something else, like a sonata allegro form? Or maybe you're looking at a theme and variations, or a song (verse and chorus) form.

Look for patterns. This is the most succinct advice I can give. When you recognize a pattern, you can often understand how the piece was put together. This recognition becomes more important in thematic development, where snippets of a theme can serve as a starting point for interesting variation.

Composers are often tiresome drudges who attempt to display their cleverness by putting little tricky bits in their works. See if you can find the Easter eggs! ;\)
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Sacred cows make the best hamburger. - Clemens

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#425559 - 01/16/03 10:55 PM Re: What is involved in analyzing a piano piece?
aznxk3vi17 Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/13/02
Posts: 701
Loc: Johns Hopkins University
For example, at the end of Debussy's Feux d'artifice... he places the French national anthem at the end... not so subtle, but an easter egg no less. He does so in another Prelude in book 2, an hommage to somebody, I forget.

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#425560 - 01/17/03 07:42 AM Re: What is involved in analyzing a piano piece?
benedict Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/21/02
Posts: 2519
Loc: European Union
\:\) BeethBaChopin,

When I started studying Mr Chang's book, I was struck by the same thing. If memorization is helped with analysis, why not give a method ?

I have practiced now for a few months and my (humble) opinion now is that is our goal is to play and feel the joy of music, the main thing is to consider the piano as an choir with several voices.

The most important voice of course is the melody (usually at the soprano, upper voice though in cantus firmus it was at the bass ).

The melody is of course the piece that stands in the foreground. It has a life and a beauty of its own.

Then, the second most important is the bass voice (not line, voice). It is incredibly rich just to play and memorize it. It is like we become a cello in an orchestra. No need to analizze it : just feeling it as a voice is pure joy.

And then the two other voices of alto and tenor give more complexity and richness. The really analysis is in the feeling.

Of course this approach is not opposed but complementary to the hands separate approach.

Once each voice has a life and happiness of its own, putting them together makes you both an orchestra and a conductor.

This approach is purely empirical : it is based on the idea that the whole key to music is RESONANCE and that resonance is first a thing to be felt and enjoyed.

What more do you want.

If you are interested, I can mail you a selection of the dialogue Mr Chang and I are having.

I hope the blessed musicians who got the good teachers and the formal training will sympathize with our attempts to digging a path with our bare hands.

Good luck and keep on working as long as joy is there at each stage of your search.

Benedict \:\)
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Benedict

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#425561 - 01/17/03 09:41 AM Re: What is involved in analyzing a piano piece?
BeethBaChopin Offline
Full Member

Registered: 11/15/02
Posts: 235
Loc: Atlanta, Georgia, USA
Benedict, I think you pretty much summed up the idea of analysis through voice study.

I tried the same strategy last night with Fur Elise. I practiced the voices separately, and when the whole piece sounded wonderful when I put them together. That Fur Elise piece is coming more and more alive every day for me.

So it's true what Mr. Chang said: Muscially, you can never complete learning a piece, or something like that.
_________________________
"...the luckiest man I know." - Arthur Rubinstein about himself and his love of performing.

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#425562 - 01/17/03 10:37 AM Re: What is involved in analyzing a piano piece?
Kreisler Offline



Registered: 11/27/02
Posts: 13825
Loc: Iowa City, IA
A quick note on Schenker (and some others):

Schenker's analysis technique is detailed in his third major book "Der Freie Satz" (Free Composition). It was intended to be studied after the student was well versed in the material of his first two books, "Counterpoint" and "Harmony."

Also interesting is that several major theorists also had the same general idea, publishing books on Counterpoint and Harmony - in that order.

Modern theory pedagogy seems to take a different approach - most people study a combination of the two at first (Harmony and Voice Leading) and move on to Counterpoint later. Regardless, everyone's in agreement that a student of Schenkerian analysis should already be well-versed in counterpoint and harmony.

The path of study I might suggest would be to pick up a good undergraduate theory text (Aldwell/Schacter, Kostka/Payne, etc...) and do a LOT of writing. Music theory is both information and skill, and doing a lot of written exercises and analysis can be very helpful.
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"If we continually try to force a child to do what he is afraid to do, he will become more timid, and will use his brains and energy, not to explore the unknown, but to find ways to avoid the pressures we put on him." (John Holt)

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#425563 - 01/17/03 10:38 AM Re: What is involved in analyzing a piano piece?
Kreisler Offline



Registered: 11/27/02
Posts: 13825
Loc: Iowa City, IA
Another thought - your best starting point might be in identifying cadences and different cadence figures. V-I, V7-I, I64-V7-I, ii-V7-I, ii6-V7-I, etc...
_________________________
"If we continually try to force a child to do what he is afraid to do, he will become more timid, and will use his brains and energy, not to explore the unknown, but to find ways to avoid the pressures we put on him." (John Holt)

www.pianoped.com
www.youtube.com/user/UIPianoPed

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#425564 - 01/17/03 11:13 AM Re: What is involved in analyzing a piano piece?
April Offline
Full Member

Registered: 05/26/01
Posts: 323
Loc: Great Lakes State
 Quote:
Originally posted by Matt G.:
[QUOTE]Composers are often tiresome drudges who attempt to display their cleverness by putting little tricky bits in their works. See if you can find the Easter eggs! ;\) [/b]
Hmmm, I'm reminded of Bach! \:\)

To me, it's this treasure hunt aspect of studying a piece of music wherein lies the thrill of classical piano music. Yes, it is time-intensive but it is worth every minute!

BBC - One thing that I believe helps in interpreting a piece of music is training your ear to listen to your piece horizontally, rather than vertically (and I don't mean lying down! ;\) ). Even in passages where you have chords in both hands (ie. chorale-like pieces) you can still hear every voice individually. Try playing passages by bringing out a different voice each time - the effect can be surprising! It also adds interest to a piece for you as a player and also for your listeners. Finding a GOOD teacher to help you learn to do this in a way that is appropriate to the piece is essential. I wish you all the best in your own pursuit...don't give up until you find a teacher you adore! \:\)

April

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#425565 - 01/17/03 11:30 PM Re: What is involved in analyzing a piano piece?
Brendan Offline



Registered: 05/26/01
Posts: 5351
Loc: McAllen, TX
 Quote:
Originally posted by Kreisler:
Another thought - your best starting point might be in identifying cadences and different cadence figures. V-I, V7-I, I64-V7-I, ii-V7-I, ii6-V7-I, etc...[/b]
How can you say I64 after studying Schenker? ;\)
_________________________
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#425566 - 01/18/03 12:52 AM Re: What is involved in analyzing a piano piece?
Kreisler Offline



Registered: 11/27/02
Posts: 13825
Loc: Iowa City, IA
Gonna have to get good at dodging lightning. I used a lowercase "ii" also! EEK!
_________________________
"If we continually try to force a child to do what he is afraid to do, he will become more timid, and will use his brains and energy, not to explore the unknown, but to find ways to avoid the pressures we put on him." (John Holt)

www.pianoped.com
www.youtube.com/user/UIPianoPed

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#425567 - 01/18/03 04:02 AM Re: What is involved in analyzing a piano piece?
Ted2 Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/04/02
Posts: 790
Loc: Auckland, New Zealand
I don't understand any of this. This is too advanced for naive artists like me. Hey Brendan, do you really enjoy pain - just like Percy Grainger did ? Have a jolly good burst of Liszt and then a furious session with a birch rod and a whip ? Actually, reading Tovey's analysis of Beethoven sonatas, which book I bought as a misguided boy, does bear a resemblance to being willingly flogged.

I'm still trying to get to grips with that Schenker bloke but can't really grasp his point.
_________________________
"Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the law" - Aleister Crowley

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#425568 - 01/18/03 11:10 AM Re: What is involved in analyzing a piano piece?
Matt G. Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/22/01
Posts: 3789
Loc: Plainfield, IL
I, for one, do not enjoy pain! While I find the concept of Schenkerian analysis rather fascinating, I have always believed it was more a situation of an answer in search of a question. In his own lifetime, Schenker's analyses were not looked upon as relevant, even by the composers whose works he used as analytical models.

What I find most disturbing is Schenker's position of the superiority of Germanic composers' works when compared to, say, French and Italian works. He would regularly use his analysis scheme to "prove" that works by non-Teutonic composers were representative of a degenerate art. Strangely enough, Schenker himself was Jewish, which made him sort of persona non grata in the very circles of composers whose works he lauded.

Despite a rather skewed agenda, Schenker does stand as one of the most profound musical theorists of the past three centuries. His theory of multiple layers of content in music mirrors an often-expressed idea that there is more to music than just what we experience on a simple sensory level. Schenker's attempts to identify this seemingly universal ideal remain an outstanding and unique contribution to analytical theory.
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Sacred cows make the best hamburger. - Clemens

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