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Cue in ABA structure

Discussion in 'Critique & Feedback' started by JP Beveraggi, Feb 10, 2019.

  1. I have been experimenting with the ABA structure on a musical idea I have had a while back. My main focus was to work on natural transitions from section to section while keeping a coherent mood throughout. I open it to the floor to see if I can gather some pointers on how it could be taken to another level.

  2. Hi JP,

    Nice job! I think you nailed practicing ABA structure. Now either for this piece or future pieces, keep practicing ABA form but start diving further into it meaning: Your A has "ABA" and your B has "ABA" and you can use a short transition phrase to get in/out of the B phrase and we'll call that "C"... so your whole section in macro is A-B-A... zoomed in a little more is AcBcA, and zoomed in even more is A(aba)-c-B(aba)-c-A. Does that make sense? This is also how you start to create longer pieces and achieve a 15-20 min suite or overture.

    Now the next step after you keep practicing ABA, and this next step is really hard is to develop... after you've established your ABA for us which you did right here, its now time to develop, bring us on an emotional/story arc of your choosing, show off all your compositional tricks and flares, but lead us back to the A or ABA and satisfy us one last time, and then coda/finale.

    Apologies for throwing alot out you... keep practicing ABA and start to think as ABA on macro and micro levels.. because don't forget a great melody has a great B phrase as well... for example raiders march by j.w. And if you listen to the Raider's March concert version he does the raider's march (which is your A but includes a-b-a...), then he goes to Marion's theme which is your B, and then leads us back into the A. See the macro versus micro sense?

    Congrats again on doing a successful ABA.


    You could've done an exact or near exact replicate of you B theme for the counterpoint against your A in your A" section on the end... you did a quarter note but I wish you did the same B melody so we knew exactly what you were doing was A/B. Food for thought. :D
  3. Also I forgot to answer your question about transitions. To me they worked, but weren't anything special.. the 2nd one you kind've just jumped the gun so it wasn't a smooth transition but its not like it didn't work. But if you want to practice transitions which is an art in itself because with today's film music they never transition properly due to following the film/scene... all i can reccomend is listening to more classical/concert music to get a good sense of how to transition in/out of ideas.... one compositional trick is to fragment your idea, and modulate through smooth transitions aka V7-I.
    JP Beveraggi likes this.
  4. Hey!

    0:01 - Alright, we're starting with a nice and simple melody, everyone's with you. The pulsing thing feels a bit off, and it is signaling to me that you would like to have some counterpoint there, so maybe some violas playing in that pattern? You could also start introducing some counterlines on the second half of your A section since it's pretty slow and there's plenty of holes to fill. The rhythmical and directional difference in relation to the actual melody will determine how much attention they draw.
    0:36 - What in the

    And I'm lost. I'm also pretty sure everyone else is. I mean, does that sound satisfying to you? Bring it home. You had it. Bring it down to D. Everyone's expecting it. I mean, that's your original idea. From the start through to the 36 second mark is your A section. It's your Once-upon-a-time statement. Except yours goes something like: "Once upon a time, in a kingdom of Adoanidd there was a prince called Lewis Folke. He was a gallant knight, a master of sword and shield who also liked cleaning bricks, putting computers together and crawling under the couch in his grandma's garden looking for blue bananas".

    Everyone who's ever heard any similar story opening is hearing a vinyl scratch/stop sound and thinking: "Wait, what the fuck?" And then you try to save it by saying "Yeah, yeah, just bear with me for a second, I'll explain everything", but you never actually do.

    Nobody in their right mind is expecting the Bm there. Not in the opening statement. I just wanna drive this idea home to save you from losing people in your opening statements.

    It's not that the modulation is bad, it's just that you cut off the last 2 bars of your A section. It's incomplete. If you really want to move to Bm next, here's a quick example of how I would do it:

    Does that not feel more satisfying? I'm completing the original sentence first, and then moving on to the next.

    0:36 - 1:02 - we're in chord world. You go from an easy-to-grasp melody to block chords and ostinati. I feel like you didn't know what to do so you just wrote those block chords. Then your B melody appears out of nowhere, and suddenly disappears, and we're back to A.

    Now if a strict ABA is what you're going to do, your B section is also gonna need some work. If you close down your A statement like I proposed above, you could actually just move on straight into your B melody without the unnecessary 30-second block chord lead-in. How closely related to your A section it's going to be is entirely up to you. The A is relatively simple and easy to grasp, so you can go some ways off, as long as you stay in the same "vibe".

    For the finale run of the A, with this kind of melody you can easily do a 1 bar canon of the entire thing, and then fill out whatever's left. That'll make it much more interesting.

    Also, I think you're relying on percussion too much to secure the rhythm and drive the piece, and the same-dynamic sustaining strings are working against it.
    Runar Lundvall and Dillon DeRosa like this.
  5. Thank you Dillon. I think what you are saying is that each individual section of the ABA should be an ABA itself (fractal structure) and ideally the transition between each should be a small c section. The next step you seem to describe is to take it to a Sonata form right with exposition, development and recapitulation? I do not think I am skilful enough to do it yet, but it could be a good exercise to develop new skills for sure.

    As for the transitions, I agree with you on the fact that they are nothing special. The 2nd is a direct transition just because both sections are in the same key. The first is really an aesthetic choice to bring some harmonic content despite getting back to the same key.

    Thank you for sharing some insight.

    P.S: I will try your idea of using B as counterpoint of A
    Dillon DeRosa likes this.
  6. Hello Aaron, you bring out many points here (very good!). Here are my comments to your points in order of appearance:

    1. I agree that the first section could be made fuller with counter melodies. I will see what I can add. I do not want it too full because it is just a first section after all.
    2. The slight timing problem in the Staccato violins is due to the round robin of my samples I think. I need to look into getting rid of the takes that are too out of sync in the library.
    3. Your point about getting back to Root, I would agree with you if the melody was more ground breaking. I am not formally trained in music but to my ear the completed cadence on such a simple melody makes me feel more bored than "satisfied"... Mike hinted in a video that he keeps the most satisfying resolution of his melody for his final section. I guess this is his word totally twisted and taken to the extreme... It works though, just listen to it a couple of times =:]
    4. The modulation is indeed not melody driven. The main melody is pretty stingy on notes and chord motion, so a chord lead transition is not so shocking to my ear especially with all the staccato strings which are being introduced for the later sections. It would gain in being shorter, that's what repetitive listening taught me.
    5. I am quite dubious a canon would make it more interesting, but it is worth a try. I have been wrong before...
    6. Good point about the fight between percussions and string lines. I find percussions extremely difficult to get right but they are seemingly at the center of a lot of compositions today.

    Thank you for taking the time to share your ideas in any case. Much appreciated
    Aaron Venture likes this.
  7. I listened to it for more than 30 minutes and it simply does not work. I'm not formally trained either, but I transcribe. Also, these past 7 months I had an excuse to listen to music for 8+ hours a day and get plenty of exposure to pieces I've never heard or didn't have time to hear before. In this period and before, I have not heard a single piece I would call solid that cuts off its initial statement 2 bars early by starting an entirely new section on a bVII of a minor scale. I've heard dozens upon dozens that bring their initial statement home to ground me in a tonal center, making me feel at ease and familiar with the melody and reassuring me that it really is what I'm assuming it is before proceeding further. If they don't go home at the end of the A section, they do it at the very beginning of the B section. But none cut their first statement off by a whole 2 bars.

    Also, I don't think a VI-VII-I is the best you can do. You can do better than that, come on. :D
    Martin Hoffmann likes this.
  8. I will stop you right there with a quote from Claude Debussy "Works of art make rules; rules do not make works of art"

    You can probably find classical pieces where the Tonic resolution happens late in the composition. I think Prelude in E minor (Op 28 No 4) by Chopin is one of them.

    Quite interesting to be honest. When I listen to this section now, I expect the cadence to be broken because it has become familiar to me. If I change it to Tonic resolution, I can not understand why the music goes on.

    In Natural Minor, bVI - bVII - i is probably as common and IV - V - I in Major, so basically simple melody with simple chord progression... I have to put a lot of lipstick on this piglet to please the ear of the average Redbanned member... :D

    P.S: The canon on the second section A is s bit too avant-garde to my ear
  9. #9 Aaron Venture, Feb 11, 2019
    Last edited: Feb 11, 2019
    That's okay. Post it if you don't mind!

    It's not about the resolution, it's about grounding the listener into a tonal center. With a melody this simple and a chord progression this familiar, you set up expectations that you don't follow up on, and if surprises are what you're after, I think you're doing them in the wrong place at a wrong time. Mike was hammering on this for 17 hours a couple of weeks ago during Unleashed 5.

    I'll list some of the first examples of film music as they come in my folder. You don't even have to listen to the part before the timestamp that I posted at to realize (internally) what the tone center is. Also note that none of these pieces interrupt their initial statement 2 bars from before the listener expects it to end.

    Hans does it all the frickin' time. These aren't even from my folder, I just typed "Hans Zimmer" into YouTube and am clicking on them as they come.

    I mean I can go on 'till tomorrow :D

    Now, if you took a step back, took some time to transcribe at least 3 of these pieces that I posted (even if they're Hans' pieces), I promise you'd be laughing at the way you ended/interrupted that initial statement of yours. Much like I was laughing at my own music after starting to transcribe seriously, and much like I laugh now at whatever I was writing a few months ago.
  10. Do not worry, I am already implementing changes to close the first section on the tonic and move the modulation to the second instead for further development. I will have a go at taking this simple theme further.

    @Dillon DeRosa 's idea to counterpoint section A's melody with section B's is promising.

    For the Canon idea, a 2-bar lag sounds best but it has less cachet.

    Aaron Venture likes this.
  11. Nice job mate. Yes, after fine tuning the rest of the piece so "us" (meaning we the listeners) are more grounded and solid with your "A" and "B" melody; this A over B section will be super sexy and rewarding!

    Looking forward to hearing the progress. ;)
    JP Beveraggi likes this.
  12. Holy shit mate.. your folder must be huge! :D
    Aaron Venture likes this.
  13. Lots of good advice given, and plenty to keep you busy I am sure.

    Not to step on anyones toes ( you know ask 12 people, get 12 different answers) but I wanted to flag something I did not see mentioned yet. (at least I did not spot it in the comments, but it might be there)

    The rhythmic aspect of your piece.

    You mentioned Chopin and the Eminor prelude. Now think about the rhythmic aspect of that prelude. Does he go full on bat-shit crazy with fast ostinato's after 35 seconds ?

    The opening feels like a prelude, or a postlude to me. The whole piece is only 2 minutes +, so after the gear shift it's only 90 seconds of what becomes your main idea.

    There is nothing to indicate that fast music is coming. No foreshadowing, no sense of inevitability.

    I think you have 2 options. 1) Create a more unified feel throughout or B) Research pieces that go from slow to fast (quickly) and see how they do it.

    For example.... the Harry Potter theme with the fast string runs. He doesn't just bang them on. We get trills which give us the sense of fast motion while static on the pitches. He also used dynamics to push into the fast section.
  14. Thanks Doug, your point is basically to either have a rhythmically homogenous piece or to ensure a natural flow to the final intensity. I actually think it is an important point to make the story telling more coherent. Great stuff
  15. Awesome thread, I learned a lot from it.
    Dillon DeRosa likes this.
  16. Yes to throw two more examples at you (remember I am not talking about pitches at all)

    A) Create a more unified feel throughout

    B) Research pieces that go from slow to fast (quickly) and see how they do it.

    Dillon DeRosa and JP Beveraggi like this.
  17. Here's a more "uplifting" idea. It's not a literal canon, I broke up the rhythm in some places and played a chord here and there. You don't have to do it like this or do it at all, I'm just posting it to maybe urge you to explore more.

    JP Beveraggi and Dillon DeRosa like this.
  18. Thank you for your idea. I actually came up with a basic counterpoint type of voicing for melody A.

    Still have issues in transitions from section to section, so will look for inspiration in transcription
  19. In the rhythm building category, there is this amazing piece from my favourite composer ;)

  20. If I may suggest, really study, transcribe, and spend time with classical/romantic music not so much film music for studying transitions. I'm not saying you won't find well done transitions in film music, but film music is always married to the film, thus transitions are awkward and developments are rushed or have none. So if you want to properly learn transitions, learn them on a greater aspect like symphonic works or overtures, and then you can bottleneck it down to a very short transitions for your music.
    JP Beveraggi likes this.

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