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Motif and Modulation Practice

Discussion in 'Critique & Feedback' started by Dillon DeRosa, May 21, 2018.

  1. Hi,

    I thought it be fun to share my process and practice ultimately applying what Mike has been teaching. I sat down and took a simple motif I came up with in perhaps a minute and tried to just keep stretching/modulating it into an actual piece of music. The whole idea is meant to be simple and to practice craft. This is just the piano sketch and I'll be writing this into an orchestra piece practicing orchestration/arranging.

    The ending is a little abrupt, might come up with something more triumphant or something when orchestrating. But the idea is there to let me know to end.

    Let me know what you guys think. Please forgive me on performance as this is a sketch so I performed it raw.
  2. So what was your process for practice ?

    What did you do and how did you do it ? Would you do anything different next time ?
  3. Hi Doug,

    I'm fortunate enough to have a small upright piano in my room. I can't express how clearer and easier things come to me when I get away from my DAW to play on the piano and write chicken scratch. Before I forget what I play I'll try to record it with my phone of me playing, but usually just speed write a lead sheet with chords. I grew up learning from lead sheets so I rarely write down anything but chords and a lead sheet.

    My practice is not strict, the only goal is not even to write but to play. I usually just play songs or randomness on the piano until something sounds interesting. For example, I'm working on a broadway song and I was having trouble figuring out a bridge to connect my modulation. So I spent days playing broadway music and disney music until my brain clicked and I figured it out. Sometimes this happens quicker but sometimes its literally days I'll come back to a piece. So the whole idea is exactly how Mike has been teaching, is I just cram a bunch of data into my head until my brain spits out something that sounds good to me. You got to input to output.

    For this piece after I was done playing piano. I thought I should really practice my modulation and repetition. So my two rules was just that. I created something simple that I can mess with easily. The first 4 notes, then it repeats with slight variation, then I repeat the 2 bars up in the scale which is a sort of modulation. I then gave it a B part since it needed contrast. I also am very conscious of motion so I knew my melody was going up and up, so my B had to come down and down. Once I completed the "Song", it was just craft afterwards. The craft and rest of the piece honestly the 100% truth is that I can't explain my choices. This is because I'm just playing the piano. So to explain you'd have to just listen/play music that I play for years lol. Just know that my idea was to repeat (usually in pairs of 2 or 4), and modulate. I could answer maybe specific chord choices to the best of my ability, but why I went there is because it sounded like it did in my head lol.

    To answer your last question would I do anything different? I'd probably post this faster on the forum. I wrote this a couple weeks ago and haven't looked at it until I went back to the sheet music. I did mention the intro and outro will vary because I just took note to start/end, something orchestral will inspire me. I tend to write the core at the piano and orchestrate better at the computer. I have strong ideas of orchestration from piano but my ear isn't that good yet to orchestrate everything from piano. I'm going to try to adapt Mike's orchestrating method though. I agree his way is much faster of getting your ideas out.

    My apologies for rambling. Hope that kind of answered your question.

    You'll notice in the picture that I'll write lines below my idea with an "OR". These are my variations. I learned this my trial and error and found out John Williams does something very similar to this. Sometimes I don't come up with the clearest of an idea, or the simplest most memorable I guess. So I create variations and decide which is the best one. It could be one variation or it could ten, it varies.

    I also write in pen because I hate pencil, always have.
    Aaron Venture likes this.
  4. Cool. Sounds like you have a good routine going.

    Post the piece when you orchestrate it. I almost always change the music once I begin orchestrating.

    Having a 3rd layer, or countermelody will really come in handy for your piece then. (vs. 2 hand piano playing)

    All the best
    Dillon DeRosa likes this.
  5. I've listened to this a few times. I like it. I think you should try doing an orchestration.
  6. Thank you Paul, I'm flattered you listened to it more than once.

    Yes, I plan on doing orchestral version of this. I've been busy with other projects at the moment but my plan is to adapt to Mike's speed orchestration (on paper with the color sharpies and stuff lol).
  7. Hi everyone,

    It's been alot of months since I wrote this and wanted to orchestrate it. I got busy with alot of other work inbetween; however for the past couple weeks I've been working hard on practicing/studying a bunch of different orchestrations. I did originally start with Mike Verta's Orchestration sketching, but I'm still trying to get a good process/routine down. I admit I didn't do the sketching justice and changed alot when I sat down with Sibelius/Cubase (I wrote in Sibelius and Cubase at the same time so I can see and hear it, it was very slow).

    PDF of Concert Score.
    https://www.dropbox.com/s/fbz9xvrxfd4urm1/Motiff and Modulation Practice v3 - CONCERT SCORE.pdf?dl=0

    Overall, I've become quite tired of this piece because there are alot of flaws in this piano sketch. I wanted to try and stay true to what I originally wrote on the piano because that was the practice/idea, so this orchestration is 90% identical to what I played. There are some sections that I changed the overall feel of that section and once or twice I added a chord or changed the bass of the chord to a different inversion. However, I did not add any more to the piece and I actually didn't even finish it. You'll hear in the piece I ended it earlier than where I ended it on the sketch. Honestly, I'm lazy, mostly bored, and really want to move onto a new piece because composition wise there is just so much limitations and overall things I don't like with piece (aka I just modulated my motiff for the practice but never let it developed, or even wrote a real "B" theme/section which I felt limited alot of my orchestrations ideas I wanted to do). I just wanted to beat everyone to the punch and say... composition wise this piece has flaws, and orchestration wise is yes, if you think I lifted I most definitely did, so I can apply what I'm studying/learning. :D

    Please enjoy and let me know any and all feedback, (composition, orchestration, notation, template balancing since this is my E.T. template that I did in the other thread).


    Doug, you were 100% right :D. I heard alot of countermelodies and layers that I wanted to keep going with and ultimately change the whole piece. Every new section or modulation I kept asking myself, "why didn't I stay here for another 8, 16, or 32 bars lol). But for the practice of sticking with the sketch I didn't change much. For future pieces though I learned alot, and am going to try and hear these orchestration ideas/coutnermelodies before I begin orchestrating. The long-term goal is to hear it all at the piano and change very little when I go to orchestrate, or atleast that's the goal anyway lol.
    George Streicher likes this.
  8. Hey ! Still have your Scarlet video to make. I will !!

    Time to move on then. Come back to this in say a year and you will have a whole new insight into it. Just move onto to the next things, work at getting better
    every day, and also keep these things in your toolbox for future projects. It's common to need trying something a few times to have it click. Beethoven worked the da,da,da, DA__________ in a number of pieces before it all came together in the 5th.

    Also.... feel good that you set yourself a task/goal , and you did it. Sure, there are some good things, and some flaws in the work. That's life. But you did not let the fear of "flaws" stop you from working on it. So bravo.


    Ok. The biggest impression I had was the piece is "penny wise, pound foolish".
    You seem to give a lot of attention to smaller things, and miss bigger issues.

    I don't want to go overboard here. Let me begin with the easiest to fix, and in order of how I reviewed the work.

    Notation: Score looks nice. Good amount of detail on the parts. Formatted for enough horizontal space with 4 measures per page.
    Then I pressed play.......... opps. The tempo is 180 and in 3/4. This means each measure is 1 second in real time.
    The conductor will have 4 seconds for each page ! They will spend all day just page turning.

    Yes, it is easy to fix the score have say 6 measures per page (give or take), but it also leads to my next question.
    Are you really in 3/4 here ? The recording feels a more 3/8 to me. Additionally, if you thought of it say 6/8 I bet you would create longer phrase arches with
    the bottom of the orchestra. In fact, this whole thing could be 12/8. The spot that was in 4/4 has all these triplets and then you go to 12/8. The audio
    itself does not really feel this way to me. This is problematic...... It doesn't sound like, what you are going for, should be that fucking hard to count.

    There in lies the issue: How you relate Rhythm to Meter. I would simply ask you to take the "Truth serum". Take your baton and without any help of the computer, only metronome, can you conduct and verbalize all the rhythms in your score ?

    You need to indicate when switching from 4/4 to 12/8 if quarter = quarter or dotted. You don't want a metric modulation here.

    This gets to the next big issue..... pacing.

    Your piece gets better and easier to follow with repeated listening. The first listen was ......kinda chaotic..... and it's such organized/listener friendly music.

    You need to learn how to have "active-rests". Places where the momentum of the music is not lost, but give the ear some time to digest what was hear, and foreshadow what is coming up.

    There are some other issues with the parts, but I think as you go forward.......zoom out a bit. Think about form, pacing, meter/tempo. The background aspect of the work. These are often what create a strong musical foundation, and IMO are ideally left not "heard". (meaning it would sound like a "natural flow")
    Dillon DeRosa likes this.
  9. Doug, Yes!

    I'm so ecstatic with your feedback. I really appreciate you taking the time to listen and review, pointing out critical flaws in my writing. Thank you very much.

    That is amazing. I did not know that and am now very curious to hunt and seek this out in his earlier works.

    I loved your phrase, "penny wise, pound foolish". I took the orchestration especially a few bars or each section at a time but missed the overall arc and flow. I am struggling with the bigger long-form arc, flow, structure, development etc. and want to vastly improve on this.

    I laughed out loud thinking about conducting this piece with such fast page turns. Ironically, (perhaps embarrassing to say now) I studied conducting through my school years and still I somehow thought that this piece was in 3/4. Maybe I drank alot of coffee when I first notated this? Although as you pointed out, I had a small section of my piece in 12/8!!! It was like the back of my brain trying to tell me the truth about the real meter of my piece but I told it to shut up, and went along back to my 4/4 and 3/4. What a slap in the face! Honestly, the way the music should look on paper or conducted is not something I'm focusing on when writing/sketching and of course it bit me in the ass. I'll work on this and get better; time to dust off the baton and start thinking about my rhythm better. Thank you for pointing that out.

    I most definitely would've thought about phrasing differently. My whole idea and orchestration would've been so different. When I return to this piece, the first task to accomplish is switching meters.

    This was one of the flaws I thought it had when I was orchestrating the piece was pacing. I tried really hard in my orchestration to make it flow but I think structurally in my sketch I didn't achieve this. Or, perhaps even my orchestration at times made it a little too busy/chaotic. I do love the way you described what my piece and writing needs is, "Active-Rests". I need and will practice this and I appreciate you pointing this crucial flaw out in my writing.

    Thank you Doug. Along with mental notes, I took some handwritten/highlighted notes to really focus on in my future writings.

    Please, take all the time you need, I appreciate the update :). I can't wait to learn and apply from what you have to say about Scarlett Woman. Especially after how you pointed out crucial points in this Motiff piece and wonderfully explained them. I already foresee you pointing out a plethora of flaws with Scarlett Woman and my writing.

    Really appreciate the feedback. Thank you so much mentor Doug. :D

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