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Ballad for A

Discussion in 'Critique & Feedback' started by Sylvain Provenzano, Oct 8, 2019.

  1. Hello, I wrote this tune for a beginner+ violinist. The constraint was to use only open strings and the 3 first fingers.

    I would like to know if it's ok for you, especially for the notation.

    The piece : https://www.dropbox.com/s/rp0nk72er9yc2c6/Ballad for A.mp3?dl=0

    The score : https://www.dropbox.com/s/avjn4822nqq131b/Ballad for A.pdf?dl=0

    Thank you !

    P.S : The slur between bars 9-10 is here for the Sibelius playback to work but I don't know how to notate that. I'm not sure if the slurs at bars 21-22-23 are right.
  2. hey Sylvain, that's a nice melody. kinda sounds like an Irish/Celtic vibe (which I love by the way lol). sorry i can't really help with the notation side of things as I'm a bit of a novice with that, but it seems like a good piece for a beginner violinist.
  3. Hey Sylvain! I like that you were able to keep the melody simple and effective, even with these really limiting constraints. Structure-wise it's simple but really solid, it does what it aims to do really effectively.
    I personally like to slightly change either the harmony, the arrangement, the dynamic range, or the octave range (anything!), by the time you repurpose the A melody. And I would definitely do one (or more) of these things during the last pass of the melody at the end. It's a bit copy-pasted, and you have a lot of ways to develop the piece without changing the melody.

    Which brings me to my next and main point:
    the piece feels a bit static, and it sounds like an exercise more than a composition. And since the violin part has to remain simple and without embellishment, I'd spend more time spicing up the piano part. I think that one of the biggest problems of beginner pieces is that, most of the time, they don't sound really "cool", as they have to be too simple; however, if you make the piano part more complex (but not intrusive) even the violinist would feel more compelled to play the piece.
    So in this case: the piano is playing block chords with the same rhythm as the violin; you could try to change the rhythm of the piano part, so that there is a bit of contrast between the two instruments. Or you could try to give a more meaningful counter-line to the piano. OR you can do BOTH! (maybe by giving the piano counterline at the end with the A melody recapitulation). There are many ways in which you could polish the piano part. Other examples may include: arpeggiating the chords, expanding the octave range, ...

    Otherwise, the effect that it gives out is "this piece was meant to be played by little kids at piano recitals in a very non-exciting manner". If you pimp the piano part up, it would sound more like a legit duet. It would also be more educational, since there would be more musical material to digest.

    So to summarize: it has strong melody statements, compelling harmony and clear structure. There are a lot of good things about it. My advice would be to improve the piano part, to further elevate the piece.


    Notation wise:
    I don't have big complaints, I'm not a violinist so I wouldn't dare to comment on bowing, especially if it's for educational purposes. For the piano part, you can easily have bass clef on both staves - I think it would improve the readability, since most of the notes are below the middle C. Also, all pianist would always pedal this one bar at a time without you telling them, so you can remove the pedaling, which is more clutter than anything; or if you really really want to specify it, you can put it for 2 bars and then write "sim." on the third bar, for "similar". It would also make sense to mimic the dynamic changes of the violin on the piano too, since I would probably bet that most pianist would naturally follow the crescendos and diminuendos of the violin (without you telling them to do it).

    P.S. did you mean "Ballade in A"? Or is the title supposed to generate suspence, because we don't know what the ballade is for? :D
  4. Thanks Alex. I have discovered that with such limitations (also non vibrato and not too fast), it's harder to not sound like an Irish ballad. :p

    @Francesco Bortolussi Thank for your kind words. I added the piano to give harmony but it's not a real written part. It's just done quickly. I agree that if this piece brings a little more life, it will be more satisfying for the player. I think more about achieving this goal through orchestration. I'm not sure I can change the harmony without changing the nature of the piece. It requires some tests in my secret lab (I'm open to suggestions).

    Thanks also for the notation advice of the piano. I take note of that. However, I don't think Sibelius can handle the "sim."

    P.S :
    Ballad for A...
    What is A ? Who is A ? For A what ?
    So much mystery...
  5. Hello,

    I'm a band director, so this is right up my alley. I don't have experience working with string instrument students so I can't comment or give suggestions on bow markings.
    These suggestions mostly fall under the engraving category to help make the part look cleaner, and make it as easy to read as possible. I'm guessing you're giving the student an individual part instead of the score, which will probably fix all or most of the following, but here is what I would do based on the score:

    1. Pull the piano staves down a little bit in the lines that have the first and second endings to give them a little more space.
    2. Stretch the crescendos at the very beginning, and at the end of the first endings, and letter C a little bit. Students might not interpret them as crescendos and may think they are accents.
    3. Shorten the 2nd ending line before B to just one measure in length, going above the rehearsal mark makes it look a little busy
    4. Move the p marking the measure before B to the beginning of B
    5. Some of your crescendos and decrescendos have specific dynamic targets but not all of them do. Students often have an easier time if they have a specific target set for them.
    6. Move the chord symbols to the piano part. I haven't used chord symbols in Sibelius in a while, I can't remember if it adds them to the top part by default, or maybe you added them to the violin part before you added the piano.

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