Developing Your Musical Imagination: Analyzing

mindset May 28, 2020

No, I will not stop with the Spongebob image!

I also won't stop sharing my ideas on how to get more out of your clarinet and musical journey!

So, let's pick up where we left off last week, and talk about analyzing music.

Most college students take theory and musicology courses for 2+ years that are all about analyzing music, so this blog post will not by any means be a definitive guide. However, I can get you started with some basics that will make a big difference in your playing.

Though you can go really in-depth and look at specific harmonic progressions, larger background structures, how each piece conforms to or breaks the rules of the time, all analysis really comes down to patterns.

Start looking for the patterns in your music and then see how the composer manipulates those patterns to make the music interesting. If you are familiar with minimalism, this is a great example of music that makes the patterns very clear, and gets all of its momentum from tiny changes to the patterns.

When you think of the deceptive cadence, after the solo excerpt in the second movement of Beethoven's Symphony No. 6, that is another example of a pattern intentionally being manipulated.

You don't need to know that there is a deceptive cadence there, but you can see in the music that it might be odd that the final resolution note is left out, and upon listening you can hear that something surprising happens there.

From that analysis (and listening, they really are so interconnected), you can start to come up with some ideas on how you can play the music in such a way to prepare that deceptive cadence.

Here is the most simple way to get started searching for these patterns.

Take just 4 measures of music, and look at the rhythms, notes, and style (dynamics, articulations, etc.), and try to get an image of what is going on in those 4 measures. Again, this goes back to the idea of getting a clear imagination of how the music should go.

Then look at the next 4 measures, thinking about the same things, but now look for any similarities or differences from the first 4 measures. Are the rhythms the same, but with different notes? Is it the same music, but at a different dynamic?

As you go through each phrase, you will start to see some recurring rhythm or note patterns. These are like the DNA of the piece, and these little hooks or motifs are what make the piece sound like that piece.

As your detective abilities increase, you can start to peel back the layers and find some exciting moments where the composer breaks a pattern, and the way you bring those moments out and how you execute all of the other details you find is where you start to form your own point of view.

One of the most amazing things about music is that composers put the ink on the page and put it out into the world, but it is the way the performers realize that into the actual sound of music that produces the final result. The composers create the body of the work, but it is up to you as the performer to animate it!

What questions do you have about analysis? Is there anything that you would like a future blog post or YouTube video about to help with analyzing music?

Happy Analyzing,


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I can't wait to see where your clarinet journey takes you!