Author Topic: Score Study  (Read 495 times)

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tbmartin

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Score Study
« on: July 05, 2017, 10:32:55 AM »
Score study is a discipline that is almost universally recommended, and given that I have next to zero formal training, I've decided to take the plunge.  But... how? My question really breaks down into 3 sub-questions:

Q1) What should I be looking for?
Q2) How should I look for it?
Q3) How should I mark up my score as a way to capture my findings?

I've done some internet searching, and discussions of score study are most frequently aimed at conductors rather than composers. While there is certainly much overlap between the two groups, there are some significant differences as well. This blog post seems to be a decent list of things one should look for during a score study (My Q1): https://www.smartmusic.com/blog/approaches-to-score-study-and-interpretation/

Are there things any of you would add to the list? 

As for Q2, so far in my studies, I've generally followed along in the score and paid attention to where the melody is coming from. Then I've listened and looked for who has key countermelodies or harmonic lines (eg, in 3rds or 6ths with the melody, rather than just "background harmonies"). I've also gone through watching one specific part from start to finish, such as the trumpets, regardless of what role they're playing at the time.

As for Q3, the examples I've found of mark-up systems have emphasized areas of great importance to conductors such as tempo and dynamic changes, and don't seem to give much weight to changes in harmony or other compositional topics. Do any of you have personal systems of marking up a score when analyzing it for compositional learning (colors, highlighters, etc.).

I realize that any method of study and mark-up system will be personal, almost by definition, but at least getting an idea of a few that work from a composer's point of view would be helpful.

Thanks!

(Moderators: I think "General Music Theory" is the best category for this thread, but feel free to move this if there's a better one.)
Terence Martin

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Ron

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Re: Score Study
« Reply #1 on: July 05, 2017, 02:15:08 PM »
I just looked at a score I've been studying to see how I marked it up. It's Fauré's "Fantaisie pour piano et orchestra." I've gone through and circled the first bar of the main and secondary theme each time they occur and wrote out the harmonic progressions in each group of 4 measures. Sometimes I've circled unusual chords. Don't know if that helps, but it helps me identify the overall structure of the work.
Ron
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Jamie Kowalski

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Re: Score Study
« Reply #2 on: July 06, 2017, 08:22:03 AM »
I usually only mark up a score when I discover an interesting relationship between ideas, or if there is something that surprises me when I see it on the page. But as to how to mark up your score, that is entirely up to you. I think conductors need a more systematic and complete approach. Composers should be marking for their own individual wants and needs, unless it is a teacher's assignment. A marking can be as simple as a sentence written in English, if that's the clearest way to remind yourself what's going on.

Periwink

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Re: Score Study
« Reply #3 on: July 07, 2017, 02:08:05 AM »
What Jamie says.. find the specific elements that caught your ears attention and try, in the score, to discover how and why it works according to you. For composition purposes I think score study should be very personal. For performance a conductor needs to mark his entire score, I like to just focus on a small passage of the music that really made a deep impression on me. Then you go and try to distillate every single element that constitutes to the given sounding result you like.

When the form of a piece caught your attention and you want to learn more about it then you write down the elements that make that work for you, again really personal.. what moments did your ear catch that made you like it so much. When studying form I like to get a piece of paper and make a long line and divide it up in the different blocks that made the piece, here it's important to add the precise time of every block (it also helps to make the length of the blocks in scale with the time). Write down what makes up the different blocks, how contrast is created, the transitions (instrumentation, when, and how long), etc

As for how to mark up the score.. that's entirely up to you:)
Honesty doesn't serve the self; it serves the truth.
-Peter Ralston

tbmartin

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Re: Score Study
« Reply #4 on: July 07, 2017, 07:20:09 AM »
Thanks for all the comments (and more welcome, of course.) It's good to hear that it doesn't have to be nearly as complex as all that conductor-focused info would lead you to believe.
Terence Martin

Tools: Finale 2003 on Windows XP
Day job: Actuary
Composing/Arranging output: mostly sax quartets
http://bit.ly/TerenceMartinSaxArranger
Goal: Improve quantity and quality of concert band compositions.
Play: Saxophones (all, but tenor primary), Bass Clarinet, Piano (poorly)

Michel.R.E

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Re: Score Study
« Reply #5 on: July 07, 2017, 07:53:03 AM »
I used to use Finale (or before that, the program I was using for playback) and enter sections of score, line by line. I'd start out with only strings and examine what was going on. I'd add woodwinds and solo those to see what was going on. Etc...

While entering parts of a score may seem tedious, there's a great deal to be learned from entering articulations, slurs, dynamics, etc... it makes you examine what another composer did, in detail. I still remember being fascinated by the long canon at the minor 2nd that opens Schuman's 3rd symphony, and entering the whole thing, line by line (I was lucky enough to get my hands on a study score of the symphony).
"Writing music to be revolutionary is like cooking to be famous: Music’s main function is not revolution. – Alan Belkin "

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Jamie Kowalski

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Re: Score Study
« Reply #6 on: July 07, 2017, 08:01:52 AM »
Michel,

Can you point out where the canon you mention occurs? I can't find it in the first movement.

Michel.R.E

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Re: Score Study
« Reply #7 on: July 07, 2017, 10:32:47 AM »
Bill Schuman... not Robert Schumannnnn.
Only one final "N". The entire 1st movement is a canon at the minor 2nd  ;D

I remember mentioning something regarding Schuman's 5th symphony and his 7th, on some forum, and having some guy relentlessly attack me for not knowing that Schumann had only written 4 symphonies. I told him "maybe so, but Schuman wrote 10 of them! I have the recordings right here."
« Last Edit: July 07, 2017, 10:35:27 AM by Michel.R.E »
"Writing music to be revolutionary is like cooking to be famous: Music’s main function is not revolution. – Alan Belkin "

"Saying something new about something old is still saying something new. – Jamie Kowalski"

Jamie Kowalski

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Re: Score Study
« Reply #8 on: July 07, 2017, 11:28:28 AM »
Doh!

I was about to chalk it up to my ever-expanding old man doddery, since I've played the single-N version in orchestra.

Now I see you were just fishing for a challenger you could mock!  ;D

Michel.R.E

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Re: Score Study
« Reply #9 on: July 07, 2017, 12:09:12 PM »
I far prefer the one with fewer N's. The other bores me.
"Writing music to be revolutionary is like cooking to be famous: Music’s main function is not revolution. – Alan Belkin "

"Saying something new about something old is still saying something new. – Jamie Kowalski"

Jamie Kowalski

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Re: Score Study
« Reply #10 on: July 10, 2017, 08:05:29 AM »
I far prefer the one with fewer N's. The other bores me.

I love New England Triptych. We played that a few times in DCYO back in the day.

Michel.R.E

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Re: Score Study
« Reply #11 on: July 10, 2017, 09:45:17 AM »
if anyone's curious, here's that canon at the minor 2nd:

William Schuman, Symphony no.3
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Ron

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Re: Score Study
« Reply #12 on: July 10, 2017, 10:23:16 AM »
if anyone's curious, here's that canon at the minor 2nd:

William Schuman, Symphony no.3

Thanks, Michel. I just listened to the entire symphony. A wonderful work.
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Michel.R.E

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Re: Score Study
« Reply #13 on: July 10, 2017, 12:15:38 PM »
the bass clarinet solo that starts the 4th movement is a compulsory audition piece for bass clarinetists.
"Writing music to be revolutionary is like cooking to be famous: Music’s main function is not revolution. – Alan Belkin "

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Jamie Kowalski

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Re: Score Study
« Reply #14 on: July 12, 2017, 07:21:40 AM »
the bass clarinet solo that starts the 4th movement is a compulsory audition piece for bass clarinetists.

Schuman can write some pretty challenging wind parts. Take a listen to this passage here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9r2vNev2ZSE#t=1m12s -- The bassoons at 1:28 are insane!