Category Archives: Music

MUS: End of Year Reflection

Playing:

Throughout this year I’ve learned a lot more about my playing strengths and weaknesses. In general, I think some of my strengths include note accuracy and intonation. I am able to play the notes of a scale or melody accurately through practicing specific sections specifically to become more familiar with them. At the beginning of the year, I wasn’t too aware of intonation and I wasn’t able to tell if a note was sharp or flat. However, now that I’ve spent a lot more time tuning my instrument to a pitch, I feel more familiar with identifying a sharp or flat note. This allows me to play in tune more because I can listen to other people, and I’ve developed a habit of tuning my instrument every time. Some of my weaknesses include tempo, rhythm accuracy and articulation precision. When the rhythm is very simple, I can count it easily, but when it starts to get more complicated with a lot more note so the off beat, I easily lose count and start to either speed up or slow down. For example, because the playing tests I did in the beginning of the year had easier rhythms to count, I was able to have better rhythm accuracy and tempo. However, as the recent playing test was a jazz solo had a lot more complex rhythms and syncopation, I had more difficulty counting it. Having to play with the backing track was also a challenge because I had to make sure I was always on beat with the track. To improve on this I should keep practicing with a metronome and make sure I lock in the tempo each time I play. From the feedback, I also need to improve on my melodic shape and dynamics, so maybe I could pay more attention to playing the solo with more “feeling” (making some of the higher notes bolder than the lower ones).

Theory:

This year I’ve definitely learned many new theory concepts that I’ve learned to apply to other things. Although I had learnt theory before, I felt like I didn’t really have an in depth understanding of it, so by going through each concept this year I’ve been able to have a better understanding. It was also good to be able to review simpler concepts that I had learnt before (e.g. key signatures). One of the newer concepts learnt this year were 7th chords. I found this confusing at first but after practicing and understanding how they were made I am now able to create 7th chords fairly easily. I think this was also one of the concepts that I was able to apply to other things more. For example, as jazz uses a lot of 7th chords, I was able to use them to compose a jazz solo much more easily. As for outside of class situations, I’m also able to have a much better understanding of how guitar chords are formed now. Learning about chords in composition also helped me understand how songs were composed, and made the whole process of composition much easier. Something that I still need to improve on is transposition, especially between two instruments that are not in concert pitch. I always get confused by whether I should be transposing up or down, and the key signatures. I could improve on this by doing more transposition questions to become more familiar with it. I also need to become more familiar with scale degrees, and make sure I am counting the right way when trying to figure it out. Overall, I think I’ve improved my theory this year and have learnt many new concepts. Here is the theory test I completed for May.

Personal Development + IB Learner Profiles

Throughout this year, I’ve been able to improve on my playing, theory and knowledge of other musical forms which was really interesting. Through learning about jazz, I’ve been able to appreciate it a lot more, and find enjoyment in the different styles. From this I’ve learned to be a lot more open-minded towards other musical styles, especially ones that I am not familiar with as they are all very distinctly different. Before this year I hadn’t had much exposure to jazz, so it was really interesting for me to be able to compose my own jazz solo and learn about the history of jazz.

Through practicing I’ve also become more independent and reflective because each time I practice I have to be recognizing my weaknesses and focusing more on those areas to improve. By using the iFolio as a way to keep track of my progress, I’ve also been able to look back and see how I’ve improved, and what else I need to work on. One of the major areas I feel like I’ve improved on for playing this year is scales. As I am more familiar with key signatures and relative majors/minors, I can play scales from memory much better now than I could at the beginning of the year. I also understand the theory concepts much better now, especially since they had to be applied to composition (chords, cadences) and playing (transposition, scales).

 

MUS: Ternary Composition Final

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Sheet Music:

Ternary Composition Final

I think overall I was quite successful at having melodic and rhythmic balance between phrases because I used varied phrases, but also made sure I had some repetition/imitation so they would be more connected. I was also able to connect section A and section B by repeating some of the rhythmic phrases, and using the same melodic contour. I’ve added many performance directions such as slurs, staccatos, dynamics and tempo markings. However, I could have improved the transitions between the sections because sometimes it sounded quite sudden.

After receiving comments on my ternary draft composition, I made changes to mainly section B. A few people said that the draft section B didn’t sound connected to section A, and suggested that I try the relative minor key instead of the dominant key. Thus, I changed my section B to be the relative minor of the section A key, and also made sure I repeated some of the rhythmic and melodic phrases more so it would be more memorable.

To further improve my piece, I think I could make the melody more engaging because I feel as though sometimes the phrases were too similar. For example, maybe I could have varied the second section A more so it wouldn’t sound so similar. I also need to work on my transitions between the two sections, especially the first transition between A to B. I wasn’t too proud of this transition as it didn’t flow very well. I could try to transition with more chord tones next time. I also realized that some of the chords didn’t sound too well with the melody, so I should have been more careful with the chords I was choosing to go with the main melody.

I learned many new concepts this unit, such as passing tones, neighboring tones, and also became much more familiar with the chords and cadences. This will be very useful for me in the future while composing other pieces of music (such as how similar concepts were applied in the composition of the jazz solo). By becoming more familiar with chords and cadences, I will also be better with theory and understanding how other pieces of music are written. Writing the piano accompaniment also allowed me to know more about different instruments can be played together in the same piece of music, and how their individual melodies can enhance others.

At the beginning of the unit, I had a lot of trouble starting the composition of the melody because I didn’t really know how the chords could fit together to create a melody that was musically engaging. However, after developing my melody more and more (through the 8 bar melody), I’ve become a lot more comfortable with composition and also found the process easier as I had more phrases to develop my melody off of.

I think keeping track of my progress with the use of my PJ was useful because it allowed me to keep track of things that I was successful at and also possible improvements. For example, while developing my ternary composition, I was able to refer back to the comments I received for the 8 bar melody and use those as ways of improving my composition.

MUS: Stella by Starlight Final Solo

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Sheet Music:

Stella by Starlight Jazz Solo Final

Although this was a challenging unit for me, I was able to learn a lot more about the concepts related to jazz (7-3 resolutions, digital patterns, ligons) throughout the unit and the process of composing my solo. Before this unit, I had rarely played jazz and had never composed jazzy before. It took me a while to understand these concepts as they were completely new to me, but after playing through the patterns multiple times and becoming more familiar with the chords, I was able to have a much better understanding of them. However, I still had trouble incorporating the digital patterns and ligons into the solo. To help make the composing process easier, I first wrote out the chord tones of each chord so I wouldn’t have to keep thinking about which notes were in the chord, what notes to use for the transition between bars, etc. Being able to easily refer to the chord tones really helped with my composition process.

After receiving feedback from my peers, I made quite a few changes to my solo. Firstly, as a couple people suggested, I changed parts of the last eight bars (25-32) to resemble the first eight bars more so there would be more repetition in the melody, making it more memorable.  For some measures, I used the same notes and varied the rhythmic patterns, while some measures had similar rhythmic patterns with different notes. This allowed for more variation instead of just having two parts that were exactly the same. I also changed the overall rhythmic pattern of my solo a bit to have more variety and to “create a jazzy swing feeling”, as suggested by peers. To do this, I used more rests (especially eighth rests) and syncopated rhythms, as I realized I used those a lot in the beginning, but gradually turned back to more steady rhythms, which didn’t make my piece sound a lot like jazz. Someone also suggested that I add more performance markings. I ended up adding a lot more markings for articulation which I thought really changed up the style of my piece. The combination of staccatos and slurs was able to make my solo more interesting and also sound more jazzy. In addition to these changes, I also changed the melody of parts that were in the middle as I felt there was too much disjunct motion, which disrupted the flow of the melody. To improve these sections, sometimes I would use more digital patterns as I knew they were going to make my solo sound a lot more jazzy, or I would use more conjunct motion, with mostly chord tones.

To further improve my piece, I think I could improve on my rhythms even more, as sometimes they didn’t sound too interesting and sounded more like classical music. To do this, I could research more into rhythms typically used in jazz songs. Mr. Taitoko also suggested that I develop my melodic and rhythmic phrases more.

Overall, I think this unit was a good opportunity for me to explore more genres of music that I wouldn’t usually listen to or play. Writing my own jazz solo and playing it really allowed me to have a deeper understanding of some of the basic concepts related jazz, as I needed to make sure I understand the concepts before being able to write a solo.

 

 

MUS: 8 Bar Composition Final

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Sheet Music:
8 Bar Composition Final

After receiving feedback on my 8 bar composition draft, I made a few changes to my composition. Although they were all quite minor changes, I feel as though they have made a difference in my melody. For example, someone suggested that I repeat the bass in bar 5 somewhere else as an interesting part in the bass is usually repeated a few times. I ended up repeating the bass part of bar 5 (beats 1 & 2) in bar 7 (beats 1 & 2) as I had a similar rhythm in that bar. I also changed the chords for the last few bars because someone suggested that using these chords would fit the melody more. Also, since there aren’t many notes in my last bar, it would be good to use a chord for each note. Something else I changed was the first note in bar 3. I received feedback that whenever I used a chord I, I would start on a G, so to provide more variety to the melody I decided to change the this note to a B. Although it isn’t the root note, it is still a chord note. The eighth notes in bars 4 & 6 (before the eighth rest) have also been changed to a quarter note with a staccato marking, producing similar effect. I changed it because it allowed the score to be more easily read and also made it clearer. Lastly, I changed the last note of bar 5 to an f to avoid having the last and first note of the 2 measures the same. Changing it to an f also makes it a smoother transition because the leaps between each note are smaller.

MUS: December Tests Reflection

Theory Test:

For my theory test, I think my general knowledge is not too bad. The areas I did the best in include figured bass and intervals because I find quite straightforward and easy to understand. I also did quite well in writing out the intervals as I was able to remember the number of semitones between each interval. Something that helped me a lot was drawing out a keyboard and writing out the number of semitones so I could visualize things more easily and figure out the notes more easily.

I had a lot of difficulty with the transposing section and the part about seventh chords. I found the transposing questions hard because I wasn’t sure of whether I should be transposing up or down, especially when it was from one instrument to another (not between concert and an instrument). I also had trouble with seventh chords because I got a bit messed up when I was counting the semitones and trying to figure out the note. To improve my score next time, I should be more careful while doing my test (especially the counting) and also review the topics more in depth so I know I fully understand it. I should especially review transposing and do more practice questions to become more familiar.

I feel that I have definitely improved my theory skills from the beginning of the year. At first, I barely understood any of the topics (e.g. intervals, triads), but now I feel much more confident in them. Although I still have a few areas I need to work on, I understand a lot more theory concepts now than I did at first. By being more familiar in certain topics, such as key signatures and transposition, I have also been able to improve my playing skills especially for scales.
Here is my theory test.

Playing Test:

For my playing test, I think I did well in note and rhythm accuracy, and making sure I had good dynamics. I didn’t mess up any of my scales either, but most of the ones I chose to play weren’t too challenging. Based on the comments I received, I also did quite well in my intonation and tempo. When I was practicing without the metronome, I always felt like I was speeding up at the beginning and slowing down in the middle part. I made sure to tune my instrument before I played to ensure I wasn’t out of tune, which could have affected my performance by a lot.

A weakness of my playing skills is that my articulation isn’t that good, especially for the staccato notes. I need to make my notes shorter and have lighter tonguing to play my staccato notes better. To improve on this, I will keep on practicing my staccato tonguing every time I practice by playing my scales with a staccato articulation, or by practicing more pieces with staccato markings. Something else I want to work on (although not mentioned in the comments) is my tone because when I’m playing I can tell that sometimes some of my notes won’t be played properly and aren’t heard as clearly. To work on this I could start playing my pieces at a slower tempo first so I can make sure I have all the notes, before gradually speeding it up. Next time I have a playing test, I’ll be sure to work on these things and start practicing earlier.