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I have thoroughly explained the plan/intent for my music and how it is represented in this song.  

I have thoroughly explained the range of ways in which my music demonstrates creativity (such as choice of key, tempo, time, instrumentation, structure, etc.)  

I originally intended for the piece to have a changing tempo throughout the song. The piece is arranged in an A-B-A (ternary) form, and I wanted to have a different tempo for each section. However, due to the brevity of each section and my inability to transition between the tempos in a way that sounds coherent and pleasing, I decided to stick with one tempo for the entire song. The song is in 80 beats per minute.

I originally wanted the piece to be performed by several woodwind and brass instruments, with the piano and strings parts being replaced by clarinets, baritone saxophones, trumpets and trombones, though eventually I figured that strings and piano would fit better with my intended mood of the song and were much more versatile given the expressive restraints of computer-generated music on Finale. Also, the timbre of the instruments I eventually decided on fit much better with the mood of the piece than the original ones, and the slight decrease in number of instruments also helped reduce the sometimes clashing sound of an instrumental overload.

I want the audience to be able to imagine a gradual sinking motion as the notes descend in the first two (three including pickup) bars of the song, while still being able to look up see the clear blue surface of the water and the sun above in the next two bars. The end of bar 8 to bar 9 shows the final rest of the person, lying comfortably on the sea floor. The section with the piano melody from bars 10 through 17 should give the audience the image of small, iridescent, colorful fish, reefs of coral, and the glimmer of shining shells and pebbles beside them. Admire the beauty and the solemnity. In the final section of the song, the listener rises back to the surface of the water again, leaving the aquarium paradise behind, walking away back to the world of reality.

I have detailed and ample evidence of critiquing my own work AND the work of others in terms of strengths and weaknesses.

I have a detailed explanation of the status of my work in its various stages.

April 2, 2016:

Finally came up with a sequence of melodies that I was satisfied with. This time, instead of starting with chord progressions, I started with the melody, played by the flute. I unintentionally took heavy inspirations from some songs I know, such as Pachelbel’s Canon, which is clearly audible in the chord progression and strings section.

March 30, 2016:

I have created 4 drafts so far, none of which I am satisfied with or think I can work further on. I have been listening to various pieces of music in order to garner inspiration but I end up either copying it too much, or ending up with incoherent phrasing when trying to merge different types of melodies.

March 23, 2016:

I currently have a 19-bar composition, see an extract below, but as some sound files aren’t working and I am generally displeased with the way it sounds, I am planning on starting over again.

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Comments on other’s work:

Nicole: Where is MY Birthday Cake?

Overall very nice piece, I enjoyed the range of and change in expression presented throughout the song a lot. I think you could use a wider range of articulation, though, such as slurs, staccatos or accents. These could really help with the listener to be able to identify the phrasing of the piece, because in its current state the phrases seem a bit abrupt. You could also use a slightly wider range of non-chord tones. Like me, you have a heavy reliance on passing tones, neighbour tones and changing tones, but have nearly disregarded other types of non-chord tones except towards the end of phrases, leading to a decreased melodic complexity. I enjoyed the piano part a lot- the varying complexity added to or took away from the expressive intensity, allowing for the varying mood to show through nicely, in conjunction with the tempo changes.

Leanne: Limits


I really liked the overall sound of the piece, though I feel that the accompaniment was much more coherent than the main melody. From my understanding, the melody is intended for vocals, not flute, so perhaps it would make more sense if it were sung instead of played on flute. I feel that if you were to keep it for flute that you should add more slurs to give a legato, connected sound to the melody, to go with the peaceful sound of the accompaniment, as currently it sounds like some of the phrases end on a note value that is too short to sound finished. Your chord progression is probably what leads my mind to believe your composition has a pop-like form and sound, which isn’t a bad thing if this is what you intended. The varying ways the chords are presented also add to the expression in the piece, despite the actual progressions remaining similar or the same. You have a very good variety of articulations and non-chord tones, though I do feel that you should try and do more with the dynamics.

1.  How do you think you did with your performance assessment?  Did you perform as well as you thought you would, or not?

I think I did pretty well in my performance assessment. While there were a few near-slip-ups and pauses that lasted a split second too long, I think they didn’t affect the flow of the piece greatly.

2.  If you performed worse than you expected, explain why.  If you performed better than you expected, explain why.

I think I performed better than expected because I was able to apply all the tempo and dynamic markings I had added myself during the assessment. I was also able to get myself to play through most phrases in the way I had envisioned them in my mind.

3.  Explain your rehearsal process.

I generally practice scales for 10 minutes per day and pieces for 10 minutes per day. I don’t usually rehearse in-class pieces, but since I knew this assessment was coming I decided to add on the piece,  the theme from Swan Lake, to my practice regime. I didn’t practice this particular song with a metronome, only a tuner, as I felt that the tempo should be up to interpretation (it’s only written as ‘andante’) and should have a little bit of rubato thrown in, which might be difficult to do with a steady metronomic beat.

4.  Which of the following was the most successful: note accuracy, rhythm accuracy, articulation, dynamics, tone quality, breathing/phrasing? Can you explain why?

I feel that note accuracy was the most successful part of my playing in the assessment because I didn’t play any incorrect notes. I nearly played one of the C flats as a C natural but luckily I saw the note coming and remembered the key signature right as I played it. I also feel that it is the easiest part of a piece of music to learn and practice, even surpassing rhythmic accuracy which is prone to error or being ignored if the piece isn’t practiced carefully enough.

5.  Which of the following was the least successful: note accuracy, rhythm accuracy, articulation, dynamics, tone quality, breathing/phrasing?  Can you explain why?

I think breathing/phrasing was the least successful component of my playing during the assessment. My breath capacity was a little too short to play all the way through one of the passages towards the end of the piece even though I had played the exact same line through at the beginning. I usually mark down where to breathe on the sheet music before I perform a piece so I know to approximate how long I should conserve my breath for, though I didn’t get around to doing this on the assessment piece because while I was practicing I wasn’t able to make it through the same length of phrases I wanted to and wasn’t sure where to put the markings.

Another issue would be tuning. I tuned before gong in to do the assessment but while playing I think I still sounded a bit flat, especially with the quieter notes as I didn’t use enough proper breath and posture support to keep the pitch up.

6.  How can you specifically (not musicians in general) improve your level of skill in a realistic manner?

People always say practice makes perfect, which is true in a sense, though the only way to truly get better is not just to practice but practice well. Scales and technical exercises can be boring but each of them could help you improve in a certain area, such as dynamics, articulation, tempo, or rhythm. Many songs contain scalic passages, and practicing scales may be the only way to get more confident with them. Of course, playing pieces can help too, but you have to study them in such a away that you’re not just playing them for the melodic content, but also understanding the flow of the piece, what it’s ‘supposed’ to sound like, and how to play it like the composer intended.

7.  Discuss how another musician has inspired you to be more successful (this could be someone in school out in the community, or can be someone who doesn’t even play the same instrument as you).

My uncles (my mother’s two older brothers), and their children, who live in Australia, are amazing musicians. One of them primarily played the organ as a child and the other played brass, while my mother played violin and piano. All of them went on to do exams in one of those instruments each, but what amazes me is that even after that their enthusiasm for music continued. My mother no longer plays any musical instruments, but my uncles each have a large room dedicated to musical instruments in their houses, and they play the instruments for their local church, or just to entertain us when we visit, even letting me play a few tunes on the flute if I want to. They are not as technically proficient in those extra instruments as they were with their first, having not even taken lessons, but the musicianship and will to learn is still there. I want to be able to appreciate music, and playing music as much as they do.

On a normal day, during the school year, I tend to practice flute around half an hour each day, with 15 minutes focused on tone and scales as warm-ups and technical training, followed by 15 minutes of pieces I need to play. In the two to three months prior to an exam, this increases to around an hour per day, including holidays, with half an hour dedicated solely to scales and half an hour dedicated to the required pieces. I do not focus as much on tone and instead focus more on technical skills such as learning how to move fingers quickly enough for fast runs or practicing embouchure techniques for different types of articulation. I have a flute lesson once per week for an hour, though in the two to three weeks prior to an exam or competition I may have up to 3 lessons per week, including practice sessions with an accompanist. This is very often the only times I will get to hear myself play with the accompaniment before the performance.

Practice on a normal day usually begins with long tones to warm up the flute. I prefer the environment to be cooler (air-conditioned if needed) to reduce humidity and allow for a more crisp tone. I start the long tones on a different note each time, and work my way up a single octave in the form of a slow chromatic scale, then back down to the starting note again. The aim of this exercise is to practice tone and embouchure while moving through the different notes, which each have a slightly different requirement. Higher notes require faster air speeds while lower ones need to be slower or else the pitch will crack. The angle of the embouchure greatly affects tone, so it’s important to practice that to fine the optimal tone. After going through one set of long tones, I move on to scales. I usually do two sets of major and minor scales as well as their arpeggios. I take an arbitrary note and play it in a major scale, then major arpeggio, then harmonic minor, then minor arpeggio, then melodic minor. The second set starts at that point, wherein I play the relative minor of the previous key, which should be the same as the key used in the melodic minor. For that key, I also play the major, major arpeggio, harmonic minor, minor arpeggio, and melodic minor scales. All that should have taken around 15 to 30 minutes, and after that I move onto pieces.

The pieces vary greatly depending on what is coming up, whether it be a playing test at school, exam, competition, recital, concert, ensemble, or anything else. How I practice them and how long I practice them for depends on the difficulty of the piece. I usually play through the piece two or three times, making note of and re-practicing through troublesome areas of the song that I can’t play very well. I don’t use a metronome often unless the song is intended to conform to a rigorously steady tempo or I’m doing a speed challenge, where I turn start the metronome at a comfortable tempo, then increase the speed to be faster and faster until it gets to the point that I start making mistakes, then I go back to the speed one notch before it and attempt to play the song at that speed. This allows for rapid improvement in terms of tempo.

Overall, I don’t think I practice music nearly as often as I should. I often skip playing on weekends and don’t practice at home following a lesson or band practice. In order to improve, I think I need to simply pick up and play my flute more. I have quite a bit of free time after I finish my homework some days, and I could potentially use that time to practice with some extra depth.

Playing Test: Étude

Student reflects with connections and transfers knowledge in response to the following;

  • Note accuracy, Rhythm accuracy, Articulation precision, Dynamics, Tone quality, Intonation, Tempo appropriateness, Connection.

At first glance, the Étude looked like an easy piece, nowhere near even as difficult as the pieces we played in band. However, after scrutinising over the piece for dynamics, breathing, articulation and all the other bits and pieces that made up the song, I discovered exactly how challenging this seemingly easy exercise was. The piece, to me, was not technically difficult, but trying to follow every single dynamic and breathing mark, especially under the pressure of test conditions, was a bit difficult.

While playing the piece during the test, I felt that I was rather accurate in terms of notes, though I feel that the slight slip-up at the climax of the song really caught me off guard for a few bars after it. The rhythm on the other hand, from what I could hear, had quite a few errors. Several of the joined eighth notes were played like a dotted eighth note followed by a sixteenth note and vice-versa.

Holding the slurs for their entire value was difficult at times as it was difficult for me to hold my breath for such a long duration of time. I tried countering that by speeding the song’s tempo up slightly, though I still found it difficult to hold my breath for some of the longer phrases, and I ended up breathing before the end of the slur in several instances. However, I think that even when I was running out of air that there was no deterioration in sound quality, and I managed to breathe before it became too obvious that I was running out of breath. The increase in tempo seemed to have no impact on any other aspect of the piece, and it didn’t seem to change the mood of the piece at all, so I think it was appropriate.

The mixing of slurs and tongues in the piece were somewhat difficult for me to keep up with when playing the piece, as I have a habit of holding slurs all the way to the end of a bar where there are two groups of slurred notes separated by a tongued note, and I end up including that note that was supposed to be tongued in the slur. Within the slurs, my connection between notes was otherwise okay. Dynamics was the most difficult thing for me to focus on during the piece, as I spent a lot of my concentration on keeping the tempo steady and getting the correct notes. I really tried my best to have dynamic contrast but I think I overestimated my ability to play pianissimo quietly enough, especially on the last note of the piece, which had a bit of deterioration in sound quality and pitch accuracy as I was trying to get the note quieter.

Written Test: Grade 9 Theory Test 2015

Student reflects with excellent connections  and effectively transfers knowledge in response to the following;

  • Understanding of theory concepts.
  • Personal Development.
  • IB Learner Profile.

I understood most of the questions on the theory test, but the one section that struck me as the most difficult was transposition, where I only got one out of the three questions in the section correct. Transposition is not something that I study often, though I think looking back on this test and the previous theory test, this is something that deserves much more practice than I give it. The difficulty of remembering the intervals between different instruments and concert pitch, as well as which direction the interval goes in, is what makes this section much more challenging for me than the others. It lacks clear, repetitive patterns that are present in sections such as scales and triads, and each instrument has a different, nearly random key.

I think I improved much more on the key signature and seventh-chord sections from the last test. I don’t think I struggled with figured bass in the previous test, as I got all the questions relating to figured bass correct though the exclusion of it in this test may have made it a bit easier overall.

Overall, in terms of the IB learner profile, the attribute I think which most reflects my performance in this year’s music course is principled. This is because I tried to be disciplined in handing my homework assignments in on time, studying and practicing for tests and performances, and putting effort into all my presentations and group activities. The learner profile attribute I think I need to work on the most would be risk-taker. In reflecting back on the year, I realised I have taken many safe choices instead of going outside of my comfort zone, such as in my choice of instrument.

  • The composition rubric presents 8 features of the piece that would make it successful. I used a comment template based on the rubric to comment on my classmate’s compositions, so I will use a similar one to evaluate my own.

    • melodic and rhythmic balance between phrases.
    • There is a balance between the phrases, though one could say that the parts are too similar to each other, nearly the same but in different keys. The final A section contains the biggest differences though, with major changes to the melody and rhythm in some places.
    • difference between the four phrases
    • There isn’t really much difference between the two phrases, with the B section being a copy of the first A section, just transposed a minor third down, except for a few bars.
    • connection between the A and B section
    • I think I did okay with the transitions between the first A and B sections, with the arpeggio from the tonic of the A major key down into the tonic of the f# minor key,  but the transition between the B section and the second A section was a bit choppy, only having one note on one beat to transition back into it. I think to make my piece more successful I should have made the transition smoother, and thus more pleasant-sounding.
    • success in it’s playability
    • I think it’s playable, at least for me. It has a reasonably slow tempo and I didn’t use any notes that went higher or lower than the range of anything we have played in class. In that way, it is playable, though some people said it may be difficult to sight-read, possibly due to the three sharps in the key signature.
    • performance directions (dynamics, tempo, articulation).
    • I think there was appropriate use of dynamics, though many people did mention that the piano overpowered the melody in several places. I found this odd, though, since when I listened to it on my computer with headphones on, the dynamic balance was okay. However, I will agree that sometimes there wasn’t enough time to properly transition between dynamics. The tempo was stated at the top of the page: Moderato, at 100 beats per minute. Some articulations were used but I think I could’ve added more as an improvement, as I only used slurs.
    • appropriate use of chords
    • I think I used the chords appropriately, though it was pointed out that I, more often than not, ended bars on a V (fifth/dominant) chord. I think my piece could be improved and made more interesting by perhaps adding more minor chords to the major part and changing up the chords in the minor part a little bit.
    • accuracy when labeling of chords
    • All chords were labelled correctly, as far as I’m aware. All passing and neighbour tones were also labelled correctly where necessary.
    • success as a convincing piece of music
    • Classmates who commented on my piece said that it was a convincing piece of music, and I think it was cohesive enough to be considered convincing. However, one classmate did mention that a Gavotte is supposed to be a baroque style of music and the piano should be more disjointed/less legato to mimic a harpsichord.

There were also other areas not needed to be covered in our comments. These include applications for the future and my perspective of the overall unit.

As I am considering taking music next year as well as in DP, I can expect to be doing much more composing in the years to come. I can effectively use the composing skills I learned in this unit and apply them to my future compositions, such as knowledge of chords, cadences, transitions, note types, varieties, patterns, etc.

I think this unit was very interesting, though I do think that the first part of the assignment (the 8-bar melody) was dragged on for much too long- and the final parts (B section and complete ternary composition) were too rushed. Besides that, I think that this unit provided a very interesting and educational experience for everyone and I think that I really have learned something new.

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I have taken the feedback from the comments on my previous post, as well as fixed up some labels, for my final piece. I also gave it a nicer title. The first comment reminded me that I needed to add a fermata to the piano part in the last bar if I added one to the flute part in order for the ending note to last for the right amount of time. The second comment suggested that I remove the arpeggiated chord at the end and replace it with a regular chord where all the notes are played at once, which I did. The third commenter disliked how my ending sounded so abrupt and suggested that I add a ritardando near the end of the piece to gradually fade into the long note at the end, which I did as well. I was also instructed to label my chords properly as I had entered a minor key, which I forgot about previously. One bar (the one which contains a double-sharp) was said to have sounded odd, so I made several changes that bar, with the last notes changed from 2 eighth notes to one quarter note, and the piano part changed to fill in the chord rather than be in unison with the melody.

Scales: C, D and E melodic and harmonic minors


After over a week of not playing flute due to the CNY holiday, I think I have lost a bit of technique, especially pertaining to breath control and articulation. I found the placement of my breathing throughout these scales to be quite forced. In some scales I thought I could make it to the end in a single breath but I ended up breathing anyway. When I did breathe, the end of the previous note sounded awkwardly cut off, more so than usual and the next note sounded forced or cracked. However, I did notice that by using a glottal stop for the note endings, I was also holding notes for closer to their full value than if I had done a ‘decrescendo’ cutoff.

I have decided, after listening back to my melody a few times, to revise the 8-bar melody found in this post.

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A few of my revisions include:

  • Adding the labels for passing notes and neighbour tones
  • Changing dynamics to fit with the rise and fall of notes better
  • Changing dynamics in the piano part to be quieter
  • Removing and lengthening notes in the piano part so that it no longer overpowers the flute in its melody
  • Correcting bar formatting so that notes are easier to see
  • Adding in ‘leading’ notes to lead into the next bars with a smoother transition