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: 5 major scales, 1 chromatic scale

Mostly okay, though I think I could have done much better. Scales had good pitch and tone but note entries were late. Some scales also had wrong notes which sounded odd in my attempt to correct them.

Piece: March from the Nutcracker

Missed notes or played the wrong notes in several spots, mostly due to not paying enough attention. Articulation could have been better- more tonguing and a bit less legato- to help properly define the rhythm and mood of the song. More dynamics could have been added, particularly on the accents. Note accuracy not very good, I may have been rushing while playing the piece. Pitch accuracy also an issue in some spots where I attempted vibrato but failed. Vibrato was lost completely in some spots as well as embouchure was too tense, possibly due to nervousness.

Theory Test: December 2014 Music Test

There may or may not be an error in the section where we were asked to create intervals, where I had written a low E to a G# for a major 3rd it was marked as wrong, though I’m pretty sure it’s correct.

I can’t tell what mark I got for the transposition, since one looks like 0/3 and the other looks like 6/3. Perhaps I got one completely wrong and attained bonus marks for the other, but I would like further clarification before reflecting on it.

One section regarding the creation of 7th chords after being provided a base note was completely missed. Question regarding writing the key signature for C# major was also skipped as I was confused over where the G# goes. The C flat major key signature in the alto clef had a rather silly mistake in it, which could easily have been fixed if I had more time to proofread the test prior to handing it in, or if I had simply counted as I probably should have. Sections 4 and 5 were based on the creation of triads, a concept which to me is much easier than 7th chords and figured bass.

In the section where we were asked to identify the type of chord based on its figured bass, I nearly got the 7th-chord 1st and 3rd inversions mixed up. The rest I had memorized, but I had to write out the 6-5 and the 4-2 chords at the bottom of the paper in order to identify what type of chord they represented. Parts 9 and 10 were done based mostly on counting but also on the section above them, which told me which to add a fourth note- the 7th- onto.

Some more study would have been very useful and I think more memorisation would have saved me a lot of time in the test.

Now is a time of reflection. Looking back at your practice diary and your assessed performance how do you judge your personal accomplishment? Did you practice as much as you were able? Did you develop at a consistent rate? Do your practice diaries show a clear reflection of this?

I didn’t fill in my practice diary, and I can say for sure now that I have practiced much more than what is written in the journal. I think that I didn’t advance as much as I could have if I had practiced more. I did not develop at a consistent rate, as I have a bad habit of practicing intensely before a concert or competition, then just slacking off the rest of the time. My practice diaries are not filled in, and therefore do not show a clear reflection of this.

Looking at your theory work and final test how did you do?

Playing Test Scores        Theory Test Scores

I think I did as well as I could in the playing test, but when I saw the mistakes on my theory test, I realised that I made a few mistakes that I had made in the previous theory test, as well as made a few other mistakes I could have easily avoided. An example was on the last question, where I knew that the influence wasn’t from Canada, but I didn’t know where it was from, so I put Canada anyway. It was from Ireland. Also, I switched heterophonic for homophonic, and vice-versa.

Take the time to really delve into your progress and where you think you can go from here. Where can you put more effort into your music, time, recording your progress, thinking about concepts… Start a new semester with a clear goal in mind and stick to it! Written goals are more often accomplished!!!

You need to state on average how many days you practiced per week and your average time practiced also

I usually practiced two to three times a week, for 15 minutes each. Before a competition, though, especially if I am playing solo, this may go up to an hour a day, five to seven times a week.

You need to reflect and also state a goal for the following musical year.

Next year, I may be taking up piccolo as my instrument instead or flute, or perhaps play them both. I just started learning how to play the piccolo this week, and I plan to keep learning it over the summer. I will try to practice more next year in preparation for my examinations.

YOU MUST include the HOT LINK to your iPORTFOLIO showing you have uploaded it to your DW. If this HOTLINK,opening in a new window, is not included, your assignment will not be marked. Make sure you change the name of you link and DO NOT just paste in the URL.

Criterion D – Personal Engagement

I know that I will already be marked down because I lost my book, which has now cost me $70 to replace. I rarely forgot my instrument, due to my system by which I leave my flute at school since I have another one at home. I didn’t practice nearly as much as I should have for music class or for music lessons outside of school, seldom practicing for more than 15 minutes at a time. One of my goals for next year, especially as I will be taking two music exams, is to spend more time practicing my instruments. I tried to help others when they didn’t know how a song sounded or if they forgot the fingering to a certain note. I participated in the Wind Philharmonic in the first term, having to stop in the second term due to other lessons taking place after school. I will join a band next year, as I will be taking music.

From the comments on my previous post, I think that one thing that I could change is the repetitiveness. While having a slight pattern helps the listener hear familiarity in the song, it can also be a bit boring. I think that otherwise I did okay on my composition, because I didn’t get much constructive feedback aside from that. Other people’s comments aside, I think I could have added more articulations. I don’t think I needed to add rests as they were not part of the assignment.

From this assignment, I have learned how to compose a song through various stages and progresses. I found this assignment to be much more of a challenge and much more involved than most of the other assignments given for music this year. Being someone who doesn’t often compose music, I found that the steps we went through were very helpful in guiding me through this process of composing this short melody.

However, I didn’t like how feedback was given, it was often quite vague and occasionally a bit unreliable.


So here’s my final 16 bar melody. I’ve moved a few of the crescendos and decrescendos around to make this song easier to play and to make it sound smoother on a computer. I have taken commenter’s feedback into account and made modifications accordingly. I have added a tempo marking so that the player knows what speed to play it at.

You can listen to the song here: Final 16 Bar Melody