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Anyone have a minute to pick at my piece?  Thoughts on the piano part are particularly welcome since I'm not a pianist.  Thanks!

Who can ascend the hill of the Lord?

and who can stand in His holy place?

Those who have clean hands, and a pure heart;

 

 

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For the most part, I thought it was a good composition. They were a few small moments where I thought the harmony felt a bit off. For example, in bar 44 the C# sounded like a wrong note; C# against D is a very strong dissonance  - especially when compared to the harmony in the rest of the piece. 

I also think it would be nice to vary the crochet rhythm in the accompaniment as after a while I think it gets a little tiring.  Even just changing it to minim, crochet, crochet like you have in bar 61.

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Nice thoughts on it, @punintentional. One small nitpick. Sometimes your suspensions fall on weak beats, which used to be straight up wrong in the Renaissance era, but now, while it is fine, still carries some weird tonal qualities when prolonging the dominant or the tonic (i.e. 73).

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Well, this is really nice, all around. About the piano part. It's not particularly idiomatic, is it? I mean mostly it's metronomic, sort of like the dishwasher in the ensemble. Maybe you could give this accompaniment a little more thought in terms of varying the repeated notes into lines with simple leading tones on the weak beats? If you were to orchestrate this, I could hear a slower tempo with a small string ensemble playing sostenuto chords. As timekeepers they would have more expression than a piano, and it would seem appropriate. But I really like the basic chord progression throughout. Maybe you could explain why you chose to leave in the one or two notes that might cause your audience to scratch their heads. Is it really worth it?

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9 hours ago, Ken320 said:

About the piano part. It's not particularly idiomatic, is it? I mean mostly it's metronomic, sort of like the dishwasher in the ensemble.

That's why I'm asking for input.  I'm not a pianist.  I have no idea what idiomatic is to a pianist.  Teach me of your mysterious ways, piano players of YC.  🙂 . Thanks for your suggestion!

"The dishwasher in the ensemble."  😄 Dishwasher the machine, making a pleasant, rhythmic background noise?  Or dishwasher the person who washes dishes, the least glamorous, but necessary, job in the restaurant kitchen?  I was actually thinking strings would be nice for the sound I wanted here too, but I don't think I'm at a stage where the kind of choral groups who hire out chamber players for their concerts are going to be interested in my work, unfortunately.  Choral singers are almost never paid, instrumentalists hired for choral concerts almost always are, so a cappella or chorus plus piano or the occasional solo trumpet is the default for the vast majority of singing groups.  Church groups sometimes splash out for some strings at Christmas, but that means you need to write something Christmas themed to capture that market.  

Was there a particular note or two that makes people scratch their heads you were referring to?  Choral parts or piano part?

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16 hours ago, Monarcheon said:

Nice thoughts on it, @punintentional. One small nitpick. Sometimes your suspensions fall on weak beats, which used to be straight up wrong in the Renaissance era, but now, while it is fine, still carries some weird tonal qualities when prolonging the dominant or the tonic (i.e. 73).

 

Thanks, Monarcheon.  I'll take another look and keep that in mind for the future.  

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17 hours ago, punintentional said:

For the most part, I thought it was a good composition. They were a few small moments where I thought the harmony felt a bit off. For example, in bar 44 the C# sounded like a wrong note; C# against D is a very strong dissonance  - especially when compared to the harmony in the rest of the piece. 

I also think it would be nice to vary the crochet rhythm in the accompaniment as after a while I think it gets a little tiring.  Even just changing it to minim, crochet, crochet like you have in bar 61.

 

Thanks, punintentional!  I don't mind a strong dissonance.  That's always the sort of thing I enjoy when I'm performing a piece.  I love it when you have a certain expectation and then the floor drops unexpectedly.  That particular spot definitely sounds better when played by me (at snail speed, because I'm a sad piano player) than it does when played by my computer software.  I don't have a nice sound package.  

I take your point about the rhythm.  I would never have done that normally, but I just sang Randall Thompson's "Psalm 23," which does something similar, and the result is just hypnotic played by a living hand.  

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By idiomatic I mean using more of the piano's capabilities, like pedaling. Or by using open chords instead of block triads. Or just letting the notes sustain. I realize there is no expression in these types of renderings so I can use my imagination and hear someone who can breathe life into the part. But still, there are things you can do regardless, like playing a bass note, holding it with the pedal and playing less repetitive lines in the right hand. Then you don't have to keep re- striking the note, unless of course you really want to. Basically the part just needs more variety. Open chords are not strictly idiomatic to the piano, as you know. I would use them for strings or brass or anything else.You might also put more melodic material in where the piano is solo. If you do nothing else, just opening up the chords would make a big difference, and your pianist will thank you. I would think it would blend in better with the choir too. Btw, how often are organs available? This would sound nice with an organ.

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24 minutes ago, Ken320 said:

By idiomatic I mean using more of the piano's capabilities, like pedaling. Or by using open chords instead of block triads. Or just letting the notes sustain. I realize there is no expression in these types of renderings so I can use my imagination and hear someone who can breathe life into the part. But still, there are things you can do regardless, like playing a bass note, holding it with the pedal and playing less repetitive lines in the right hand. Then you don't have to keep re- striking the note, unless of course you really want to. Basically the part just needs more variety. Open chords are not strictly idiomatic to the piano, as you know. I would use them for strings or brass or anything else.You might also put more melodic material in where the piano is solo. If you do nothing else, just opening up the chords would make a big difference, and your pianist will thank you. I would think it would blend in better with the choir too. Btw, how often are organs available? This would sound nice with an organ.

 

Thanks!  That's helpful!  I really don't play, so I really do need specifics like those.  Much appreciated!  At some point I'll find the time and money for a piano teacher, but at the moment I've got too many other irons on the fire so I'm delighted to have people on this site I can lean on for advice.  

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P.S.  Yes, this would be a totally doable piece for many church choirs, in which case an organ is generally available.  It's really common to have a general "keyboard" part and make the decision Sunday morning whether to use piano or organ based on the style of the piece, balance issues because of the number of singers who actually show up that morning, or even things as mundane as the organist needing to immediately launch into the Doxology at the end of the piece and having no time to walk from one instrument to the other.  That means the organist is looking at a piano part and making their own editorial decisions about stops to use and where to put a bass line in the organ pedals, or the reverse, they are looking at an organ part, ignoring the stop settings and deciding how to add piano pedaling.  Also lots of last minute changes to help the choir get their notes or to support the balance if, say, only one bass shows up to sing.  Being a church organist is a specialized calling.  

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4 hours ago, pateceramics said:

P.S.  Yes, this would be a totally doable piece for many church choirs, in which case an organ is generally available.  It's really common to have a general "keyboard" part and make the decision Sunday morning whether to use piano or organ based on the style of the piece, balance issues because of the number of singers who actually show up that morning, or even things as mundane as the organist needing to immediately launch into the Doxology at the end of the piece and having no time to walk from one instrument to the other.  That means the organist is looking at a piano part and making their own editorial decisions about stops to use and where to put a bass line in the organ pedals, or the reverse, they are looking at an organ part, ignoring the stop settings and deciding how to add piano pedaling.  Also lots of last minute changes to help the choir get their notes or to support the balance if, say, only one bass shows up to sing.  Being a church organist is a specialized calling.  


I thought the same thing. It would be a crap shoot. But if it means getting it performed, then it's worth it. You mentioned taking piano lessons. That would eat up your time, but it would be great. When I was living in New York I approached the Julliard School about studying there. But they wouldn't even take one of my credits. When I asked why she said "We want you to learn the 'Julliard Way.' I'm thinking to myself: Theory is theory. What is this Julliard way? What she is really saying is, "We'd like to extract as much cash from you as possible for as long as possible." So, you're right. Sometimes it's better to declare yourself a practitioner of music and just forge ahead.

 

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Knowledge is never wasted.  If you just go ahead and try and learn on your own, you may learn something, and you are proving the seriousness of your intent if you are able to approach formal schooling later on.  Which student do you want?  The one who gushes about how they have always wanted to be a... (composer, pastry chef, veterinarian), but has never done anything, formal or informal, related to that supposedly fiercely held dream?  Or the one who has picked up some bad habits trying to teach themself, or emphasized the wrong things in their attempts to learn, but at least when they say they feel passionately about the subject, the way they have been using their time supports their words.  

Julliard has a point, that they want any degree they confer to really reflect their curriculum decisions and teaching staff, but it also narrows their pool of students considerably to be hard-edged about it.  Not everyone can afford to spend endless time and money on a degree.  

I'm cursed with curiosity on a wide variety of subjects, each of which competes with the others for my time, and that's why I take good care of myself.  If I can get an extra decade, I'll have more time to learn.

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