How to Critique Music Structure

Creating a critique of a musical structure requires careful consideration of the proportions in the music and how they relate to independent sections. Musical form can be analyzed through a system of musical letters. The letters indicate each section and how it repeats within the piece. Composers will place their ideas into a musical form to create effective compositions that follow a logical progression of ideas. The structure is the basis for the creation of an entire piece. Without a solid structure, the composition will meander.

Step 1: Analyze the overall form. Identify the first section by the melody. When the melody changes in the piece, you will have a new section. Label all of the sections that match the first section with an "A." Then, label the next section "B" and any sections that match. Continue until all sections have been labeled and, when appropriate, matched. Not all sections will repeat. In those cases, you will only label the initial section.

Step 2: Time the length of each section. In music, generally, most sections will be approximately the same length. You will have to be subjective with this, but discuss any sections that you feel are too long or too short. Maybe one section is extremely slow, and the interest of the listener is lost, or one section moves too quickly, preventing the piece from developing naturally. Discuss issues of time and possible solutions.

Step 3: Identify the key of the piece. Use the circle of fifths to figure out if the piece is in a major or minor key. Some pieces do not use key signatures and rely instead on patterns of notes and intervals. In those cases, discuss the patterns used and talk about how the may relate to the larger structure.

Step 4: Find the highest and the lowest note in the piece. The highest note should only occur once in a piece while the lowest note can occur more often. Generally, the highest point in a piece comes about halfway to three-quarters of the way through the piece. If it happens too early or late, discuss how this affects the structure of the piece.


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