Analysis of simple guitar pieces

Analyses of individual works for Classical Guitar and general discussions on analysis. Normal forum copyright rules apply.
brianvds

Analysis of simple guitar pieces

Post by brianvds » Mon Dec 15, 2014 2:38 pm

I have always found music theory to be rather dry and boring, and consequently never learned much of it. I used to play piano, an instrument which you can easily handle as a kind of musical typewriter, but it seems to me that with guitar, some theoretical knowledge can actually be very handy, though I can't quite work out in what way. It's just a kind of strong intuition. :-)

Anyway, instead of trying to plow through dry-as-dust theory books, it occurred to me that it might be more meaningful to go through some actual pieces of music and see whether I can make sense of it. I quickly found that the theory books have the advantage of everything fitting neatly into the theory. With "real" pieces of music, I often can't make any sense of it whatever.

Part of the problem is that with simple pieces, the harmony very often consists of no more than two notes at a time, which strictly speaking isn't even a chord, but it seems to me that very often, there is a kind of implied harmony, and with at least some such chords I can still make some sense. Some of them seem ambiguous, i.e. without a third they can be interpreted as either major or minor chords, but this is not too much of a problem.

But what is this, for example (in the key of C)?

Image

How does one go about identifying a chord, and what do you do when you can't identify one? Do all chords have names (at least in tonal music)? And can all of them be identified as belonging to one specific degree of the key that the piece is in?

I am also unclear on what to do with this sort of figuration:

Image

Should one treat it as broken-up chords? But of so, which ones? How does one identify them?

And last of all, what exactly is one supposed to learn from this exercise? As I state above, I have a strong intuition that I am on to something here and that it is supposed to be meaningful, but I'm not entirely sure what I'm looking for! What exactly is meant by "analyzing a piece" and what is gained by it?

mmapag
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Re: Analysis of simple guitar pieces

Post by mmapag » Mon Dec 15, 2014 3:12 pm

A question would be, why do you feel that notes have to relate to chords? Above looks to me like a melody in 2 voices with a chord at the end. I am not a theorymeister by any means but a melody with a harmony note here and there is just that. Nothing more. To me, analyzing a piece is to understand the melodic and harmonic flow, the rhythms and the fingerings. But again, I am not the expert. I will watch with interest and those that are more advanced in their knowledge of music notation and theory have to say.
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Mikkel
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Re: Analysis of simple guitar pieces

Post by Mikkel » Mon Dec 15, 2014 4:26 pm

The first is simply a G7 chord without the 5th (which is common practice). The second example: 1st bar: G7, 2: C (the d can either be seen as a dissonance or am in between tone to create a chromatic bass), 3: Dm (first with the 3rd in the base, then root), then G on the 3rd beat (without the 5th) to C. So a simple V-I-II-V-I cadenze in C. Learning theory is highly recommended if you want to find out how the music works, but if you don't care why the notes sound as they do by all means just play them and enjoy the sound.

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Re: Analysis of simple guitar pieces

Post by Mikkel » Mon Dec 15, 2014 4:27 pm

Accidentaly posted twice.

Disembodied Loaf

Re: Analysis of simple guitar pieces

Post by Disembodied Loaf » Mon Dec 15, 2014 5:49 pm

Learning theory will give the music more meaning. When you have an understanding for what the chords are, you can interpret a piece more artistically. In the above arpeggio example, I notice that it's quite a simple progression: V-I-II-V-I as Mikkel stated. With that knowledge, one can play the piece and approach the cadence with tension and resolution in mind. It gives the phrase purpose.

I have enough training in theory that even when I sightread a piece, I notice anchor chords: I, IV, V, diminished, augmented 6th, etc. It really helps my interpretation sound musical and well-intentioned. So I would recommend analyzing the music you play.

Matthew Stidham

Re: Analysis of simple guitar pieces

Post by Matthew Stidham » Mon Dec 15, 2014 6:03 pm

Simple answer: passing tones. Passing tones are non chord tones that get us to other chord tones, sometimes known as color notes. So you could have a chord with a non chord tone in the melody. This may be what's throwing you off.

Also, arpeggiated chords like you show above can be considered as one chord. For instance, the first measure of the arpeggiated (8th note) passage you showed is a G7 chord. Though none of the notes stack on top of each other at the same time, you have a G,B,D, and F played in close proximity giving that aural clue.

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Re: Analysis of simple guitar pieces

Post by riffmeister » Mon Dec 15, 2014 6:22 pm

First triad is G7 (dominant 7th chord in the key of C major......usually resolves to the tonic)

Measures 1, 2, and 3 are arpeggiated versions of G7, C (with a 9th), and G7 (with a 9th). Measure 4 is C.

Personally, I think it is a very useful skill to be able to understand chord structure. Makes for a deeper understanding of music. And provides a common language when collaborating with other musicians in an ensemble setting. And ideally, one would have sufficient ear training to be able to recognize chord types by their sound.

setecordas

Re: Analysis of simple guitar pieces

Post by setecordas » Mon Dec 15, 2014 10:48 pm

To identify chords, take the notes and arrange them into a stack of intervals of thirds. The lowest note in the new arrangement of notes will normally be your root. in the first example, you have the notes f/g/b. g/b is already in thirds, so it remains to decide where the f goes. There is no third between f and g, however between b and f is a diminished fifth which is a stack of two minor thirds. So we can go ahead and say the chord is g/b/.../f. The (...) is your missing note, which would be d.

In three part harmony, it is common to leave the fifth out.

You will always assume basic triadic structure in chords when you working in tonal harmony. The exceptions are dealt with on a case by case basis.

Here are some strategies to help you analyze harmony.

1) Key. If you know the key of the song, then you will know that most chords will be root chords (I or I) of the key and dominant chords (V7). In C Major, Those chords will be C Major and G7. Other common chords will be ii, IV, and vii° chords. In C, these are D minor, F Major, and B dimished.

Most of the time, music is written with one or more chords per beat. There are plenty of exceptions to this, but it's a good general rule.

If a note appears that doesn't seem in place, look at the voice leading (notes before and after). It could just be a melodic tone that not contributing to the harmony (ie, a non chord tone). Passing tones, appoggiaturas, trills, mordents, scale tones, etc... will all be found in and around chord tones but considered notbe part of the chord.

Sometimes the harmony can be very ambiguous and lead to erroneous analysis if you don't apply some creative problem solving and forget to listen to the song along with the analysis. This is especially true of the works of modern composers, like Leo Brouwer. For instance, he has the following arpeggiated notes in the first measure of his Estudios Sencillos XI: E-C#-F# | G-F#-G | B-A-G | F#-D-B

Here is an example of erroneous analysis applied to this measure:

The Key is E minor and the first low E is sustained. Right away, the second measure is probably not a chord on G or F#, and the third chord B-A-G may be GM9, but probably not. The last group F#-D-B looks promising. This B minor in second inversion. The first group could be considered F#7 without the third A#. So you might call these chords: F#7 | F#/G | GM9? | Bm

It looks like a V7 - VI - i progression in B minor. However, we are in the key of E minor, we've neglected the sustained E, and we've assumed all the notes are chord tones a chord change per beat. If you listen to the piece, that first measure sounds nothing like what I've analyzed here.

What I should have done instead is to treat that measure holistically. A common strategy is to look at the collection of notes and determine which notes occur the most frequently and which notes the least:

E-C#-F# | G-F#-G | B-A-G | F#-D-B

E is sustained and comes on the down beat of the measure, so we will count this as being the most important. F# appears three times, G and B twice, C#, A, and D appear once each.

C# is not in the key and provides a bit of color by brightening the otherwise minor tone. D is the 7th of E, A is the 4th/11th, G is the third. The A is part of a descending scale starting on B and ending on F#. Right now, we'll just call that A a scale tone. What we are left with are the notes E - G - B - D - F# which is an E minor 9th. For the sake of a complete analysis, we may go ahead and include the A and C# to spell Em7#13. Brouwer may have used a C# to avoid the tritone with the F#, common practice in working with extended harmonies.

brianvds

Re: Analysis of simple guitar pieces

Post by brianvds » Tue Dec 16, 2014 3:09 am

Thanks for all the input thus far. It gives me much to think about, but I'll make a note of the URL of this thread so I can add to it if necessary.

I note that some members here are wonderfully fluent in recognizing chords on sight; it took me ages to work out even the perfectly straightforward ones because if a chord is not in root position (and guitar chords are often spread all over the place) it tends to throw me off completely. In my first example it certainly sounded like a 7th chord of some sort, but I simply couldn't work out which one.

A related question is this: is sort of analysis the way to go to acquire more fluency? How did everyone else here go about it? Plowed through theory books or spent more time with actual music? I find that part of the problem seems to be that in guitar music, much of the harmony is often sheared off, which makes it difficult for me to relate anything I saw in a theory book to what I see on the page.

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Tom Poore
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Re: Analysis of simple guitar pieces

Post by Tom Poore » Tue Dec 16, 2014 3:26 pm

brianvds wrote:And last of all, what exactly is one supposed to learn from this exercise? As I state above, I have a strong intuition that I am on to something here and that it is supposed to be meaningful, but I'm not entirely sure what I'm looking for! What exactly is meant by "analyzing a piece" and what is gained by it?
Here’s a quick answer to your question. By understanding harmony, you’re closer to understanding the meaning behind the music. Look at it this way. Imagine an actor who learns his lines phonetically by rote, but doesn’t understand the meaning of what he’s saying. Does anyone believe this actor will give an imaginative and nuanced performance?

Not to mention that understanding harmony makes reading and memorizing much easier. In the short musical sample you posted, someone who can’t see chords just sees a bunch of notes. Someone who can read chords sees V7, I, ii, V, I. (I’m aware this sample could be from a piece in something other than C major. But certainly the sample itself is in C.) Toss in the inversions, recognize there’s only one non-chordal tone (the bass D in the second measure), and the passage practically plays itself.

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Alicia
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Re: Analysis of simple guitar pieces

Post by Alicia » Tue Dec 16, 2014 5:34 pm

Decide what key a piece is in and then look for chords I, IV, V and V7.
There also might be chords ii, ii7 and vi
But probably not iii (unless there's about to be a key change)
And probably not vii as this might as well be V7 without its root.
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brianvds

Re: Analysis of simple guitar pieces

Post by brianvds » Wed Dec 17, 2014 1:53 am

Tom Poore wrote:
brianvds wrote:Not to mention that understanding harmony makes reading and memorizing much easier. In the short musical sample you posted, someone who can’t see chords just sees a bunch of notes. Someone who can read chords sees V7, I, ii, V, I. (I’m aware this sample could be from a piece in something other than C major. But certainly the sample itself is in C.) Toss in the inversions, recognize there’s only one non-chordal tone (the bass D in the second measure), and the passage practically plays itself.
My problem here has always been recognizing the chords - it takes me a minute or two to work out what any one particular chord is, and some I can't make sense of at all. That is hardly conducive to good sight reading! :-) I also can't work out how to find these chords on the fret board without working them out note by note, and if I do that, I am back where I started in the first place.

I suppose it improves with practice...

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Re: Analysis of simple guitar pieces

Post by Mikkel » Wed Dec 17, 2014 11:05 am

My problem here has always been recognizing the chords - it takes me a minute or two to work out what any one particular chord is, and some I can't make sense of at all. That is hardly conducive to good sight reading! :-) I also can't work out how to find these chords on the fret board without working them out note by note, and if I do that, I am back where I started in the first place.

I suppose it improves with practice...
Maybe you should pick up a beginners book on jazz guitar and go through it? Even if you don't particulairly want to play that style, it does wonders for your knowlegde of what you're doing on the fretboard. I think the ones by Jody Fischer are good.

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Re: Analysis of simple guitar pieces

Post by twang » Wed Dec 17, 2014 2:50 pm

Being an engineer, early on I figured theory would help me make sense of music. I took a theory class in college and read bunches of books. I knew a bunch of theory but like the OP, I didn't couldn't apply it and couldn't do more than a rudimentary analysis. When I started with CG I told my teacher I was also interested in learning theory and _how to apply it_. We covered, again, all the basics but then... what then made the difference was the homework-- exercises selected and presented in a progressive order and then a discussion with my teacher each week. It's the doing that's important and to that end being presented with exercises I can do. Short of something like I'm sure you can waste lots of time trying to figure it out from reading random books and websites and getting nowhere.
"An amateur is he who takes up the study of an instrument as a relaxation from his serious occupations." -- Sor

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Andrew Fryer
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Re: Analysis of simple guitar pieces

Post by Andrew Fryer » Wed Dec 17, 2014 4:07 pm

You need to retain a sense of wonder after discovering how the nuts and bolts work. E.G. Satie's Gymnopédie 1 is a good example. http://www.*** Site blocked for copyright reasons ***.com/download-she ... hp?pdf=353
Bars 37-9. The chords are Bm11, Em9, Am7, D (in my interpretation). This is a lovely way of climbing the ladder of 4ths using progressively less complicated chords each time, but try to let it awe you rather than make you think there's less to Satie than meets the ear.
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