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Peer Review of Notation/Composition

Discussion in 'Music [DB]' started by TroyK, Jan 12, 2018.

  1. TroyK

    TroyK Moderator Staff Member

    Mar 14, 2003
    Seattle, WA
    This is a new composition, which means I'm not through messing with it, of course. Played it through for the first time tonight with my regular piano player and tweeked it afterward. But, it's to the point where I can say it exists.

    I don't have conviction regarding some of my notation choices and would love for some of you who either teach or have studied notation standards to give it a peer review. This is something that I aspire to be better at. Specifically on the bridge, I modulate key centers every 4 bars and I'm not sure I should be using accidental flats in a sharp key. I'm somewhat tempted to notate the bridge as a key change, but it's actually several, so I'm not sure that's better. I generally decided to mark accidentals to correspond to the key that the phrase they are in resolves to, rather than the resolution key of the song, if that makes sense.

    Anyway, I think I would hate to read this thing, so I'd appreciate your critique on how it could be notated better. And, we haven't done this for a while, but we used to share compositions for feedback here as well. I certainly welcome them in this case as well.

    There are more lyrics, I just didn't notate them all on the sheet. Don't know if anyone will ever sing them or not. Playing it as an instrumental for now. I will say that the mood changes/discordance correspond to the lyrical story and they are deliberate, though perhaps labored in spots.

    Copyright, all rights reserved, etc.

    Thanks in advance, guys.

    Attached Files:

  2. You’re right about the bridge. Hard to read.
    This will help:

    Measure 23: after the F#7 include a Gb7 in parentheses to show the reader they are about to pivot into a new key.
    Measure 28: the third of an Abm7 chord is Cb, not B natural—you can’t have a B flat and B natural in the same scale.
    Measure 29: you gotta flat that first B, not the second one. Even if you don’t correct the B natural to a C flat in the previous bar, accidentals don’t carry across bar lines.
  3. oliebrice


    Apr 7, 2003
    Hastings, UK
    For what it's worth, I disagree with this advice. This is a piece for jazz musicians to play, right? So you want to convey the information as simply as possible to allow the improviser to get past reading and start making music. In which case, I don't think it would ever be a good idea to spell the same chord in two different ways simultaneously - F#7 does the job fine

    similarly, personally I'd rather see a B than a Cb, my reading brain will deal quicker with the B, my ear will tell me its the third of the chord (I know a lot of people disagree with me about this though)
    measure 29, maybe I'm missing something but what makes you think the flat is on the wrong B?
    isolated likes this.
  4. Bisounourse


    Jun 21, 2012
    Gent, Belgium
    Yes in a Abm7, there is a Cb, but there are 3 # next to the clef (I think it is anotation, but I'm not sure , I don't know how this is called in English), so writing a Cb would seriously screw with my brain; is it a C# half a tone lower (which would be a C), or is it a Cb as intended. A B natural would avoid problems, also because I see it as a diatonic approach to the next Db.

    All in all, I would look at the 3 sharps at the beginning; it is confusing to see flat/b chords when the 'anotation' are sharps/#. Maybe chage the key mid song and then go back to the orignal key after the bridge?
  5. isolated

    isolated Zenkaku

    Dec 7, 2004
    I'll second that. The best way to cause a train wreck is to make anybody else say "wait, what?" in the midst of reading. Three more bars just went by while they're trying to process the notation. I know this because I've been subject to this phenomenon as well as responsible for it.
    oliebrice likes this.
  6. TroyK

    TroyK Moderator Staff Member

    Mar 14, 2003
    Seattle, WA
    All really good and welcome feedback. Thanks and keep it coming.

    I am a jazz player and the intent is to create a jazz leadsheet, so I want to err on the side of making it easy for jazz musicians to process.

    One of the things that concerns me about this chart as it is that depending on what I do with this song, I may need to created transposed Eb and/or Bb charts for horns and I'm not sure what will happen then. And it does have lyrics and we end up using it with a vocalist, it will probably move to a different key...can't say which one. And we work with more than one vocalist, so if people actually decide that they like it and we were to do it with more than one singer, it will probably go to more than one key.

    Dealing with it in A/F#- is one exercise, having a chart that can be transposed and still make sense is not going to be easy with this one. Most of what I've written to date is much more harmonically straight forward.
  7. notabene


    Sep 20, 2010
    SF Bay area
    While I think the great range is a real problem, you might try other keys, which maintain the "feel" of the tune. Transposing sharp keys, (sight reading wise) is fine for winds who have played with guitar oriented (rock?) would not have issues, but jazz players, sight reading) often find flat keys easier reading. This, in A, is in F# for alto or bari sax. Very common for rockers, not so much for jazz jammers.

    Leo Smith likes this.
  8. TroyK

    TroyK Moderator Staff Member

    Mar 14, 2003
    Seattle, WA
    Excellent point as well. I can't really explain why I wrote it in A to begin with, it's just where I heard it. I'd have to go through my catalogue, but everything else I've written off the top of my head is in more traditional jazz keys: G-, C-, F, Bb, Eb...

    This is just where I initially heard the melody. I think the lyrics are actually pretty good on this one, so in the back of my mind, it's always been a vocal tune and I fully expect the key to be ultimately be decided by whoever ends up singing it. Immediate term, it's a trio tune and the piano player doesn't care about A/F#-. I would be prepared to transpose it for whatever group/instruments that it was ultimately embraced by.
    Leo Smith likes this.
  9. Leo Smith

    Leo Smith

    Oct 21, 2009
    Brooklyn, NY
    I'm a jazz / pop / classical guy, and did a lot of copy work (Finale) during my time in Air Force. Here are my few thoughts. Some nitpicky things, but this chart is VERY good and readable.

    m6 - good courtesy accidental on the C#, but maybe put it in parenthesis so as to not confuse it with the key signature. Or, use note spacing to move the note away from the key signature. The same at m40.
    m13 - the "p" should be under the staff. The same at m47.
    m16 to 19 - your repeat signals should be taller. The chord symbols should be underneath, as well as the "1" and "2" that indicate the endings.
    m20 and 21 - natural sign on the D not needed here.
    m51 - leave melody note out? Or change chord to perhaps "D/E" to reflect melody note. Some very experienced player reading your chart will probably do that anyway...

    To me this bridge is readable, and clearly indicates that it temporarily moves through other key signatures besides the original. With that in mind, m28 must have a Cb, not a B natural, because Cb is in the Abm7 chord that's indicated. On that same thinking, I think the tied note in m29 is a Cb (7th of the Db7 chord) that passes down to the Bb. Finally in the bridge, m34 - A# clashes with the chord symbol.

    Again, just my thoughts as a copyist but also someone who would read this chart.

    When it comes time to transpose for other instruments and singers, you'll have to check your work again to make sure it looks right and flows correctly. I can already see where some chords in the bridge will get flipped to an enharmonic spelling. For example, move it up a minor third, and mm24-27 might end up as Dbm7 | Gb7 | BMaj7 | Cdim... sonically correct, but doesn't visually indicate the 2-5-1 nature of the progression... So, it's something to watch for. Proofreading saves a lot of confusion in rehearsals and gigs!
  10. Leo Smith

    Leo Smith

    Oct 21, 2009
    Brooklyn, NY
    In English, this is called the key signature.

    Also, your suggestion to change the bridge to a "flats" key signature might be a good idea. It's not unprecedented to make such a key change. Lead sheets to "Chelsea Bridge" and "Body and Soul" come to mind...
    Last edited: Jan 12, 2018
  11. TroyK

    TroyK Moderator Staff Member

    Mar 14, 2003
    Seattle, WA
    Thank you so much for your response, Leo. It's very helpful. I will take it all to heart.
  12. TroyK

    TroyK Moderator Staff Member

    Mar 14, 2003
    Seattle, WA
    Part of my hesitance to do this is wondering if that would be the right choice in whatever key the composition may or may not get transposed to some day. A little too much theoretical brain power for me to reason that all the way out. Also, the bridge is not cleanly in a single other key, so I'll still have some awkwardness, but I could probably figure out how to minimize that...at least in it's current key.
  13. Tom Lane

    Tom Lane Gold Supporting Member Supporting Member

    I'm no expert but I was curious and pride myself on making legible charts so I printed it out and had a go at it. I'd say I'm pretty good at reading charts to play the bassline but poor at reading dots, still I didn't have any trouble reading the chords and the melody at about 90 bpm so it seems to me unlikely that you'll play with anyone who'll have trouble reading what you have. Leo's comments all sounded like good advice to me. I highlighted the few things I would consider changing if I were you. I also can't remember the last time I played a tune in A Major but I didn't find it an issue. I think dreamdream's idea about putting a Gb7 in parens was helpful to prepare me for the unusual chord change. Having 4 bars per line really helps me anticipate the key changes in the bridge. I would change that B Natural to a Cb because it does convey more info. Ah, last thing, since you're not going to get it to fit on one page, I would remove the repeat and just write it out straight and take up both pages fully. And, you might consider making the chord symbols a bit larger - poor lighting, old eyes, too much liquid courage, bigger is usually better.

    Thinking about this a little more, I now think changing the key signatures in the bridge is a good idea, especially if it appears at the end of the previous line because it will make the key centers that much more transparent and removes a bunch of accidentals. Not critical, but probably helpful for the soloists.
    Its You Again.
    Last edited: Jan 12, 2018
  14. bengreen


    Jan 26, 2016
    San Diego
    Personally, I find melodic lines much easier to sight read if they look like what they sound like.

    At 28 you have a lovely step wise melody for the first two bars. Simple do re mi fa sol stuff. But your choice of notation makes it look like there's a larger interval in there.

    I know there's often harmonic reasons to get weird with accidentals, but if we're just talking about making the line readable, I'd go with the Cb if you want to use flats, or alternately lose all the flats and go with sharps. Then it will look like it sounds.
  15. TroyK

    TroyK Moderator Staff Member

    Mar 14, 2003
    Seattle, WA
    Thank, Tom. I really appreciate it.

    Deliah is in F#-, so it's not unprecedented, but then again, I really have no excuse. It's just where I happened to start it, in the middle of the night when I should have been sleeping.

    I personally HATE reading a chart and coming upon a Cb. But I understand the reasoning and I should probably change it. There are people who will make fun of me when I do, because they've seen me melt down over this is the past.

    Good suggestion, I think I'll do that. It will also make it easier to add the rest of the lyrics at some point if I chose to.

    Yeah, I fought with Sibelius on this a bit and gave up, but you're right. I could have set the font and size before started, but I struggled and failed to make a global change after the fact. I also prefer dashs for minor and triangles major in chord symbols, which I know I can set Sibelius up to do, but didn't work that out in advance. There are some other formatting issues that I'm not settled on either and I'll circle back to them.
    Tom Lane likes this.
  16. Chris Fitzgerald

    Chris Fitzgerald Student of Life Staff Member Administrator

    Oct 19, 2000
    Louisville, KY
    Troy - Nice tune! I think the suggestions so far are all good. Not everyone will agree on everything, and that's just people being having their own opinions. Notationally, I tend to prefer the Cb in m. 28 because it makes a diatonic scale wise passage in Gb sound like what it looks like. The courtesy accidentals reminding the reader that the key signature is back in effect after a previous change are are always welcome in my experience, but because they are redundant I usually tend to put them in parentheses. Not sure about Sibelius First, but in Sibelius this is done on the keypad window on one of the alternate keypads; for the chord symbol fonts, does Sibelius First have a "filter" function like Sibelius? If so, it should be easy to change them globally.

    Last, regarding the chord symbol entry, I don't know what features Sibelius First has, but in Sibelius I think the ability to have chord qualities appear as you enter them (i.e. - minus for minor, triangle for major 7, etc.) is attached to a setting called "legacy chord symbols", which was one of my favorite features of Sibelius when I switched over from Finale many years ago.

    Musically, I think the tune is nice and works well. I printed it and sang through it and I think most things work. There are a couple of places where I heard alternate chord possibilities, so I scribbled these on the chart in parentheses and will attach them below. I don't know that they are any better than what you have, but they are where my ear wanted to go. The one place where I hear something completely different than what's written is at the end of the bridge. The sequential bridge works nicely up until the last line, but there my ear wants some harmonic darkness and tension right where the words "tainted" and "sordid" happen. I scribbled in one possibility that keeps the basic melodic contour intact but ads a little of these elements to stir up the soup before the return of the major theme. They are pretty much off the cuff, but my ear wants something darker on this last line. Hope some of this mess is useful!

  17. TroyK

    TroyK Moderator Staff Member

    Mar 14, 2003
    Seattle, WA
    Thanks, @Chris Fitzgerald

    I've rewritten that last line in the bridge....30 times(?) and I still don't have conviction in it, so I'll play your suggestion. What sounded right to me tended not to lead back to the A Major melody for the 3rd A. I'll process all of this over the weekend and draw up a new chart.

    Jon (who you met at Aebersold some years ago) was over last night playing it with me and we had a few knife fights over some of the chords. I took some of his substitutions and dug in hard on others. He really doesn't like the G Major in Bar 14, none of you seem to object to it yet.

    Compositionally, there is a story and a sentiment behind this song and I would liken it to "What's New" or "Angel Eyes" where lyrically there is a first person account of a relationship that is both comfortable and sentimental and also really bad for the protagonist. I always admired how those songs shifted major and minor tonalities to musically tell the story of someone trying to act like it's no big deal when in fact they are dying inside.

    I had a particularly bad romantic relationship in the late 80s that was not far from mind when I was writing this, but it is actually not about that. I have recurring insomnia. It goes away for months or years and then shows back up and lasts for weeks or months. When it does I usually listen to records or try to practice. This tune started developing from one of those months. Unlike "Guess Who I Saw Today", I never reveal the punchline in the lyrics, because a jazz vocalist singing about her heart being broken by a cruel lover that she's powerless over is much more compelling.

    I did my best to try to tell that story compositionally in hopes that the sentiment would come across, even instrumentally. Not sure I achieved that yet, but we're playing it and I'll see. If nothing else, it's been a good exercise for me.

    I really appreciate all the input. When you need Talkbass to be there for you, it really is. When you don't, it's easy to forget what we have here.
    Chris Fitzgerald likes this.
  18. Tom Lane

    Tom Lane Gold Supporting Member Supporting Member

    I can see why your friend would object to the Gmaj7 in bar 14 because you have a C# for the first half of the measure in the melody. It didn't and doesn't bother me, but the C# and D Natural make a flat 9th that people tend to use sparingly - unless you're Monk! ;) You could consider a B7 there instead if you were to follow Chris' philosophy "what did the melody do?"
  19. TroyK

    TroyK Moderator Staff Member

    Mar 14, 2003
    Seattle, WA
    Oh sure, take his side now that I bring it up!

    We played it both ways. B- and GMaj are almost the same chord: B is the 3rd of G and the root of B-, D is the 5th of G and the 3rd of B-, A is the 9th of G and the 7th of B-. The G is arguably the 6th of B- (depending), but it is unsettling as a bass note and I like the unexpected dissonance. The lyric under it is "It's true, but it just don't feel right". :)

    I have a process with composition (that you're all part of now), wherein I write them, chart them, and then turn them over to musicians I respect who say "cool song man, dig it....of course this part is garbage and there's no way you can use that chord there and wouldn't it sound better if..." Everything I've written is better because I either find out that I have conviction about my choices or someone gets through to me. So, I really do want the feedback and I don't think this one is quite baked yet...but I'm protecting that G Major!
    Evert and Tom Lane like this.
  20. Scott Lynch

    Scott Lynch Supporting Member

    Nov 27, 2002
    Delaware, USA
    Troy, one thing that comes to mind regarding the ii-V-I in mm. 28-30 - Since the tune is in a sharp key already I'd rather write that enharmonically as G#m7 C#7 F#7. The melody may look a little cleaner there as it would have fewer accidentals.

    Thanks for sharing the tune with us!

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