Could you please advise how I could begin with analysing pieces as it is a very important aspect. And how do I approach the analysis. Playing them on piano would be a good start but I guess it would consume a lot of time and I dont have that kind of skills on piano yet. I am really interested but I dont know where and how to begin. Please let me know if you have already talked about it somewhere. Thank you!
Here is my general process. Keep in mind, this is in the context of common practice tonal music.
- Listen deeply to the piece. To begin with, you should have a very good familiarity with how the piece sounds. You should be able to sing along and predict mentally where things are going. This takes repeated listening with focus.
- Identify large sections. This is sometimes dependent on the style of the music, but your previous listening makes it a lot easier. Look for major changes in dynamics, orchestration, major harmonic changes (key, major/minor, etc.).
- Look for large sections that are repeated in some way. For instance, you may have an 8-measure theme, that is brought back multiple times throughout a piece. It may have structural and ornamental changes, but once again your deep listening will greatly help to identify similarities.
- Conduct harmonic analysis. I first begin by simply trying to identify the underlying harmony and harmonic rhythms. If there are clear chords, then it can be just a matter of adding up notes and figuring out the chord. Your familiarity with the workings of melody and harmony come into play. The tools from Music Composition 101 will give you all you need to do harmonic analysis like this. Don’t get overwhelmed with trying to find the right Roman Numerals. If it isn’t obvious, just write down the chord name (i.e. A7, or Csus7, etc). Once you make it further, it may become obvious where there is a real modulation or tonicization and you can go back and apply roman numerals.
- Melodic Analysis. I like to follow that with analyzing the melody, looking for important structural notes. Look for notes that are chord tones, happen on strong beats, or seem to jump out at you when you listen or sing along.
- Abtract and apply. Analysis without some kind of abstraction is not that useful, so I take time after this to figure out how can I apply the concepts of the piece I analyzed. This could be using some of the progressions, melodic devices, formal design, orchestration, etc. Applying it is the critical link between analysis and improvement as a composer.
Obviously, there are many finer points that I didn’t get to here. A great book on analysis is called Guidelines for Style Analysis. I think as a composer, this style of analysis is very useful.