Puttin’ it All Together

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Long time no see my theory enthusiasts! I think it is time we put our knowledge so far to some use. From the get go I am hoping that you had a basic understanding of music fundamentals (note values, key signatures, time signatures, lines and spaces, etc…) so that the topics to come were easier to grasp. Well here is where the rubber meets the road, because we are going to do a harmonic analysis of Mozart’s Piano Sonata in B-flat, K.333, measures 1-10. This was the first sonata I analyzed at UTA, so thank you Dr. Hunt!

So first thing you should do is listen to what you are analyzing. Click here to listen to the portion we are going to discuss, which ends at the :20 mark. After listening, you want to have the sheet music, unless you are up for the challenge of doing it all by ear. The best website for public domain sheet music is the Petrucci Music Library. So we have listened, and we have the music. Basics are done. Let’s get into the real deal.

The first step you should take is addressing what key the piece is in. Luckily, a lot of classical pieces were simply titled, “sonata in X-major/minor”, which makes it easy, to an extent. But if there are no titular indicators, what do?

First thing is to look at your key signature. That will bring it to two options, the major key, or the relative minor. Let’s assume there isn’t a title to this piece. The key signature is two flats, which means we are in B-flat major, or G minor. The first chord is going to be the determining factor of the key. In this case, the first measure of music is arpeggiating a Bb major chord, and a G minor chord in first inversion. The first chord in a piece typically denotes the what key the piece is in.

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One thing that may present a challenge for first time analysts is that this isn’t a chordal texture. One more feature that could slip you up is that Mozart starts the bass voice in the treble clef, which could lead to a misanalysis of the first chord being a I^5, which isn’t bad, but isn’t right. The second measure the bass is arpeggiating a C-minor chord (ii), and is ended by switching back to the bass clef. The third measure of this phrase is the first time the bass doesn’t arpeggiate the full chord. The bass is fulfilling the root, fifth, and seventh of the V7 chord. Lucky for us, the melody of this piece provides the third to complete the chord.

There aren’t many other chords in this first section, but what a full, and rich portion of music Mozart has provided with only a handful of chords. As I have said in the past, the tendency of music is to return home, and if you listened to the music, you will hear that this section rests at the 0:20 mark where there is a V-I cadence. These demarcations in the overall piece are what help us figure out the form of a piece.

If you have kept up with me this far, then I’m guessing you are in for the long haul. I will continue to introduce new concepts as we go forward, and hope that you contact me with any questions if something doesn’t make sense. If you haven’t signed up for Lindby’s e-mail list, go to our homepage and scroll to the bottom. I have a segment that is coming out that I am pretty excited about. Could be a one-time thing, but who knows! Comment below, and thanks for turning on my corner.