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Music terminology and questions #2106477
06/22/13 10:13 PM
06/22/13 10:13 PM
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JosephAC Offline OP
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Hey folks,

I need your help with the following terms and questions:

a) what is the texture of a piece ?
b) what is the form of a piece ?
c) what is a melodic phrase ?
d) how can I determine the tempo mark of a piece ? (for pieces with no tempo mark)
e) where can I source the urtext of a classic piece from in order to determine the original intentions of the composer ? E.g Fuer Elise, Ode to Joy, Minuet in G....
f) is determining the scale of a piece is the same as determining the key note ( signature )?

Not having a good grasp of the music language is frustrating.



Joseph

Last edited by JosephAC; 06/22/13 10:15 PM.
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Re: Music terminology and questions [Re: JosephAC] #2106488
06/22/13 10:44 PM
06/22/13 10:44 PM
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Gyro Offline
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If you're a beginner, a, b, and c are not important--hit the right notes in the right time.

The tempo of a piece should be obvious from the context, if there is no tempo indication. If in doubt, play "moderato," medium speed, which will do for anything.

e, you can completely forget about, even if you reach an advanced level. In any case, the phrase "the original intentions of the composer" is essentially meaningless.

f, you can ignore at your level, or even at an advanced level.

Right now, concentrate on hitting the right notes in the right time, which is not something trivial in even relatively easy pieces.

Re: Music terminology and questions [Re: Gyro] #2106491
06/22/13 10:51 PM
06/22/13 10:51 PM
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San Diego, CA
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Gyro! Welcome back. We missed you, man.


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Re: Music terminology and questions [Re: SoundThumb] #2106522
06/23/13 12:58 AM
06/23/13 12:58 AM
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Sand Tiger Offline
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For many of the basics, I have mentioned the free Yale course before
http://oyc.yale.edu/music/musi-112

For those that don't have the time or desire for 24 lectures, Wikipedia and search is your friend.

For example, on texture:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Texture_%28music%29
Texture is often described in regard to the density, or thickness, and range, or width between lowest and highest pitches, in relative terms as well as more specifically distinguished according to the number of voices, or parts, and the relationship between these voices. For example, a thick texture contains several different "layers" of instruments. One layer could be a string section, another a brass. This would be a reasonably light texture, with not too many layers. The thickness also is affected by the amount and the richness of the instruments playing the piece. The thickness varies from light to thick. A piece's texture may be affected by the number and character of parts playing at once, the timbre of the instruments or voices playing these parts and the harmony, tempo, and rhythms used.

On forms:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Musical_form

Some brief examples:
Binary form: uses two sections (AB...); each section is often repeated (AABB...). In 18th-century western classical music, "simple binary" form was often used for dances ...

Ternary form has three parts. In Western classical music a simple ternary form has a third section that is a recapitulation of the first (ABA). Often, the first section is repeated (AABA). This approach was popular in the 18th-century operatic aria, and was called da capo (i.e. "repeat from the top") form. Later, it gave rise to the 32-bar song, with the B section then often referred to as the "middle eight". A song has more need than a dance of a self-contained form with a beginning and an end.

Rondo form has a recurring theme alternating with different (usually contrasting) sections called "episodes". It may be asymmetrical (ABACADAEA) or symmetrical (ABACABA). A recurring section, especially the main theme, is sometimes more thoroughly varied, or else one episode may be a "development" of it.


There are more. Again, the music appreciation course puts a lot of this into context, which is the best way to understand it, not in five minute Wikipedia answers.

I think that some of the advanced topics are more suitable for conservatory students that are considering a career in music, vs. hobbyist musicians. However, if a person has a keen interest go ahead. There is no right or wrong in the pursuit.

Re: Music terminology and questions [Re: JosephAC] #2106554
06/23/13 03:40 AM
06/23/13 03:40 AM
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Gyro? Gyro? Wait I have to clean my glasses ....

... it's still there, Gyro!!

Hey, a big welcome back old fella !

Re: Music terminology and questions [Re: JosephAC] #2106555
06/23/13 03:45 AM
06/23/13 03:45 AM
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>e) where can I source the urtext of a classic piece from ... ? E.g Fuer Elise, Ode to Joy, Minuet in G....

Different for each piece. Really early editions are often also found on IMSLP.org. but I'm not sure if that counts as urtext

>in order to determine the original intentions of the composer?
You can't


f) is determining the scale of a piece is the same as determining the key note ( signature )?

Sometimes a piece is in a different key than its signature. I still don't understand why. For example I have a piece of Couperin that is clearly in G minor but has signature D minor (and as a result a lot of accidentals in the score).

Last edited by wouter79; 06/23/13 04:16 AM.

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Re: Music terminology and questions [Re: Gyro] #2106567
06/23/13 04:32 AM
06/23/13 04:32 AM
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Posts: 168
Melbourne Australia
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JosephAC Offline OP
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Originally Posted by Gyro
If you're a beginner, a, b, and c are not important--hit the right notes in the right time.

The tempo of a piece should be obvious from the context, if there is no tempo indication. If in doubt, play "moderato," medium speed, which will do for anything.

e, you can completely forget about, even if you reach an advanced level. In any case, the phrase "the original intentions of the composer" is essentially meaningless.

f, you can ignore at your level, or even at an advanced level.

Right now, concentrate on hitting the right notes in the right time, which is not something trivial in even relatively easy pieces.


Thanks Gyro. I am a beginner in my second year. In addition to playing the right notes with the right fingering pattern at the right dynamics, playing steadily and to rhythm even at low speed and resist the temptation to spend extra time on what to do or what I have done have been my focus in recent times.

While as I do not need to concern myself, sometime I need to start to broaden my command of the music language. In this case, I was reading a book on playing technique and I have come across these terms. I have seen them before numerous times, looked them up and never grasped them. I was hoping that another adult clarification might just provide the right illustration to help me grasp them and remember them.


Last edited by JosephAC; 06/23/13 04:34 AM.
Re: Music terminology and questions [Re: Sand Tiger] #2106571
06/23/13 04:37 AM
06/23/13 04:37 AM
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JosephAC Offline OP
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Originally Posted by Sand Tiger
For many of the basics, I have mentioned the free Yale course before
http://oyc.yale.edu/music/musi-112

For those that don't have the time or desire for 24 lectures, Wikipedia and search is your friend.

For example, on texture:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Texture_%28music%29
Texture is often described in regard to the density, or thickness, and range, or width between lowest and highest pitches, in relative terms as well as more specifically distinguished according to the number of voices, or parts, and the relationship between these voices. For example, a thick texture contains several different "layers" of instruments. One layer could be a string section, another a brass. This would be a reasonably light texture, with not too many layers. The thickness also is affected by the amount and the richness of the instruments playing the piece. The thickness varies from light to thick. A piece's texture may be affected by the number and character of parts playing at once, the timbre of the instruments or voices playing these parts and the harmony, tempo, and rhythms used.

On forms:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Musical_form

Some brief examples:
Binary form: uses two sections (AB...); each section is often repeated (AABB...). In 18th-century western classical music, "simple binary" form was often used for dances ...

Ternary form has three parts. In Western classical music a simple ternary form has a third section that is a recapitulation of the first (ABA). Often, the first section is repeated (AABA). This approach was popular in the 18th-century operatic aria, and was called da capo (i.e. "repeat from the top") form. Later, it gave rise to the 32-bar song, with the B section then often referred to as the "middle eight". A song has more need than a dance of a self-contained form with a beginning and an end.

Rondo form has a recurring theme alternating with different (usually contrasting) sections called "episodes". It may be asymmetrical (ABACADAEA) or symmetrical (ABACABA). A recurring section, especially the main theme, is sometimes more thoroughly varied, or else one episode may be a "development" of it.


There are more. Again, the music appreciation course puts a lot of this into context, which is the best way to understand it, not in five minute Wikipedia answers.

I think that some of the advanced topics are more suitable for conservatory students that are considering a career in music, vs. hobbyist musicians. However, if a person has a keen interest go ahead. There is no right or wrong in the pursuit.


Thanks Sand Tiger. I read your Yale recommendation before. When I tried few months ago to watch them, I was not ready. I got bored. Now it might be the time to watch them over. A couple of months.

Re: Music terminology and questions [Re: wouter79] #2106572
06/23/13 04:40 AM
06/23/13 04:40 AM
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JosephAC Offline OP
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Originally Posted by wouter79
>e) where can I source the urtext of a classic piece from ... ? E.g Fuer Elise, Ode to Joy, Minuet in G....

Different for each piece. Really early editions are often also found on IMSLP.org. but I'm not sure if that counts as urtext

>in order to determine the original intentions of the composer?
You can't


f) is determining the scale of a piece is the same as determining the key note ( signature )?

Sometimes a piece is in a different key than its signature. I still don't understand why. For example I have a piece of Couperin that is clearly in G minor but has signature D minor (and as a result a lot of accidentals in the score).


Thanks Wouter79. It is good to know.

Re: Music terminology and questions [Re: JosephAC] #2106605
06/23/13 07:43 AM
06/23/13 07:43 AM
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These are all excellent questions, which appear as though, asked by someone with a background in music theory.
Glad to see Sand Tiger was able to provide good answers for you. All I am trying to do is add a bit more.

Originally Posted by JosephAC
a) what is the texture of a piece ?

Texture is the thickness or density and range of a piece. a couple examples will be
Monophonic--a single melodic line without an accompaniment.
Homophonic--a melody with an accompaniment.

Quote
b) what is the form of a piece ?

Form is the overall plan or layout of a piece of music. A couple of examples will be:
Sonata form--exposition, development, recapitulation and coda.
Prelude--through composed.

Quote
c) what is a melodic phrase ?

Phrase is a musical sentence or expression thus melodic phrase will be melodic expression or sentence.

Quote
d) how can I determine the tempo mark of a piece ? (for pieces with no tempo mark)

I would think tempo would depend on the music whether it should go slower or faster.

Quote
f) is determining the scale of a piece is the same as determining the key note ( signature )?

Key note is the tonic or the first scale degree.
Scale in traditional western music has tonic, the first scale degree, and 6 other scale degrees after the tonic and before the first octave.

Best


Charles Peck (American)--Metropolitan
Debussy--various pieces
Grieg--various pieces
Re: Music terminology and questions [Re: JosephAC] #2106608
06/23/13 08:03 AM
06/23/13 08:03 AM
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Originally Posted by JosephAC
Hey folks,
......
e) where can I source the urtext of a classic piece from in order to determine the original intentions of the composer ? E.g Fuer Elise, Ode to Joy, Minuet in G....
.......

If you post this in Pianist Corner, there maybe a few people who will be able to answer your question better.

Best


Charles Peck (American)--Metropolitan
Debussy--various pieces
Grieg--various pieces
Re: Music terminology and questions [Re: JosephAC] #2106672
06/23/13 11:03 AM
06/23/13 11:03 AM
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Sand Tiger Offline
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Originally Posted by JosephAC
Originally Posted by Sand Tiger
For many of the basics, I have mentioned the free Yale course before
http://oyc.yale.edu/music/musi-112

For those that don't have the time or desire for 24 lectures, Wikipedia and search is your friend.

For example, on texture:
...


Thanks Sand Tiger. I read your Yale recommendation before. When I tried few months ago to watch them, I was not ready. I got bored. Now it might be the time to watch them over. A couple of months.


Joseph, if you are bored by this stuff, instead of fascinated, I would avoid it. There is no need to slog through mud for any hobbyist. Work on what brings you joy, what fascinates you, not stuff that bores you. It is a hobby, it is supposed to be fun. I wouldn't recommend that anyone sit through the 24 Yale lectures if it bores them. A person can become a very good pianist with very little knowledge of terminology and history.

Learn it as needed, as it applies. For example if learning to play a rondo, or sonata, spend a very few minutes learning about that form and how it may fit into historical context.

Re: Music terminology and questions [Re: JosephAC] #2106690
06/23/13 11:33 AM
06/23/13 11:33 AM
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Originally Posted by JosephAC

I need your help with the following terms and questions:

a) what is the texture of a piece ?
b) what is the form of a piece ?
c) what is a melodic phrase ?
d) how can I determine the tempo mark of a piece ? (for pieces with no tempo mark)
e) where can I source the urtext of a classic piece from in order to determine the original intentions of the composer?
f) is determining the scale of a piece is the same as determining the key note ( signature )

Knowing that you are a relative beginner, I was wondering where these questions were coming from. I had rather guessed that it was as you have written below:

Originally Posted by JosephAC
While as I do not need to concern myself, sometime I need to start to broaden my command of the music language. In this case, I was reading a book on playing technique and I have come across these terms. I have seen them before numerous times, looked them up and never grasped them.


As Gyro wrote, you have to get at the fundamental things first, and do a lot of hands-on things. In regards to reading texts about music, well maybe they will give you some general broad idea (or not) but that's not how to do it. Could you have understood math, algebra, writing, by reading about them? No, you had to work on exercises and do things. It's the same here, and even more so since piano is physical. But here's to get you started:

a) what is the texture of a piece?
My music dictionary says "The general pattern of sound created by the elements of a work...." and then gives examples like "polyphony" which won't mean anything to you yet. However, you can start becoming aware of some things now. Does the piece you are practising have chords in the LH and a melody in the RH? Or do you hear two melodies weaving in and out? These are textures. There are many more.

I'll bet that there are a lot of musicians who have played music for years who never heard the word "texture".

b) what is the form of a piece?
When you get more advanced in music you may start studying "forms", erm, formally. Getting all the names is relatively unimportant except maybe for passing exams and sounding smart. But knowing about form in general is useful.

Example: There is music that goes a certain way for a number of lines say in C major (A), then it does a bit of a diddle and suddenly it's doing the same thing in G major (B), then diddles some more and does the same thing as the first time round (A). If you can catch on to this, then playing becomes a whole lot easier because if you've got the first A, then you also have the last one. This one is an ABA form. Its formal name is less important. See if you can discover patterns in the music you play. Do the same for music you listen to.

c) what is a melodic phrase?
Melodic means it's in the melody. A phrase is like a sentence, like something that hangs together. In the song "Twinkle", it would seem weird to sing "Twinkle, twinkle Lit-" and stop, or even "Twinkle, twinkle little" - "star" makes it complete. Even without the words, you don't want to stop there.

d) how can I determine the tempo mark of a piece ?
You want to determine the tempo or pace, not a number on the metronome. If it's a funeral march, how slow do people walk in a funeral? Get up, pretend you're a pall bearer, and see how you would walk? If it's a waltz, what is a comfortable waltzing speed?

e) where can I source the Urtext of a classic piece from in order to determine the original intentions of the composer?

I think you'd have to be rather advanced in music and maybe a bit of a learned scholar to be able to do that - and even then I'd have my doubts.

f) is determining the scale of a piece is the same as determining the key note (signature)?

This one IS a question for now. Ok, you (usually) get what key a piece is in through its key signature. There are two possibilities: the major or relative minor key. Example: If there is one flat then it will be in F major or its relative minor, which is 3 notes down using the notes of that key, so D minor. Your clues are that the piece will often end on the note of the key (so on F for F major) and with the I chord (so F major = FAC). The minor will tend to have a lot of accidentals on the 7th note - so for D minor, you will see lots of sharps signs in front of C to make it C#. It will tend to end on D in the melody.

In F major, you would have a major scale going from F to F, and a minor scale of some kind going from D to D. So yes, that is there, but I don't know if you can properly say that it's a way of "determining" your key.

But seriously, stay with the simple more concrete things to begin with, with an eye to expand to these other things eventually. That way, when you run into these terms, you will draw on things that you already noticed in music. It will be more meaningful.

Re: Music terminology and questions [Re: JosephAC] #2106887
06/23/13 06:34 PM
06/23/13 06:34 PM
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JosephAC Offline OP
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Keystring, I appreciate your patience and your response. I read it a couple of times already and it definitely implants the right seed for future development.

I like the maths analogy. Somehow, with maths, we acquired it and progressed to advanced levels with schooling and tertiary years. I am not sure how it will happen with music as I do not intend to study it formally. Actually, my main source of music education is gained through self study.

I must admit that my frustration with music stems largely from my slow progress and my lack of understanding of music terms. I have come in terms with my progress rate as I can not alter my making, my limitations and my age.
But I have not given up on learning music terms. Learning music is like learning a new language. Music is another language. Yes, I want to be able to converse daily and for that I might need 4 to 5 thousands words. But I also also read books and watch plays and for that I might need 20 thousand words.

The same for music. I derive satisfaction through a broader knowledge, not related to daily practices. I have always been a bigger picture person. Seeking to understand the bigger picture is my driver for this quest.

Once again, thank you.
Joseph

Last edited by JosephAC; 06/23/13 06:36 PM.
Re: Music terminology and questions [Re: JosephAC] #2107680
06/25/13 08:30 AM
06/25/13 08:30 AM
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JosephAC Offline OP
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I have some more questions :


a) Is 'rolled chords' same as arpeggio ?

b) What is 'motifs' ?

c) What does cadence mean ? Any mark for it ?

Thanks

Re: Music terminology and questions [Re: JosephAC] #2107682
06/25/13 08:37 AM
06/25/13 08:37 AM
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Joseph, except for the rolled chords, these things are not learned by reading about them and getting verbal explanations. The are learned through organized study, by doing things. If I told you what "multiplication" or the "distributive property in algebra" was, would that give it to you without working on multiplying numbers and actually working with this distributive property? If I tell you that (a + c)b = ab + ac, would this be useful for you without working with it?

Re: Music terminology and questions [Re: JosephAC] #2107685
06/25/13 08:44 AM
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Originally Posted by JosephAC

c) What does cadence mean ? Any mark for it ?


Of the things you've asked about in this thread, my feeling is that understanding cadences and learning to recognize the most common ones when you see or hear them is definitely a good thing to follow up on.

There's no marking for it. It is a description of how certain combinations of chords go together to create and then resolve a bit of "tension" in a tune's harmony. Unfortunately "tension" is another buzzword, it's hard to explain one buzzword without invoking others (which is part of keystring's point).

As a starting point, convention hymnbook arrangements on the old church songs will often have a "A-ah-men" type ending tacked on to the last verse. The way the four voices flow from one syllable to the next to form that closing fillip is an example of one very common cadence. There are a handful of cadences that pretty much cover anything you'll need to know about the topic.

An introductory theory text will introduce cadences fairly early in the harmony treatement, perhaps before getting frankly into voice leading.

Last edited by Brent H; 06/25/13 08:45 AM.

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Ars Longa, Vita Brevis
Re: Music terminology and questions [Re: keystring] #2107699
06/25/13 09:12 AM
06/25/13 09:12 AM
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Originally Posted by keystring
Joseph, except for the rolled chords, these things are not learned by reading about them and getting verbal explanations. The are learned through organized study, by doing things. If I told you what "multiplication" or the "distributive property in algebra" was, would that give it to you without working on multiplying numbers and actually working with this distributive property? If I tell you that (a + c)b = ab + ac, would this be useful for you without working with it?


Hmm, yes and no. A definition of motif would be needed, then some examples, then a piece of music with them in where you have to identify them.

Same with cadence, but perhaps more so for the theory. We can easily define what a cadence is theoretically and you can find them without ever hearing it. But yes, until you know you are hearing a perfect cadence (or whatever) it has little value.



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Re: Music terminology and questions [Re: Andy Platt] #2107707
06/25/13 09:35 AM
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Originally Posted by Andy Platt
Originally Posted by keystring
Joseph, except for the rolled chords, these things are not learned by reading about them and getting verbal explanations. The are learned through organized study, by doing things. If I told you what "multiplication" or the "distributive property in algebra" was, would that give it to you without working on multiplying numbers and actually working with this distributive property? If I tell you that (a + c)b = ab + ac, would this be useful for you without working with it?


Hmm, yes and no. A definition of motif would be needed, then some examples, then a piece of music with them in where you have to identify them.

Same with cadence, but perhaps more so for the theory. We can easily define what a cadence is theoretically and you can find them without ever hearing it. But yes, until you know you are hearing a perfect cadence (or whatever) it has little value.


I agree with you and maybe I didn't express myself very well. I mean that understanding music won't come from reading about more and more things, or going after definitions of more and more terms. At some point you have to start working with things.

I suddenly had a flashback yesterday that quite a few years back I decided I'd study music by going after terms. I had a brand new music dictionary and decided to study two pages a day. Out of curiosity I got out the dictionary - the bookmark is still where I stopped: B, between Bockstriller and Bolero. I've long forgotten what a Bockstriller is and I will probably never use that. The Boehm system won't help me because I don't play the flute. Other terms that I studied then have meaning now, because I actually worked with them. Do I regret the dictionary stint? No, because it gave me some kind of starting point when I didn't know where to start and lots of fun things to explore.

Re: Music terminology and questions [Re: JosephAC] #2107856
06/25/13 02:17 PM
06/25/13 02:17 PM
Joined: Sep 2011
Posts: 1,139
Nashville, TN
B
Brian Lucas Offline
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Brian Lucas  Offline
1000 Post Club Member
B

Joined: Sep 2011
Posts: 1,139
Nashville, TN
I always say, the music came first, the theory came after. So you should try to learn in that order. These guys are all correct, it's easier and more beneficial to attach a theory term with the sound it's describing. Especially with music, most things are easier to demonstrate than to describe.

Reminds me of a class I took in adapting books to screenplays, defining the difference between books and movies. In a book, you can spend pages setting up and describing a scene, with each little detail. In a movie, you can give that same information in a 5 second shot.


-Brian
BM in Performance, Berklee College of Music, 23+ year teacher and touring musician
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