Analysis Question with Sample Responses 2: Bye Bye Blackbird

Analysis Question with Sample Responses 2: Bye Bye Blackbird

First 1 minute 34 seconds

First 1 minute 34 seconds (then fade)


Thank you, anonymous,  for this response and permission to publish it! 

Question: How has the treatment of improvisation/ornamentation/ embellishment and phrasing resulted in different expressive outcomes in the following works?


Bye Bye Black Bird Frank Sinatra

  • Piece has an upbeat and jolly character


Jenn Gillan: I would maybe choose different words for both of these! I know what you mean but upbeat can be confused with anacrusis and there are more sophisticated words than jolly.


  • Upbeat tune opening has short phrasings


Jenn Gillan: What makes the tune ‘upbeat’? We can’t just take your word for it.  And again, I’d use a different word to upbeat.


  • Improvisatory phrases, scalic in the keyboard, trumpets and horns play in answer to vocal line(counterpoint) these phrases are repeated throughout mainly during end of vocal line phrases, contributing to a more unpredictable character and adding energy


Jenn Gillan: You need more on what makes it improvisatory.  Consider sequences, scalic and chromatic runs, syncopation, improvising arpeggiated or scalic variations on the main theme or ‘head’, using rubato in the soloist or main melodic player but not in the other instruments, repeating notes or motifs.


  • Horns use of vibrato on long notes and at end of phrases, thickening the layers in the piece and adding energy


Jenn Gillan: Ok, but are you answering the question?


  • While horns improvise throughout the piece, the piece as a whole is still unified due to the steady drum kit in the background. Furthermore, articulation and vibrato used is repetitive, keeping the piece at jovial rather than chaotic


Jenn Gillan: I don’t think chaotic is needed here, try to describe what is there rather than what is not there. Are you answering the question? How do you know the horns are improvising? What’s happening melodically, harmonically or rhythmically?


  • Improvised sections in the horns come in at regular times e.g at the end of vocal lines phrases, further adding to the steadiness of the piece


Jenn Gillan: But how do we know they’re improvised?

  • Unlike the flute in excerpt B, the trumpets place emphasis on playing on each beat that adds to the stability of the piece whereas the flute utilises syncopation, adopting a much more impulsive character


Jenn Gillan: Well done comparing! But this is the first time you’ve compared in a comparison question.  There’s a danger in leaving this too late.  Which is why I recommend either 1. Using a table or 2. Going back and forth – eg. Version one has a faster tempo which seems even faster due to the use of semiquaver runs while version two has a slower tempo and uses quavers rather than semiquavers so seeming slower still. (Fictitious example rather than one from this piece)


Bye Bye Blackbird Etta Jones


  • Character of the piece is much more spontaneous and jolly


Jenn GIllan: I think you may need to go through your character words.  I don’t know how strong spontaneous is as a mood.


  • Opening with the solo keyboard with a light and dry drum kit in the background gives a freer character than excerpt A


Jenn Gillan: I’m glad you’re comparing now.  But you might want to say something about A to continue this sentence and be a little stronger on why using those instruments = freer. What are they doing that’s freer?


  • Vocalist plays with the words “Bye Bye Blackbird” much more in the excerpt, further adding to the carefree character of the piece


Jenn Gillan: Absolutely! But HOW are they playing with it?


  • The flute plays a similar role to the horns in excerpt A, playing improvisatory lines throughout, usually short flurries and syncopation


Jenn Gillan: Good describing some of what’s happening in the improvisation here! You could have more but it’s a start. Try describing the syncopation more.


  • The use of syncopation and short flurries of notes allows the flute to feel more spontaneous rather than the trumpets where their lines could almost be predicted that added to the steadiness of the piece
  • Phrases are less uniform and generally longer than excerpt B due to the vocalist playing around with the lyrics of the piece

Jenn Gillan: Given phrasing is a whole area of the question much more is needed here. You have some places where you get close to making some really clear points, you just need to add more at the ends to make your point clearer.  The points are in the detail! Also, remember this is a comparison question and that has to be the main focus of your analysis.