5

So, I'm writing a Theme and Variations piece using the Happy Birthday melody. And I am writing it for a string quartet. I know I will have or already have these variations:

  • Eighth note variation - Finished
  • Sixteenth note variation - Finished
  • Alla Marcia variation(3/4 melody turns into 2/4 march) - Working on right now
  • Alberti Bass variation(Cello plays Alberti bass while other instruments play a block harmonization of the melody) - Towards the middle of the variations
  • Cadenza variation(First violin plays a cadenza over the melody) - Towards the end of the variations
  • Canon variation - Penultimate or Ultimate variation of the set

And I'm thinking of possibly including these:

  • Syncopation, but in original 3/4 time signature(Kind of like Variation V of Mozart's 12 Variations on Twinkle Twinkle Little star in that the melody would probably be broken up between the instruments to keep interest up as well as make the syncopation more obvious) - Probably also towards the middle of the set
  • Minor key? - This is one am less sure about. I mean, it would change the feeling completely. Happy Birthday is, as the name suggests, a happy sounding song. Turning it emotionally on its head? I mean that might be interesting, but would it fit in with the rest of the piece which is in F major?
  • Chorale? - I mean, I could do it. I have written Bach Chorale-like sections within a larger piece for piano solo in a form such as Rondo. And that was with more than 4 notes, like up to 8 notes at a time. That's possible with the string quartet as well. Since Happy Birthday is at Andante, should I make the Chorale variation an Adagio at like 65 BPM and have it switch back to 80 BPM afterwards if I decide to include this variation?

The variation I am asking about is the Alla Marcia variation. How do I take a 3/4 melody like this melody:

enter image description here

and convert it into 2/4 in such a way that I don't end with a half bar? Or do I have to end with a half bar? This is just 1 example of me taking Happy Birthday and turning it into 2/4 on the piano.

But, how would I notate that? And are there any tips that will help me convert any melody in 3/4 into 2/4 in case I want to do a march variation on a different 3/4 melody?

  • 4
    Don't forget that a lot of marches are in 6/8 - that still gives the 'left, right' feel. – Tim Jun 7 at 7:47
6

Your video is Happy Birthday in 2/4 but I think it would be more musical to take the written 3/4 version and add a 1/4 note duration to every downbeat so each bar becomes 4 beats, or two bars of 2/4. It would sound less rushed and would allow you to play it in a wide range of tempos.

Bar 1 becomes half, quarter quarter

Bar 2 becomes a half tied to quarter, dotted eighth, sixteenth, like this:

enter image description here

I think this has a better flow and more of a march feel.

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  • Except I would halve all your note values (and make 2 of your measures into one measure). – Alexander Woo Jun 7 at 6:04
  • 1
    @AlexanderWoo I’m sorry I don’t agree. Marches are typically written with these types of rhythms. Also halving it would make the dotted 8th-sixteenth a dotted 16th-32nd, way too busy. – John Belzaguy Jun 7 at 6:14
  • This is what I thought before I saw your idea. +1. – Tim Jun 7 at 7:48
  • Thanks @Tim, this is what is logical and musical to me. – John Belzaguy Jun 7 at 22:48
5

May I suggest this?

2/4 version of "Happy birthday"

Losing the upbeat produces a pause between phrases during which the accompanying strings could do something fun!

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  • 1
    Bit weird to have the accents “HAppy birthDAY to YOU”, but still I like this version better than the current alternatives. – leftaroundabout Jun 8 at 10:41
2

You played something like this. That's fine. What's your problem with notating it?

enter image description here

Or you could shift the accents and do something like this:

enter image description here

I don't think you need any 'tips'. Your improvised version was fine, you got the march feel very well.

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1

The most natural adaption to me would be in 4/4:

the syncopation should be on the word “birthday“:

quarter -, half note,

“to you”

quarter- and half note.

And as you want it in 2/4 time the half note will be 2 quarter notes tied between bar 1 and 2. With other words like the original in 3/4 but the syllable "-day" counts 2 beats!

(I must tell you I' think I've played this march already!)

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1

I would do something like this as a foundation:

enter image description here

That quarter pause works fairly well as a hook.

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  • I'm getting Broadway and tap dancing vibes from reading that melody. – Dekkadeci Jun 8 at 13:32
0

Or MAY-be . . .

enter image description here

?

Oops! Did it HAVE to be in 2/4?

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0

To me all the previous suggestions feel unnatural. Regardless of whether a part is actually sung or played on an instrument – the listener will internally sing along, and you should avoid hiccupping this more than necessary.

  1. Keep “Birth” and “You” on strong beats. In a march, strong beats are ever more dominating, and these are the words that need them.
  2. Don't stretch words too long. It's not like this can't be done, also in a newly-written melody, but for an existing melody this feels extra weird, especially if combined with the staccato-like playing you have in a march.

The only way I can see how this can be achieved is by syncopating “day”:

X:1
L:1/8
M:2/4
K:F
%%score T1
V:T1           clef=treble
% 1
[V:T1] c2 c2 | dc zf | e2 z2 | c2 c2 | dc zg | f2 z2

or

X:1
L:1/8
M:2/4
K:F
%%score T1
V:T1           clef=treble
% 1
[V:T1] c2 c2 | d3/2c/2 zf | e2 z2 | c2 c2 | d3/2c/2 zg | f2 z2

Syncopation may be not the first choice in a march, but I'd say on a weak beat it's fine.

You could add rest bars to make it four bars per line, but I would not.

What I would do, in full:

X:1
L:1/8
M:2/4
K:F
%%score T1 B
V:T1           clef=treble
V:B           clef=bass
% 1
[V:T1] c2  c2  | dc  z   f | e2 z2   | c2  c2  | dc  z g | f2  z2  |
[V:B]  F,2 E,2 | D,2 =B,,2 | C,2 D,2 | E,2 F,2 | G,2 C,2 | F,2 G,2 |
[V:T1] c2  c2  | (3:4:3c'2 a2 f2 | e2 d2   | z2  b3/2b/2 | (3:4:2a4(f2 | (3:4:2 f2) g4 | f4 ||
[V:B]  A,2 G,2 | F,2 C,2   | B,,3   (A,,| A,,2) B,,2  | C,4     | (3:4:2 z2 c,4 | F,4 ||
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0

One way to approach the question is to preserve the metrical stress points. Use the basic concept that longer rhythm values denote accents. Put the accents on first beats. Fitting 2 into 3 requires a reduction as the most straight forward change. Reduced values should produce weaker stresses so put those smaller rhythms on weak beats. The melody's phrases start with anacrusis which should be preserved.

enter image description here

Using ' for strong stress and , for weak stress, and trying to approximate the first line of text with natural speaking, it seems like the pattern lines up with 6/8...

,hap,py | 'birth,day ,to | 'you

enter image description here

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