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I'm aware that this question is long and contains many sub-questions, but I hope it is fine the way it is at the moment.

Lately I've started becoming more interested in analyzing musical scores in order to understand composition of music better and maybe even become better at creating my own music down the line. But since I'm pretty new to all of this I don't really know where to start when analyzing a piece of music, or even where to find the score if it's available anywhere.

After reading this question (Which scores are best for those who are new to analysis?) I thought to myself which piece of music I've recently listened to that I found absolutely amazing, and what I ended up with was the following: "Anchor" by Thank You Scientist from their 2019 album "Terraformer" (their best album yet in my opinion, here is a link to the whole thing: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLqtrXRqCWZbQv2In6e93nGPUl5zsmU0dj).

But there are some problems if I were to choose this song for my analysis, as

  • The music seems (to my ears) quite advanced (use of polyrhythms, switching time signatures, certain sections that don't seem to fit into categories such as "verse" or "refrain", not even mentioning the fact that it's quite long), and I'm not at all sure that I know enough about music theory to describe what makes the song special in my analysis.
  • The song is still quite recent, and the overall genre (progressive rock/metal) is rather niche, so I can't really find any analysis of the piece online to check my analysis against if I decide to go for it (I can find some reviews, but these are not interesting for me right now).
  • I don't have access to the score of the music; I don't think it exists online.

So how should I approach this? Should I go ahead and analyze it anyway; after all, I could always come back later to it when I've learnt more. But then the next question becomes obvious: how should I go about analyzing it if I don't have access to the score? Should I try to write up the score myself by ear? This would probably take me quite some time, although I can see how the activity of producing the score could be seen as quite an in-depth analysis of the score in and of itself.

If I decide to analyze this song, how should I go about all this, what are good things to look out for when I'm analyzing it and how should I write down my findings? Should I use some dedicated software, or is it fine to use something like MS word? Should I only write down technical terms, or should I include more personalized reflections about what I think about certain elements, instrumental choices, etc? In my case I'm interested in learning more about composition as part of my analysis, how should I go about analyzing it in terms of composition technique? How long can I expect my analysis to be in the end, i.e., how much work should I assume it takes to analyze it to a satisfactory degree? And if this song is too much for me to handle as a beginner, is there any song on this album that is suitable for a beginner to analyze? Are there any books or other resources I should look into before beginning this undertaking?

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  • Can you transcribe? Another option is to purchase a transcription – Todd Wilcox Nov 27 '20 at 23:20
  • @ToddWilcox I'm not quite sure what it means to transcribe, is that the same as making the score myself in this context? If that is the case I think I can make a passable transcription of the song, but maybe not professional-level. Is this something that I should do if I want to analyze it? – Scounged Nov 27 '20 at 23:33
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Lately I've started becoming more interested in analyzing musical scores in order to understand composition of music better and maybe even become better at creating my own music down the line.

This is a great idea!

It appears to me that you want to analyze a 10-minute long complex prog-rock piece based on recording only without prior experience in analysis. This might turn out too tough and get you discouraged too early.

  1. Start with simpler pieces, and learn on examples you can easily understand
  2. Look for existing analyses, and see what things the other people pay attention to, and how they interpret them. Example places to look for:
    • analyzes of classical music pieces (scores are available!)
    • textbooks and online materials on various aspects of music: form, lyrics, harmony, rhythm, instrumentation etc. typically feature examples and analyzes.

One can analyze multiple aspects of music on various levels of details. In principle if you want to improve your own composing skills, you want to learn everything, though not necessary everything at once.

For completeness, analyze your own compositions the same way. You can also exercise applying the knowledge to your music, e.g. try writing a song based on the same form as some popular song; write a song based on harmony of a popular song, but using different melody and rhythm... and so on.

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I suggest you don't think 'analyse' - just concentrate on 'describe'. Don't worry about fitting it into any pre-conceived pattern. Do all the things you suggest in the final paragraph of your question. Pencil and paper is fine. You might want to draw a stave occasionally so you can identify a musical theme as notation.

If you're stuck where to start, try the old Creative Writing 101 trick for a story about a house. 'Start at the top left-hand brick...' Having just listened to some of the track, I think you'll be able to say quite a lot about how that 'first brick' is used throughout the piece.

One hint. 'Classical' composition is all about thematic development and key relationships. Prog-rock might be more about repeated motifs with different stuff layered on top. Also, it IS rock, so where Beethoven might show off with a fugue, there's often a section of generic 'heavy' 4-in-a-bar just to give the guitarist a chance for some widdley. And why not?

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