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Tutor profile: Alexander J.

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Alexander J.
Composer, Teacher, Conductor
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Questions

Subject: Writing

TutorMe
Question:

How do I start to write a 5-10 page essay?

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Alexander J.
Answer:

Whatever you do, do NOT just start writing from the beginning straight through to the end; this will result in a lopsided, stream-of-consciousness-type of paper that will be frustrating to read and, more importantly, your message will not be conveyed clearly. First, you must come up with your thesis, or central argument that you’re making in this paper that you are able to prove using evidence that you cite throughout the essay. For example, “In The Catcher In The Rye, Holden Caulfield proves to be a static character because X, Y, and Z.” In this example, X, Y, and Z are the three points you are making to support your main thesis that Holden Caulfield is a static character, and conveniently, they also set up the three main sections of your paper. All you have to do now is find evidence for each of these sections that you clearly cite and then explain in your own words. If you come up with a thesis for which you are having a hard time finding evidence, you will need to tweak your thesis so that you CAN find evidence that supports it.

Subject: Music Theory

TutorMe
Question:

What is an augmented sixth chord and how do they work?

Inactive
Alexander J.
Answer:

Augmented sixth chords are chromatically-altered chords with a predominant function (they occur immediately before a dominant chord). In a standard four-voice texture (soprano, alto, tenor, bass) “augmented sixth” refers to an interval created when the bass voice sounds (sings/plays) solfege “le” and one of the upper voices sounds “fi” (aka “fa” that has been raised a semitone). This interval le–fi is an augmented sixth and sounds exactly like a minor seventh interval. The augmented sixth interval is dissonant and must resolve itself in a very specific way, namely, outward: the bass voice must resolve “le” down to “sol” and the upper voice must resolve “fi” up to “sol.” The dissonance of the initial augmented sixth interval followed by this outward resolution to an octave gives the augmented sixth chord its unique sound. Sometimes, “le” and “fi” are inverted and the bass resolves “fi” up to “sol” and one of the upper voices resolves “le” down to “sol,” but this is less common. In a Roman numeral analysis, augmented sixth chords are notated with a “+6.” There are three standard varieties of augmented sixth chord: the “Italian” 6/3 chord, the “French” 6/4 chord, and the “German” 6/5 chord. For the Italian (It+6), there will be chord tones a 3rd and a 6th (+6) above the bass (bottom-up: le-do-fi). In a four-voice texture, the chord tone “do” will be doubled. In the French (Fr+6), there are four total chord tones including the bass (bottom-up: le-do-re-fi). In the German (Gr+6), there are also four total chord tones (bottom-up: le-do-me-fi). When resolving one of these varieties of augmented sixth chord to a dominant chord (aka a V chord), you will typically resolve all chord tones by step (“le” down to “sol,” “do” down to “ti,” “fi” up to “sol” etc.). For the Fr+6, the chord tone “re” will remain when resolving to V, since “re” is also a chord tone in “V.” For the Gr+6, resolving “me” directly down to “re” will result in forbidden parallel fifths with the bass. Thus, Gr+6 typically resolves to a cadential 6/4, which allows “do” and “me” carry over from the Gr+6 to the cadential 6/4 (and will eventually both resolve down to “ti” and “re,” respectively, but will no longer create forbidden parallels with the bass since the bass will have already resolved down). With their chromatic alteration and special voice-leading, augmented sixth chords create a strong pull to the dominant and dramatize the eventual resolution to tonic harmony.

Subject: Music

TutorMe
Question:

How do I get better at sight-singing?

Inactive
Alexander J.
Answer:

First, you must learn to quickly comprehend the basic information present in the music before you; this means mastering your key signatures, time signatures, tempo markings, and being able to tell whether a melody is in major or minor. Second, you must discover your process for quickly understanding and internalizing a melody (I say “your process” because it can be slightly different for everyone and there’s no single way to do it). To discover “your process,” you must first try several different processes. Try scanning through the melody one time, but while only considering the rhythm. Use a slow, steady tempo (slow enough so that you don’t have to slow down partway through the melody)). Include a small conducting pattern to help yourself stay rhythmically grounded in each measure. Next, consider the pitch content. What is the starting pitch? What is the ending pitch? What are the highest and lowest pitches? Then, consider the musical phrases, aka where would you take a breath? Now, try singing through the melody. As you sing, always try to audiate (hear in your mind) the note after the note you’re currently singing. It takes practice!

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