Hello everyone,

I'm working on a Piano Trio for performance in about a month, and my target length is around 5-6 minutes. However, I haven't been able to come up with any ideas on how to expand my development section enough.

I have attached a live performance of some of what I have so far starting at measure 24. Since the performers are sight-reading there might be a few slip-ups.


Piano Trio No 1.pdf

Piano Trio #1 live.mp3

Piano Trio No 1.mp3

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  • You seem intent on preserving a certain mood and feel in this piece, so much so that it seems static and without destination. There are all sorts of possibilities for contrasting sections, but contemporary tastes in music seem to restrain composers from employing them. (Music today is much more homogenized than it used to be, which is much the reason for a development section in the first place.) The piece flows along at roughly an even pace and tenor, without any particular quirk or feature upon which to hang divertissement, other than its undulating melodic line that wends its way throughout what you have written already and so by the end begs for variation.

    You have tried key and time signature changes, and tossed the theme up and down the ranges of both the cello and the violin; perhaps careful rhythmic variation wouldn't upset the ambiance you seem bent upon preserving. Another approach would be to introduce tendentious substitution chords into the harmony.

    Ultimately, the entire piece would be much improved if there was a way that you could introduce a definite momentum that compelled the listener to stay with the music till its end. But that may not be feasible in a contemporary piece.

  • I like all the melodic variation you've done so far.

    I agree with Al that more rhythmic variation would be nice (maybe some augmentation, diminution, etc. of the rhythms in the melody). In addition, I think you need more variation in harmonic rhythm and phrase structure to keep things interesting. Right now, just about every section is made of long, complete phrases with 1 chord change per measure, and this gets monotonous after a while. To fix this, you might try fragmenting the melody a bit more and passing it between instruments (you already do this a little around m. 56) and letting the harmony sit on the same chord for a while. In classical sonata form, composers sometimes even hold a single dominant chord for the entire last section of the development (creating interest with neigbour chords, register change, and so on) so that when the regular chord progression finally returns, it feels like quite a contrast.

  • Thanks for all the suggestions!

    Al, I think I see what you are saying about how the piece has a single mood. I'm not entirely sure how to avert this with the ensemble I have though. 

    I'll try to add more rhythmic and harmonic variety. Passing the melody between the violin and cello is also something I will do more. 

    I also agree that the transitions are pretty jarring right now. That's something I've been trying to solve for a while, but I haven't been able to make progress there yet. I think I understand your comment on how the beginning sounds like the middle, so I'll try to work on making the introduction smoother.

  • I like this a lot.  It has very beautiful melodies and very moving mood.

    As for how to continue... m.96 seems to be heading in a promising new direction. I would go for more modulations to ever more distant keys, perhaps with each modulation bolder and closer together as you progress. The overall direction of the piece so far seems to be wanting to go for an extended buildup to climax. I would maybe aim for more intensity, maybe build up to where the cello will have tremolo double stops and the violin plays lots of virtuosic arpeggios. Not immediately, of course, but that could serve as a good climactic goal to reach, perhaps right before the recapitulation.

    The question, of course, is how to get there.... perhaps you could consider cutting up your current themes into short motifs, and pasting them together in brand new ways. That might serve as a seed for generating new material as you build up toward the climactic passage. In fact, it might not be bad to write the climactic passage now, and then think about how to get there from here.

    One general comment to think about, though: I'm assuming you're aiming for a traditional sonata form, or a sonata-like form of some kind, with an exposition, a development, and a recapitulation. If viewed in that manner, I think part of your struggle may be due to insufficient contrast between the 1st and 2nd themes. It seems that mm.28-37 is a transition between the two themes. The fact that this transition happens in the home key gives the music a somewhat static sense, without much forward momentum.  Perhaps one thing to consider is to rework the passage prior to this transition so that it happens in a different key from the home key -- maybe in the dominant, or some closely-related key like that. The material itself can remain unchanged except for the transposition. This will mostly preserve the current mood, but also impart the music a sense of anticipation, that there's more to come.

    Then in the following passage, I'd recommend thinking about how to contrast it a little more. Maybe use a different accompaniment style on the piano, or change something.  Basically, you want it to contrast with the preceding theme, so that in the development section, you can exploit this contrast to create more forward momentum to build towards your climax. The more contrasting your themes are, the easier it will be to exploit the tension to create new material for the development.

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