I've written a sonatina for an upcoming piano recital of mine. I would like to get some feedback on improving the first and the second movement. As a fairly inexperienced composer, it would help me a lot if you see any obvious errors or common issues I could avoid.

Specifically, I am concerned with how I think I repeat the melodic ideas too much. As a sonata, I have two themes. The first one is through bars 1-8, and the second is from 33-39. I feel that I've repeated these verbatim but transposed too many times, so if there is anything I can do to add more melodic development, that would be helpful.

Additionally, I'd also like suggestions on improving the second voice in the second movement. Many times, it just plays a chord note, which is something I'd like to change.

Thank you.

Sonatina in A.pdf

Sonatina in A.mp3

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  • I like your first theme -- it has a very nice, characteristic rhythm that are easily identifiable. I think it has a lot of potential for developments. However, I think it's lacking in the development.  At the very least, I would think about breaking it down into short motifs and recombining or otherwise modifying them in the second and third movements, if not also in the first movement. Or you could try transposing it, or inverting it, or having the right hand play one of its occurrences, etc., just to spice things up a little.

    Another thing that stands out to me, is that while the piece is pleasant to listen to, it's somewhat lacking in forward momentum. One aspect of this is what Bob said, there are too many stops and starts in the first movement. While his revised version is probably not quite what you have in mind, it nevertheless illustrates the important point that having some "filler" to bridge the stop/start gaps helps a lot in the overall flow of the piece.

    But at a deeper level, I think part of the issue is that your main theme is too self-contained. It's a beautiful theme, no doubt, but the fact that it closes with a strong cadence in its home key makes it sound overly complete and conclusive, as if the music could just end right there. Because of this, the music then has to pick itself up again right after to push itself forward.   The listener also feels like the  music is just repeating itself, or just keeps going with no end in sight. If you modified the theme so that it has a weaker cadence, or ending it on a different key than it started in, or introduced some kind of unresolved tension to it, then it would help drive the music forward. The listener would feel like something is missing, and would look forward to hearing more to find out what's coming next.  For example, in bars 7-8, instead of progressing from F#m -> E -> A, you could change the melody so that the progression becomes F#m -> Bm -> E. The unresolved E chord would then demand an answer, and you could use that to lead the music to new places.

    Introducing this kind of unresolved tension may also lead to new ideas and new themes, and would help address your concern about repeating melodic ideas too much. In fact, you do have something like this in bars 13-14, where you went E7 -> B0 -> E. You could use this progression or a similar one in bar 7-8, and maybe use a different one in bars 13-14 so that it doesn't sound repetitious.

    One idea that occurs to me is to move the first statement of theme 1 to the *end* of the first movement -- its perfect cadence would be a nice way to end the movement. This leaves you with a beginning that modulates towards A minor right after the statement of the first theme -- an unresolved musical "question" that demands an answer, thus providing a good forward thrust into the meat of the first movement.

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