Musical Analysis – Extensions

One of the main aspects of an insightful performance for all advanced piano students is to acquire the necessary skills to analyse the pieces they approach. For all piano tutors, this should be a must within the piano training as it leads to a deeper understanding of the pieces. Also, it aids to make better decisions when studying musical pieces.

One of the most common resources in musical composition is the extensions. They are found in many styles, from Classical to Romantic styles. William Caplin’s definition of extension centres around two main facts:

Extra Material is incorporated in the formal functions producing an elongation

This extra Material is not “necessary” to express the function and therefore -sometimes- a subtraction can be practiced to simplify the phrase.

This resource is main used to “say it again”, but without affecting the main structure of the phrase. It is used in subordinate themes (from Allegro di Sonata forms), ternary forms, Rondeaus and even can be found in the opening ritornello, which is informally called the concerto “orchestral introduction”. Among the rounded binary form, it is commonly found in the standing on the dominant. The extension is not the only way to tweak the conventional theme types; we also have the interpolation, the expansion and the reduction.

They don’t contribute to the main structure of the phrase, but yes, to the form. 

As I considered in my article: “The main difference between extension and expansion is the fact that an extension requires an “addition” of Material while an expansion is about “swelling” the function itself. The main difference is that the EXTENSION takes part in the ongoing formal function while the interpolation doesn’t.”

The analysis of a piece should be done prior to its technical study, as the deep understanding will aid the decisions we make along the way. 

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