Step-by-Step Music Score Analysis

By Carl Hose ; Updated September 15, 2017

The study, or analysis, of a musical score is akin to the analysis of a piece of literature. To analyze a music score, you need to look at many elements of the score to determine its worth in the context of your analysis. These elements include structure and key, instrumentation, and lyrical subject matter if any exists. Analyzing musical scores can be an effective way for music students to gain a better understanding of the composition process and how musical elements work together.

Melodic and Harmonic Elements

Look at the key signature of the musical composition you want to analyze. Make notes regarding the use of melody and harmony and how they relate to the key signature. A list of questions such as "Does the composer stay within the written key signature?" and "How does the key play a role in the composition's overall mood?' are important for you analysis. Preparing a list of questions before you begin can help prepare you.

Instrumental Roles

Make notes about the instruments the composition includes. Answer questions such as "Which instruments support the melody and which act as supporting characters?" Look at the role of each instrument in the song composition to see whether the musical parts function as part of the harmonic makeup or if it helps develop the melody. What are the instrument choices? Why did the composer write for those particular instruments? Would alternate instruments have had the same effect? These are all important questions to answer when you do a music score analysis.

Compositional Characteristics

Determine the period of the composition. Decide if the composer wrote to the characteristics of a specific period, such as baroque or classical. Determine if the composer shows influence by Mozart, Bach or other major composers. Make notes about the composer's success or failure in these areas.

Score Analysis Summary

Grade the musical score. Was the piece unified? Grade the effectiveness of the composer's ability to show a a knowledge of modal theory and the range and abilities of the instruments he included in his composition. Determine if the composition was well structured and whether it captured the intended emotions. State whether you feel the overall piece was enjoyable and if it demonstrated the composer's skill in a negative or positive way.

About the Author

Carl Hose is the author of the anthology "Dead Horizon" and the the zombie novella "Dead Rising." His work has appeared in "Cold Storage," "Butcher Knives and Body Counts," "Writer's Journal," and "Lighthouse Digest.". He is editor of the "Dark Light" anthology to benefit Ronald McDonald House Charities.