Tag Archive | robert buckley


Ogopogo is a great piece for beginner band written by Robert Buckley. Here is my analysis of it…

Key: D Phrygian. Yay! It’s not in Bb Major or in C Dorian (which seems to be the new favorite beginner piece key)

Form: Intro (8) | A (8) | A (8) | B (2+2+2+2) | A (8+2) | A (8) | Intro (8) | Coda (6)

Subtle variations in the accompaniment and the the way the “A” melody is stated prevent the four “A” sections from feeling too repetitious.

Note Range: Concert Bb –> G (i.e. the first 6 notes)

Rhythm: Primarily 1/4 notes. Some use of half and whole notes. very limited use of 1/8th notes. He only ever uses two 1/8th notes at a time, and only one 1/8th note pair per bar maximum.

Dynamics: This piece has excellent dynamic range across sections and within phrases. The dynamics for each section are:

p cresc. f | mp | mf | mf | f | ff | p cresc. f | mf, mp, p

In addition to the marked dynamics, Robert also orchestrates each section to reflect the dynamic marking. He makes extensive use of one bar crescendo and one bar diminuendos, which in turn then becomes an important unifying device.

Motivic Material/Development: The introduction is based on an ascending scale fragment. This concept then becomes the basis for a 2 bar secondary motif that answers the main melody (bars 7-8, 15-16, 23-24, 39-42, 49-50, 57-58). This motif has the cresc./decres. device mentioned earlier. The introduction is then inverted for the coda.

The melody in the A section is 8 bars built as 2+2+4. The initial 2 bar idea is repeated and developed in the second 2 bar phrase. This is then answered in the final 4 bar phrase. (Yes, there is some great music theory terminology that describes this type of phrase construction, but right now I can’t remember what it is and can’t be bothered looking it up. I figure the important thing is that I recognize what’s going on.)

The B section is 8 bars built as 2+2+2+2. Essentially a pair of question/answer phrases.The final 2 bars is repeated creating a transitional passage leading us back to the “A” section. This is further reinforced by breaking the one bar cresc./decres. device and instead having a 4 bar crescendo.


Intro: (m.1-8) 

Low WW’s/Br tutti,  then A.Sx/Tpt/(Fl/Ob 8va) and harmonized by Cl/T.Sx/Hn

Here’s what I find interesting…

  1. He doesn’t include Fl/Ob in m.2, but adds them in m.4. I reckon I would have just orchestrated both bars the same by default. (that’s not a good thing!)
  2. In m.7-8 he leaves out Fl/Ob/T.Sx/Hn. Again, I think I would have just defaulted “everyone in” in a unison tutti passage like this. Leaving out Fl/Ob seems like a colour choice. The Hn. is left out because it would just sit either awkwardly high or awkwardly low. The T.Sx is left out because…well I’m not quite sure why. Maybe because it is generally doubling the Hn. so it makes it more consistent for the students?
  3. In m.2, m.4, m.6 the harmony part is a dotted 1/2, the melody is three 1/4 notes. A simple and subtle way to create interest.

My takeaway: always think about every orchestration choice. Don’t just mindlessly (aka lazily) use the default settting.

Ogopogo Ex.1

A1 (m.9-16)

The melody is Cl/A.Sx. The accompaniment is a single 1/4 note on beat one of each measure, played by the low WW/Br.

A2 (m.17-24)

The melody is played by Fl/Ob in octaves with the Tpt. This is harmonised by the A.Sx/T.Sx/Hn playing a 4th or 3rd below the melody. Apart from creating an interesting harmony, this also puts these instruments in a great “easy” register.

The bassline is similar to A1, but now there is a 1/4 on beat three played by some of the low WW/Br.This is in contrast to beat one which is tutti.Again a simple and subtle way to create interest.

My takeaway: always think about every orchestration choice. Don’t just mindlessly (aka lazily) use the default settting.

Ogopogo Ex.2

B (m.25-32)

In the first phrase the melody is played by Fl/Ob in octaves with the Cl. The accompaniment is played by T.Sx/Hn in 5ths with Tbn/B.Sx /Tba (8vb)

In the second phrase the melody is played by A.Sx/Tpt. The accompaniment now in 4ths played by Cl and T.Sx/Hn./Fl.+Ob. (8va).

Apart from the obvious shift in timbre between the two phrases, there is also a shift in tessitura. (I just wanted show show off a few music theory words…I do remember a few at least!)

In m.29-30 the secondary motif is scored for Cl./A.Sx/Tpt with Fl.8va, the repetition in m.31-32 is full band tutti.

Ogopogo Ex.3.jpg

A3 (m.33-42)

Here the melody shifts to the low WWs/Br. This is punctuated by 1/4 note chords from the rest of the band, again voiced in 4ths/5ths with Cl/A.Sx/Tpt and T.Sx/Hn. The Fl/Ob. double Cl 8va.

Ogopogo Ex.4.jpg

A4 (m.43-50)

In m.43, m.45, m.47 there is a unison statement of the melody by the ensemble. However the note value has changed from a short 1/4 note (+a rest) to being a full length 1/2 note.

There is a similar shift in tessitura in m.44 as occurs in the B section.

My takeaway: This tessitura shift is a great device that I plan on stealing as some point in the future

Ogopogo Ex.5.jpg

Intro (m.51-58)

This is identical to m.1-8

Coda (m.59-64)

The orchestration approach here is the same as for the intro.

Other takeways:

  1. I like his use of the A.Sx , T.Sx in reinforcing the horns. The horns are never left alone. Sometimes it’s reinforced by one sax or the other and sometimes by both.
  2. There are a lot of subtle orchestration shifts and different instrument combinations, yet at the same time it is rock solid orchestration that will withstand the beating that a beginner band gives every piece!

No, I haven’t talked about percussion at all…I’ll do that next time. So just hold off with the beaters for just bit longer…