Music Course Work Sample: Critical Listening of Take Five by Dave Brubeck

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Middlebury College
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Course work
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Background Info and Questions

Name of Piece

The piece is Take Five by Dave Brubeck. The use of the special meter, 5/4 in the song makes Take Five.

Genre and Style

The genre of the Take Five song is a Jazz and with the style of a cool music characterized by set back and relaxed tempos, a lighter tone, bebop style contradicting.


Piece Was Written Paul Desmond wrote this piece in 1951 (Hazell et al., 1993)

Composer or Songwriter

It is Paul Desmond, Brubecks alto saxophonist who composed the song.

Performing Group

Dave Brubeck played the piano, Paul Desmond was the alto saxophone, Eugene Wright played the bass, and Joe Morello was drumming.

Recording Source (the library call number, Naxos catalog number, or complete YouTube or Rhapsody URL)

Date of Recording

The recording of the song took place on July 1, 1959

Recording Label - Columbia

Is the piece in duple or triple meter? How would you describe the tempo of the piece?

The Take Five piece fall under the quintuple meter category. It follows a steady speed that is, 170 BMP (Hazell et al., 1993)

Is the piece in major or minor mode? How do you know?

The piece falls in the Eb key minor

List all instruments and voices used. (identify by ear and research the piece to find out)

The tools used are the drum and piano. The voices in the piece are bass and alto.

Which instruments or voices usually carry the melody in this piece?

The sax and the drum solos carry the theme in the Take Five piece.

If the music begins without all of the instruments or voices sounding, write down the timestamps of the other entrances.

This song starts with drums hitting lightly where a swing 5/4 grove playing moderately. It is after four bars that the soft piano brings in blocky and the detached chords.

If this is a song, does the same melody repeat with different words? If yes, write down the timestamps for the beginning of each repeat.

The same theme is repeated to keep for a cohesive feel in the song but with a supplied variation (Ramsey, 2005). The timeout is 5/4.

Is the piece in strophic form, theme, and variations form, binary form, rondo form, or is it in a different way entirely? How do you know?

This Jazz piece melody is in ternary ABA form. The rhythm consists bassist, pianist and drummer plays uses two chords to play the rhythmic ostinato, an introductory vamp.

Is the texture of the piece predominantly monophonic, polyphonic, or homophonic? How do you know?

The texture is monophonic. The song has a thin texture with an ongoing play of a piano in the background.

Identify and Describe Events

Number Timestamp (M: SS) Event (identify, describe, discuss)

1 0:45 Introduction: The drum, piano and the double bass 5/4 grove set up having two chord ostinato, Ebm-Bbm7*8

2 1:05 Section A: The alto sax plays a melody in two string that resemble the 4-bar phrases, the D-E-E-B followed by D-E-B-E

3 1:32 Section B: Bridge melody plays through the alto sax in similar two four-bar phrases, C-B-A-G followed by C-B-A-F.

4 2:15 Section A: Here the melody D-E-E-B and D-E-E-B play

5 2:31 Section solo one, where there is the improvisation of the alto sax solo

6 2:50 Section solo two where we have the single drum improvised.

7 3:22 Section A where the melody D-E-E-B*2 is played and preceded by the Ebm-Ebm7, the intro ostinato.

8 3:57 Section B which plays the melody C-B-A-G and then C-B-A-F.


4:25 Section A: Melodies D-E-E-B and D-E-B-E play here.


5:13 The conclusion comes here with the B-B-E, with the final not as the persistent E.

Dave Brubeck is a jazz music performer who released the piece Take Five that become the best of all time top selling jazz single. Before this assignment, I had no idea with this piece of music. Take Five was the music theme for the today program NBC with its opening bars played like six times or more every day (Ramsey, 2005). The piece took the E-flat minor key, known for the feature of the distinguishing two-chord of the piano vamp; saxophone melody catchy blues-scale, the jolting drum solo, inventive, and the special quintuple time use which lead to its name. Many jazz artists produce cover versions. The saxophone melody is widely known and used by many in live performances in stage and while people busk in the streets. Cool jazz gives useful information concerning another style of jazz, the swing or Dixieland jazz or the bebop among other many modern styles of jazz, giving a clear description of the eras/dates, soloists, groups, and songs that are related to the style.

The application of critical listening in this assignment has made me change the way I have listened to music before. This listening perspective helps one to capture the physical details in the piece of music. The imaging, frequency response, tone, and the way instruments are blended manifests in critical listening. I realized the need for having control over the aspect of sound as they allow one to handle the issues present in the music and how they are integrated. One notes specific areas where there is an overlap of frequencies that hinder clear hearing.

One gets to know where and how the instruments sound is supposed to appear so as to have a realistic production. Critical listening of music sound aspects lays a foundation for a good production. Through this listening, one understands the effects of music on the feeling of the performance. I got to understand the meaning of the song well, and how unique, different styles of music are. I realized that to enjoy music one has to listen carefully.


References, L., Ullman, M., & Hazell, E. (1993). Jazz: From its origins to the present. Pearson College Div.

Ramsey, D. K., & Caulfield, P. (2005). Take five: the public and private lives of Paul Desmond. Parkside Publications.


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