Musical Composition, Theory and Songwriting/Questions about Debussy


Hello Dr Colin!
I'm having some trouble analyzing "La Que Plus Lente" by Debussy for my diploma programme notes, I have to elaborate on tone colour but I do not know how to?

Thank you! :)

Hi Kristi,

Thanks for getting in touch! I don't normally do questions on musical analysis but since you've asked, I'll do my best. You don't say whether the Debussy piece is the original for solo piano or whether it is an orchestral arrangement - of which there are several.

I suggest the first thing to do is to be absolutely clear what is meant by tone colour. It is often applied to individual instruments and in this context is often referred to as "timbre". People also speak of tone colour to describe the overall timbre of a musical moment but it must not be confused with texture, which is closely related but somewhat different. I suggest that you start by reading these pages:

Assuming that you are writing about the original piano arrangement, you could describe the various tone colours that Debussy creates during the piece. The second page above (from a student) has some good words to describe tone colour. You could use words like "rich and dark", "faint and mysterious", "haunting" and so on. Also you might find a thesaurus useful to dig out evocative words.

See how you get on with the pages above and then try going through the piece section by section, describing in words the kind of sounds that Debussy creates.

I hope this helps to get you started.

Best wishes


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Dr Colin


I can answer questions from students of "classical" composing, arranging, notation problems and music theory, writing for instruments and voice and writing music for education. I can answer questions about orchestration but I do not cover questions about pop or rock music, pop song writing or electronic music.

I taught for many years in UK up to "A" level theory and composition. I have spent many years in music education, initially (like everyone else) as a teacher. Then I moved on to advisory work (teaching teachers!) and also lectured, giving many workshops for teachers in developing music education skills and techniques. For a time I worked as a teacher-lecturer at London University's Institute of Education and eventually worked full-time as a Music Education Adviser to schools in part of London, offering advice on music education and curriculum development.


I started composing music at the age 14 (it was mostly rubbish, since you asked) and now have a large number of compositions to credit as well as many publications, especially for instrumental music and choral music. I have also written several acclaimed works for large orchestra and choir. My work has been published particularly in the UK (under different names)(notably by Boosey & Hawkes, Novello, and Schott) but also in the USA and the Netherlands.

My music for elementary players (several publications) has been performed and broadcast worldwide. I am now retired from my previous job as Music Education Adviser. These days I spend most of my time composing and arranging. I am currently working on instrumental arrangements of world national anthems for my National Anthems website and also completing a suite of very easy piano solos and duets for elementary players. For many years I have used the music program "Finale" for all my music writing activities.

International Society for Music Education; Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts.

"The Times" Educational Supplement; "Hi-Fi News and Record Review". For several years, I used to write for many of the state music education periodicals in the US and I also wrote several influential articles on instrumental music teaching for "Music Teacher" magazine in the UK. (UK).

PhD(Hons); MA(Hons); FLCM (compositon) ARCM, LMusTCL,(music diplomas)

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