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Topic: More notation questions from a cretin

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  1. #1

    More notation questions from a cretin

    For awhile now I've been on the quest to develop presentable Concert Band scores of some of my music. Through the invaluable feedback from Forum members Rodney "composingatnight," Graham "Plowking," Art "gogreen1," Jeff Turner, Yjoh, FrankD, and the enthusiastic encouragement from others such as Bill "wrayer," Cass Hansen, RichardMC, Phil "fastlane," jaynkate01, Richard "sururick, Larry Alexander, Max Hamburg, RichR and Sean Damon - the scores are getting in better shape for submitting to publishers.

    But every day brings new questions. Here are some things I'm currently unsure about, and so would appreciate some input. I'll add to this thread when and if yet more questions arise.

    Here's the score for "A Most Amusing Man" which was updated 6/30/13. I'm likely to have another update before the day is over, but this link will always take you to whatever the newest version is:

    "A Most Amusing Man" for Concert Band

    The score's gone through a lot of changes since I posted the first version in The Listening Room. It was re-notated from 4/4 to 12/8, it was dropped a full step to be in F instead of G, the extreme ranges for instruments were tamed so all notes are now in the "comfortable" range, rests and notes are now correctly grouped (as per the assistance I got on THIS thread, and I've consolidated percussion lines so they aren't taking up half the page!

    DYNAMICS

    On the Listening Room thread HERE, Graham has pointed out, I believe accurately, that I indulged in dynamic marking overkill when I notated short swells like this:



    I wanted to make sure it was understood that there's a fast swell from mp up to mf and down again. But I think we can agree that I need to remove the middle dynamic and just leave the two hairpins. Right?

    PERCUSSION LINES

    I keep wrestling with the danged percussion. Initially I just threw in all the percussion I wanted, not caring if it took a whole army to play all of it. But I can see in published scores that having just 3 percussion lines in a score is average, with 5 being the most I've found. I consolidated my original 11 lines - ! - to 7, but it's still too much. I need to thin out the parts so that even more percussion instruments can be played by single musicians. Right now there are sections where all of the extra percussion is playing at the same time, making these 7 parts the fewest possible, but I'm rather sure I just need to cut some bits here and there so I can whittle it all down to 3 or 4 lines. Correct?

    Right now in the score, the order of the percussion is wrong. Once I started combining instruments, I was unsure of what the new order should be. This current list of percussion should probably be listed:

    Timpani and Blocks
    Glock
    Xylo
    Snare and Bass ("perc 4")
    Cymbals ("perc 1")
    Perc 3 (triangle etc)
    Tom-toms

    --Right? BUT - I can't find a single example of a score where the timpanist plays any additional instruments. I thought it could work in this case, with the timpani resting so often. I pictured the timpanist turning to the wood blocks so he could play those when needed. But that's just not done is it? If it is OK, that would be helpful, but I'm pretty sure it's unheard of.

    I didn't give the woodblocks to one of the percussion lines because, as I explained above, they're already busy playing other things. So, once again - I'm probably facing the need to just cut some lines so that percussion 3 or 4 can also play those blocks. Is that right?

    WOODWINDS 1 and 2

    Looking at CB scores, I can see that usually, not always, but usually there are two parts written for clarinet and the alto sax, and fairly often also for flutes. I've always tended to write just one line for all instruments, and that's what I have in this "Amusing" score. That puts me in a quandary though. Because of a number of factors, I've been told this and my other CB adaptations are all "grade 5 or 6" - It seems that for a piece to be in that apparently professional category of difficulty, then it would be expected that there would be two distinct parts for those instruments, clarinets, alto sax and flute.

    The arrangement works for me as it is. I can't quite imagine re-doing it yet again, adding 2nd parts for all those instruments. If I did, I suppose doing things like having one of the clarinets doubling the flute line an octave lower would be a starting point?

    BUT if I do end up having just one line for an instrument like clarinet that usually has two parts, then is it necessary to still say in the score "Bb Clarinet 1, 2"--? Why say that if there's just one line? I have seen scores with single lines that omit the "1, 2" and that looks logical to me. Input?

    Important caveat: Through the feedback I've gotten, I'm rather sure that this score and the others I've been working on, wouldn't be accepted by a publisher. They may show interest in what I'm able to do, but they're more likely to accept simpler things for the lower grades, and pieces that are more conventional in their structure. That being said, I'm still not deterred from wanting to submit these pieces at least as an introduction of myself to the publishers. Then, later on down the line when I have simpler, more traditional CB scores to submit, maybe it will have helped that I'd already made previous contact with these scores.

    Input on anything I've brought up in this post would be appreciated - even on things I haven't brought up. What I'm wanting is to be sure I'm not submitting things to publishers that will be dismissed out of hand simply because I didn't lay the score out in an acceptable way.

    Onwards I go!

    Randy

  2. #2

    Re: More notation questions from a cretin

    At the risk of opening up a new 'thread' of worms - I'm not sure there is a solution to your percussion issue other than to reduce. What is the average number of percussionists? Probably 3, but maybe for concert band this is a highly flexible number?

    No expert, but it looks like you've consolidated as much as you can given the number of percussionists required - and at one point (page 4 for example) it looks like 6 percussionists are required.

    Now maybe certain bands can accommodate this. In which case the consolidation of the percussion lines probably should not be reduced any more.

    I feel, sadly, you might need to consider dropping probably 2 whole lines (if not 3). Or include various 'optional' elements.

    An alternative is to change most non-pitched to a drum kit (one person, one staff, lots of bang-bang- tssssh)...just a thought.

    On the drum kit theme, you could combine the snare, bass, toms to one staff...shouldn't they all be the drum kit anyway?
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  3. #3

    Re: More notation questions from a cretin

    Quote Originally Posted by Plowking View Post
    ... I'm not sure there is a solution to your percussion issue other than to reduce...

    No expert, but it looks like you've consolidated as much as you can given the number of percussionists required - and at one point (page 4 for example) it looks like 6 percussionists are required.

    An alternative is to change most non-pitched to a drum kit (one person, one staff, lots of bang-bang- tssssh)...just a thought.

    On the drum kit theme, you could combine the snare, bass, toms to one staff...shouldn't they all be the drum kit anyway?
    That's great, Graham, I can see you really scrutinized what's going on in those percussion lines. That's it exactly, that at some points I have all those things going on simultaneously, hence my inability to reduce the lines more without just starting to cut things. It'll probably work fine to reduce, I'm just so used to hearing all that stuff, but to keep it all isn't very critical.

    "Lots of bang-bang- tssssh!" hehe--

    I hadn't wanted this to be a drum kit situation. That bass drum really needs to be the really big orchestral bass drum, not a kick drum. And I have the optional toms playing at the same time as the snare, so one player couldn't do it as written. Those are meant to be concert toms, different than toms on a kit. I suppose that could all be adapted for a kit player, but I don't care for the idea on this tune anyway.

    Meanwhile, I'm forging ahead in yet another version of the score, adding new parts for 2nd clarinet and 2nd alto sax. As I said in this thread starter, it's just seeming wrong to have only one line for those instruments.

    Randy

  4. #4
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    Re: More notation questions from a cretin

    I think the amount of parts per instrument varies depending on the difficulty level or grade level. If your looking at a junior high level band you could have from an easy to easy/intermediate level. The easy level will be more on the one part per instrument with the easy/intermediate level adding 2 parts for flute, clarinet and trumpet. Most of the high school level of music usually has 2 flute parts plus a piccolo part, 3 clarinet parts, 3 trumpets parts and many of the other instruments just having one part and adding other instruments such as oboe, bassoon, Eb Clarinet and bass clarinet. Some of the easy/intermediate pieces will also have oboe, bassoon and bass clarinet parts.

    I think the idea of having optional percussion parts would work. Most junior and high school bands have at least 6-7 percussionist available. Usually one will play just timpani and another will play just mallet instruments with the others on the other parts.

    Many of the publishers show what parts are needed for their pieces before you purchase. This would be a great resource. My daughter and I use SmartMusic for sightreading and it gives a good idea of what parts are available for each of the levels.

    Jim

  5. #5

    Re: More notation questions from a cretin

    Quote Originally Posted by Haydn View Post
    I think the amount of parts per instrument varies depending on the difficulty level or grade level. ... Most of the high school level of music usually has 2 flute parts plus a piccolo part, 3 clarinet parts, 3 trumpets parts... Some of the easy/intermediate pieces will also have oboe, bassoon and bass clarinet parts...
    Jim, thank you so much for your input. I keep thinking I'm wrapping up these CB score projects, but the need for more work keeps coming at me!

    You know me, I'm a Sonar guy. I've always primarily been concerned with sound. So I'll throw in lots of stuff just 'cuz it sounds cool--hehe. But now the real world beckons and I'm needing to write for an actual set of instruments--Yowzah, new experience for me, strange as that may seem.

    I've been getting so much great feedback both on the Forum and in PMs, guiding me in the process. But even with all the score checking and lists of notes, nobody's ever pointed out that I only have one line for those instruments that usually have at least two. I finally busted myself, asking about that issue on this thread. Now, today I've spent 8 hours working in another clarinet line, and another also sax line. The hardest part for me is getting new things into the score without screwing up what I already have.

    But even though I've worked with a lot of recording projects with large numbers of tracks, it's always been really rare for me to have more than one line with any instrument, trombones being the exception. I think it's actually been one of the "secret ingredients" for the clean sound people compliment me on. And now here I am, really needing to have more lines in order for the scores to adhere to what's accepted.

    Today's work has been hard on me because these additional lines just don't sound at all necessary to me. I'm avoiding getting too thick with the total sound, but it just sounds better to me when I can hear only one clear line from each instrument - It's really buggin' me, having this extra weight in the score. I don't think I can face going back in again and somehow coming up with yet another line for the flute. I already have two trumpets - I just can't bring myself to do a third.

    I'll get 'er done, at least some version of what the standard approved method is - My goal is to have this and my other scores look as right as I can make them before I send them out to start my rejection letter collection. But man oh man, when I started a few months ago, I had no idea it would call for so much re-writing of what I'd already written - bringing high notes down, low notes up, changing keys, now adding yet More lines - It's been overwhelming!

    Thanks again. I'll be posting a new version eventually!

    Randy

  6. #6

    Re: More notation questions from a cretin

    Hello Randy! I hope you don't mind if I make a few suggestions about the percussion?

    I took a quick look, but I gathered some ideas that might help. To me, it looks like percussion 3 could be pieced out to the other percussionists. The ratchet and triangle, I believe, can be picked up in most places by the bass drum player, and the chimes could be played by the timpanist. Keep in mind, concerning the triangle, that most bands will own more than one, so the triangle can be spread out to another player if the bass drum can't cover all of it. Additionally, I might suggest having the xylophone play the temple blocks, as they can both be played with the same mallets, so there is no need to really leave a bunch of time to transition, especially since temple blocks can be placed above a xylophone (like an organ effect )

    Also, concerning the cymbals, it's not unreasonable to have the snare drum pick up the ride-effect notes, and he could also play the "chick" effects with a closed hi-hat. With the tempo this is at, in most places I can see, they could be played simultaneously with the snare drum. This would result in a much sparser crash-cymbal part, and perhaps could be reduced to one player. Again, keep in mind that most bands would have more than one suspended cymbal.

    I just noticed before I finished this message the tremolo marks on the xylophone! For mallet percussion, just write tremolos across multiple notes stacked as a normal chord with the tremolo on the stem.

    Hope this helps, and good luck!

    And awesome writing and rendering, as always
    Michael Obermeyer, Jr.
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  7. #7

    Re: More notation questions from a cretin

    Michael -You're a champ for chiming in here to help me out!

    Quote Originally Posted by sanyarem View Post
    Hello Randy! I hope you don't mind if I make a few suggestions about the percussion?

    I took a quick look, but I gathered some ideas that might help...
    Excellent - Today I spent working on writing more parts for instruments that should have two lines, but I'm coming up to editing the percussion (yet again!) and your input is very helpful. Having different musicians play the same instrument at different times, according to their score schedule, could really be helpful.

    Another good tip I got by PM is that when you list "Percussion 1" "Percussion 2," etc, and then list the included instruments in parenthesis - If you have a slash mark after each instrument, that's indicating the parts are intended for one player. But when you use a comma, then you're indicating that you've begun the list for another percussionist. I did not know this! With that plan, I could consolidate more of these parts into fewer lines without worrying so much about thinning the actual note data out. Instruments could go ahead and overlap on those lines in the conductor's score, notated in different voices, but it would be notated according to Hoyle.
    Quote Originally Posted by sanyarem View Post
    ...I just noticed before I finished this message the tremolo marks on the xylophone! For mallet percussion, just write tremolos across multiple notes stacked as a normal chord with the tremolo on the stem...
    More stuff I did not know! Yes, that helps a lot, Michael. I thought as a percussion instrument that it would have those octave trems notated the same as for a piano. Odd to me that the convention isn't the same, but there ya go--My goal is to be By The Book, so I appreciate that note a lot. I have quite a few xylo trems in this, I'll fix them!

    Randy

  8. #8

    Re: More notation questions from a cretin

    I shall go mad. My head is full from looking and looking for a definitive answer - I turn to my Forum Professors for more notation info:

    --Divisi, solo, tutti, a2 - I cannot figure out which to use when, and what text tools in Sibelius makes them.

    Visual aid - Here's a screenshot of two bars in my newly re-notated line where I have both Clarinets 1 and 2.



    In the first measure, I definitely one just a single musician playing. In the second measure, I want however many clarinet players the band has to all be playing, half on voice one's notes, half on voice two's lower notes.

    "Tutti" isn't right, because that means all available clarinetists would be playing the same notes--right?

    So do I state the obvious in the score with "Div" or "Divisi" where I now have "Tutti?" Or do I use "a2" that I see in many scores - Or does that again imply unison notes?

    Sibelius users - I've just used "plain text" to type the words in, but maybe there's some special text I'm supposed to be using for these markings?

    Randy-meandering in the endless desert of notation mysteries

  9. #9

    Re: More notation questions from a cretin

    Where's the orchestration manual when you need it! Actually, my choice in the example you just showed would be to use Divisi as you want all players on the part to equally divide. I have played in bands where the conductor assigns the players by stands (2 to a stand) and the 1st player on the stand plays the top notes and the 2nd player plays the bottom notes. I myself would expect to see the word "tutti" after a solo passage to indicate that all players of the part can now join in and play too.
    [Music is the Rhythm, Harmony and Breath of Life]
    "Music is music, and a note's a note" - Louis 'Satchmo' Armstrong

    Rich

  10. #10
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    Re: More notation questions from a cretin

    Hi Randy,

    Don't use the word Solo, write "one player only". A Solo is something different. In the next measure "Tutti" or "All" are both acceptable choices.

    Now as to when to use divisi, a2, unison.

    If you have a single staff in your score marked Clarinet never use the word unison. By definition this staff is defined as a single clarinet part and any line of music will be played unison unless marked otherwise. You could use "one player" or "two players" followed by "Tutti" or "All", that would all work. When this part splits to 2 notes, then use "div.". The divisi notes do not need to be shown as separate stems pointed in opposite directions unless the rhythms are different. If you use opposite stems then technically you also need to put the hairpin and dynamic above the staff as well as under it.

    Now in your score if you have a single staff named Clarinets 1 & 2, never use the word divisi. Again, by definition this staff is for 2 clarinet parts, so anytime 2 notes are used, they will be divided equally into the 2 parts. When a single melodic line is written on this staff, then you need to add "a2" or "unison" to clarify if you want both parts playing it. And if you ever got to the point where you would have a local concert band perform this piece, when you create the parts you need need to create separate clarinet parts, a 1st and a 2nd. They won't like to read combined parts.

    JT

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