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Topic: French Horn vs Euphonium / Violas vs Cello

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  1. #1

    French Horn vs Euphonium / Violas vs Cello

    So, I'm nearly finished orchestrating my musical, but I'm still on the fence about two scoring ideas:

    (1) Whether I should have the tenor trombone player double on the Euphonium for a few numbers, and

    (2) Whether I should replace the second cello with two violas.



    Here's how I intend to use the Euphonium:

    - In 2-part harmony with the French Horn, in its mid-to-lower range (on, but not below, the bass clef).

    - Doubling the French Horn at the octave, in its mid-to-lower range, for the melody in an instrumental section.

    - Doubling the Bass Trombone, an octave above, to punch up the end of the number (where the Tenor Trombone sounds a little too strident and the French Horn seems a little too weak).

    - Etching the melody, largely on the bass clef, under a female chorus. (Violin tremolos above the voices, string bass under Euphonium, piano chords filling out the middle).



    Am I correct in assuming that the Euphonium has a little more punch, or weight, than the French Horn (that it can be played louder and/or speak a little sooner)?

    With regard to the strings, my second cello part tends to be rather high (on the treble staff most of the time). But replacing it with 2 violas means that those occasions where I now have both cellos in unison, below the viola's lowest note, will be a bit thinner. I suppose I could compensate by having the bass play sustained notes (rather than pizz) doubled at the octave or have bassoon or organ play in unison with the cello, though that would slightly alter the pure string sound. Wondering if it's worth the trade off.

    Any thoughts on either of these ideas?

    Thanks.

    Allegro Data Solutions

  2. #2

    Re: French Horn vs Euphonium / Violas vs Cello

    Quote Originally Posted by ejr View Post
    ......With regard to the strings, my second cello part tends to be rather high (on the treble staff most of the time). But replacing it with 2 violas means that those occasions where I now have both cellos in unison, below the viola's lowest note, will be a bit thinner.
    Any thoughts on either of these ideas?

    Thanks.
    Strange, very strange. I always choose the instrument not because of the register/pitch range, but because of the timbre/nature of the sound. When choosing the instrument for its range, then you evenly use some electronic counterparts instead of the real ones. Even when a cello plays high it is completely different from a (set of) violas.

    So, don't switch! Or rewrite the score for that matter.

    Raymond

  3. #3

    Re: French Horn vs Euphonium / Violas vs Cello

    I should have been clearer about this. Yes, of course, tone (and mood) is usually the first consideration. When something doesn't sound right to me (i.e. it falls short of my vision for that section of the piece) I look at the instruments where I think the problem is. If I am doing something a out of the ordinary, or I seem to have scored it near the extremes of its range, I ask myself if there is a good reason for that. If not, I consider using a different instrument.

    In the case of the second cello, playing so much in its high range sounded a bit strained to me. As my score evolved, I found myself dividing the cellos more and more, and the higher of the two was usually forming the bottom note of triads with the first and second violins. Occasionally, I added the other cello for a four-note chord. But, more often, it either plays the bass line or doubles the string bass an octave above. The violas simply work better than having two cellos. I usually want their line to blend seamlessly into the chord with the other strings and form a pad. It stands out a little too much if played by the second cello.

    Allegro Data Solutions

  4. #4

    Re: French Horn vs Euphonium / Violas vs Cello

    Quote Originally Posted by ejr View Post

    Here's how I intend to use the Euphonium:

    - In 2-part harmony with the French Horn, in its mid-to-lower range (on, but not below, the bass clef).

    - Doubling the French Horn at the octave, in its mid-to-lower range, for the melody in an instrumental section.

    - Doubling the Bass Trombone, an octave above, to punch up the end of the number (where the Tenor Trombone sounds a little too strident and the French Horn seems a little too weak).

    - Etching the melody, largely on the bass clef, under a female chorus. (Violin tremolos above the voices, string bass under Euphonium, piano chords filling out the middle).



    Am I correct in assuming that the Euphonium has a little more punch, or weight, than the French Horn (that it can be played louder and/or speak a little sooner)?
    The euphonium is the magical cello of the brass family. It's the easiest to play, takes very little effort to do so, and is great for blending with any instrument. The euphonium has a warm and round tone that mellows out the trombones when in unison and makes horns sound fuller when played in unison. It also could be better suited for a lower horn part with it's rounder tone than an actual horn in soft passages. They're is not really a punch to the euphonium. You get a little buzz in loud passages in it's upper ranges but horns are going to cut more through the ensemble when playing loud. The euphonium's sound tends to be a blender even mixing well with woodwinds. In majestic, loud exciting passages, a euphonium can actually water down the sound of the brass especially trombones. I am a brass player and have never understood the concept of when people say "speak sooner." I can make a brass instrument speak whenever I want it to. It sounds like the real instrument you are looking for is a Wagner tuba which is a mix of a horn and a tuba. YouTube it. It's what horn players use when they need more punch in their lower range, but I am going to post one of my brass scores so you can see how real euphoniums sound blended in unison with trombones and then with horns. It mellows out trombones, makes horns sound rounder and fuller like rice to an Asian meal, but makes trumpets and cornets sound clumsy when played in 8vas in my honest opinion; sorry Holst.


  5. #5

    Re: French Horn vs Euphonium / Violas vs Cello

    Hi ejr,

    To me, orchestration is always very simple: harmony, technique (studied more than enough by our predecessors), new experiment and personal taste (dangerous in commercial music...). The last (taste) should be the guideline and it is very difficult for somebody else to judge on. Opinions may differ a lot... As to writing to the limits of the instruments, that is so typical for working with virtual instruments. In most cases, this is not a good idea, unless you write a study piece or a virtuoso concerto. Why drive the musicians to their limits? The result will probably be poor and sound artificial. I see the orchestra like a single instrument, it functions well when everything is in balance and up to the players' standards.
    So I'm afraid that's the only advice I can provide here.

    Max

  6. #6

    Re: French Horn vs Euphonium / Violas vs Cello

    Thanks for your replies.

    I have been going through my score, replacing the higher cello part with a pair of violas. So far, I am happy with the result. I am getting a better blend on the upper voices (violins + violas) than I had been (with violins + 1 cello). The lower cello sounds better, too, since the only cello sounds are now in the lower range (solo or blending with the string bass). This makes better sense with my most recent changes to the string section. Earlier, I tried to write the strings in two lines (all the violins, in unison, usually on the treble staff and two cellos below, in unison, usually doubling the violins or bass at the octave or in open voiced harmony with the violins).

    Concentrating the strings as above was intended to make them sound like a larger section. I am now trying to achieve that goal by using them more like a pad, in four-part harmony, more often and thinning out the wind instruments so the strings can be heard more easily. When the strings are playing, I tend to use the reeds and French Horn as solo instruments, or to add one or two of them to fill in the harmony when I have more than four parts. If I use the brass with the strings, I often alternate two-part harmony in the two trumpets with two-part harmony in the trombones an octave below. If all the brass is playing, I might do pedal notes with all the violins or all the lower strings above or below them. For a big tutti, I might have three-part harmony (piccolo + 2 flutes, or flute + 2 clarinets) above the brass; or clarinet and bass clarinet below the French Horn. Another technique I use frequently is three-part muted brass harmony (2 trumpets + tenor trombone) alternating with 3-part reed harmony, usually over the rhythm section or a string pad.

    My problem with the Euphonium is that I love the sound of this instrument and it is perfect for the locale and period (19th century Europe -- think operetta, waltzes and brass bands). However, it doesn't seem to fit with the rest of the score anymore and I'm having trouble justifying its use. Originally, I had only four brass instruments: 2 trumpets + tenor and bass trombones. The tenor trombone player was meant to double on the Euphonium for what is now the French Horn part. That part has become a bit more delicate. Perhaps it is just my sample set, but the French Horn simply sounds better playing it. My Horn also blends better with the reeds. Having a French Horn in the score also allows me to alternate between a woodwind quintet and a brass quartet (or a brass quintet, if the Horn plays in both). It also means that can always have two trombones to play together. (To me, they sound better in pairs). Most of the time, I use the Bass Trombone like a second Tenor Trombone. But in some places, I need really solid, powerful pedal notes, to punch up the end of a number or the act (think Les Miz). I don't want to give any of this up.

    However, of late, I have been thinking of having the tenor trombone player alternate on the Euphonium again, using it as a second French Horn, or as a replacement for it in a few places where I use the Horn in octaves with the Bass Trombone. Unfortunately, my experiments with this were not entirely satisfactory. I find that I can usually get the same result or better with other instruments. The French Horn and bassoon (or Bass Clarinet) can pass for two Horns in the few places where I am using them. I am not seeing a noticeable improvement when comparing the French Horn in octaves with the Bass Trombone to the French Horn or Tenor Trombone on that line. My feeling, at this point, is to save the Euphonium for another score. (Early on, I toyed with having the Bass Trombone player double on the Tuba, but I quickly gave up on that idea. It just didn't fit with the rest of the score as I thought it would.) In the end, I trust my hearing more than anything else, though I always find the recommendations of more experienced musicians helpful. I am sure that they will be of use to me one day.

    Allegro Data Solutions

  7. #7

    Re: French Horn vs Euphonium / Violas vs Cello

    Honestly now... are you talking about real players or samples?

    BTW, a bass trombone for example would never double on tuba...

  8. #8

    Re: French Horn vs Euphonium / Violas vs Cello

    I am talking about real players, but using what I have (which is samples). I rely on my ears, but also on what real players tell me.

    Remember that this is a score for the musical theater, where doubling is common, even among the brass (Bass trombone doubling tuba, Tenor Trombone doubling Euphonium, etc.).

    Allegro Data Solutions

  9. #9

    Re: French Horn vs Euphonium / Violas vs Cello

    I am a real life brass player myself and one thing is for certain, you cannot go by what you hear using Garritan samples, especially the brass samples, and think that's what it's going to sound like in real life. I feel that I already answered your question in my previous post and heard nothing back. Please look back at it and listen to the example I provided, because it covered everything concerning the sound of the euphonium and it's blending and orchestration with other members of the brass family. You may have a player who can double in your ensemble, heck I can double on trumpet and oboe in the same piece, lol, but you would never publish it that way.

  10. #10

    Re: French Horn vs Euphonium / Violas vs Cello

    You have a lot more instruments in your ensemble than I have to work with, more brass than any Broadway score I have ever heard. I only have five (and two of them are trumpet players).

    The musicians I have known over the years primarily play in Broadway pits, Radio City Music Hall, etc. I also corresponded for a while with a Broadway orchestrator who used a Euphonium in one of his shows running at that time.I'm going mostly on what I have heard from them, what I have heard them play, and what I hear when I play my score with my sample libraries.

    By saying that a French Horn takes longer to speak, I am quoting "The Contemporary Arranger" by Don Sebesky (who won the Tony award for the revival of KISS ME, KATE some years ago). I believe he means that it has a slower attack than, say, a trumpet. In any case, it sounds that way to me, most of the time.

    I use the JABB trumpets and trombones. But I also use the Westgate French Horn library because it is very detailed and a lot of my Horn parts are featured and exposed. My Euphonium Library is Dan Dean's Solo Euphonium (converted to Kontakt from Giga format). Comparing the two, to me, it sounds like I can usually get a more solid attack from the Euphonium samples than I can with the French Horn.

    No doubt a good Euphonium player would be able to get a sound that would please me from his instrument. So would a good French Horn player. But my question was about the most characteristic sounds of the instruments and their differences doubling at the octave with each other, or with the Bass Trombone.

    Allegro Data Solutions

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