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Topic: Orchestrating around Solo Piano.

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  1. #1
    Senior Member Styxx's Avatar
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    Orchestrating around Solo Piano.

    Several thousand post ago; I posted a piece written for my wife with the help of Pianoman (where ever he may be) with his excellent abilities on piano. Recently, I've begun orchestrating around the piano and was kind of curious to see how you fine musicians tackle such a task. Is there a set rule or guide for this or pretty much up to an individuals likening?
    What did I just say anyway?
    What is the best way to orchestrate around piano to keep it the dominant instrument in the mix?
    Styxx

  2. #2

    Re: Orchestrating around Solo Piano.

    Are you talking orchestra and piano? May I assume Concert Grand?

    This could get in depth, it depends on the different sections of music. If you are asking how big of an orchestra can the piano still dominate over? Any size, the orchestra will play down to the soloist. Don't expect fortissimo.

    And please, please, please don't mic the solist. Ick!
    Jess Hendricks
    DMA Student and Teaching Asst in Music Theory/ Composition at the University of Miami
    Personal Website

  3. #3

    Re: Orchestrating around Solo Piano.

    Styxx,

    I'm uncertain if you asking about writing (scoring) for an accompanying orchestra, or rather the technicalities of recording and mixing the sound for eventual playback.

    If you are talking about writing, then it's an open playing field. As Jess has implied, the piano can cut through just about anything, as long the entire orchestra is not playing fff (triple forte) against it.

    Listen to some real-world examples from Mozart (subtle) to Rachmaninoff (in-your-face!) scoring.

    As for recording, well, that's a whole science unto itself... a recording engineer (or otherwise experienced individual) should be consulted on that one...
    Steve A. Gallant

    www.SteveGallant.com

  4. #4
    Senior Member Styxx's Avatar
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    Re: Orchestrating around Solo Piano.

    Quote Originally Posted by jesshmusic
    Are you talking orchestra and piano? May I assume Concert Grand?

    This could get in depth, it depends on the different sections of music. If you are asking how big of an orchestra can the piano still dominate over? Any size, the orchestra will play down to the soloist. Don't expect fortissimo.

    And please, please, please don't mic the solist. Ick!
    I guess I'm asking a little of both. But, mainly mixing the piano so it is still the dominant instrument in the mix. Would this fall under panning techniques or? The piece I am working on is finished piano wise. I am trying to orchestrate around it but noticing the mix of instrumentation is becoming too centered and muddled tending to bury the piano audio track. I would like to keep the piano up in front yet not distorted or clipping.
    Styxx

  5. #5

    Re: Orchestrating around Solo Piano.

    Quote Originally Posted by Styxx
    I am trying to orchestrate around it but noticing the mix of instrumentation is becoming too centered and muddled tending to bury the piano audio track. I would like to keep the piano up in front yet not distorted or clipping.
    It's funny how that happens... so easily, too. It's easy to get carried away orchestrating and adding layer upon layer of colour to the "mix".

    I think to solve your problem, you'll need to apply a bit of both techniques... clever orchestrating, plus a good recording, mixing and mastering engineer to sweeten the final result on CD (or whatever media you go with).

    Your approach to orchestration will depend greatly on several factors, not the least of which will be your own personal style, instrumental preferences, and the flavour or genre you want to apply to the composition. (For example, do you want it sound chamber, symphonic, jazzy, etc.) When orchestrating, listen to the classical masters... they've "been there, done that." Above all, remember, subtle, quiet orchestration is every bit as tantalizing as the full-blown force of the entire orchestra... the key is to keep listener interested and anticipatory ("anticipatory"... is that a word?! )

    You may even want to decide, right from the start, what your virtual orchestra will be made up of, and stick to it. (for example, 2Fl, 2Ob, 2Cl, Timp+Tri, Violins 1+2, Violas, Cellos, DblBass). This combination shouldn't prove too overwhelming for your "pianist".

    If you like, let me hear your piano recording, and I'd be happy to discuss orchestration in further detail.
    Steve A. Gallant

    www.SteveGallant.com

  6. #6
    Senior Member Styxx's Avatar
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    Re: Orchestrating around Solo Piano.

    Styxx

  7. #7

    Re: Orchestrating around Solo Piano.

    I am listening the "Karon's song" as I write this...

    It's a beautiful piece, truly.

    I had no idea there was a whole other thread about the music, with some discussions about orchestration already.

    I think it stands well on it's own, but, soft intimate accompaniment would work well, too.

    In that thread, you said:
    My perspective orchestration would be, violins ens 1, viola ens 1, Flute solo, string bass, and of course piano.
    I think this would work very well. I would add cellos (entering quietly at time index 00:37 on the bass note), and possibly a bit of cor anglais (sorry, "English Horn" to you N. Americaners ) for it's melancholy and emotional quality.
    Steve A. Gallant

    www.SteveGallant.com

  8. #8
    Senior Member Styxx's Avatar
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    Re: Orchestrating around Solo Piano.

    Oh cripes I forgot all about my perspective orchestration! Thanks for reminding me.
    Thanks for the compliment and advice. I over did the first orchestration and thus been cutting back little by little. The English Horn (yes, I am familiar with "cor anglais") and that's a great idea. It would add the tenderness and sweetness I am looking for. Maybe more space between the instruments using solo instead of ensemble patches, yes? No? Maybe not?

    By the way - How is the weather there? God knows I could use some sunshine and warm weather right now. Problem is, if I came down there I don't know if I would come back.
    Styxx

  9. #9

    Re: Orchestrating around Solo Piano.

    Looking outside my office window right now, it partly cloudy and 67-degrees.

    Bermuda winters can be quite wet and windy, with an average low of 55-degrees in the evenings.
    Steve A. Gallant

    www.SteveGallant.com

  10. #10
    Senior Member Styxx's Avatar
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    Re: Orchestrating around Solo Piano.

    Quote Originally Posted by BermudaFlyer
    Looking outside my office window right now, it partly cloudy and 67-degrees.

    Bermuda winters can be quite wet and windy, with an average low of 55-degrees in the evenings.
    I'll take it!
    Styxx

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