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Topic: Instrument comobs/Samples for Replacing Piano

  1. #1

    Instrument comobs/Samples for Replacing Piano

    Hi Everyone,

    I have a composition in piano. Left hand clunky piano chords (which we aren't suppose to do and I don't particuarly like), right hand piano is melody. Appreciate any tips and tricks for instruments/samples that map well to replace piano. I think a flute works ok for the right hand melody, and I suppose I could combine bass/cello/violin strings for left hand, but would like to save strings for later and need a more delicate intro at first. Wonder if there are any other good combos that map especially well. Comp is sort of orchestral, but sort of not - so maybe even acoustic/nylon guitar and flute? Actually, I'd like to loose the flute too, but because these are instruments that are "out front", with out any pads to hide them on the song intro, I have to be careful to use things that sound decent. Maybe harp and guitar?

    Those that can only write in piano will understand the constant challenge with this. Thanks for any ideas, things that worked for you....

  2. #2
    Senior Member Bruce A. Richardson's Avatar
    Join Date
    Sep 1999
    Dallas, Texas

    Re: Instrument comobs/Samples for Replacing Piano

    Hi Joanne,

    My suggestion would be to use your sequencer's notation output, and to print up a two-line piano score of what you have improvised. In order to facilitate getting a readable part, you might want to save off a copy of the sequence, and quantize the snot out of it, so that you get "simple" note lengths without a lot of tied-over notes and small-value rests.

    Once you've printed this out, sit down with a few colored pencils. What you want to do is use the pencils to "navigate" the horizontal lines you have played.

    The melody and bass line will be easy--do those first.

    The inner parts will be more difficult. Here's why. You might not want to keep the "parts" in the order the notes are stacked. Here's where the rules of counterpoint will come in. You want to create your inner parts such that they're not just functionally creating your harmony, but so they are actual interesting parts with good melody and good juxtapositions of tension and release.


    What you will have after you've done this is a pretty straightforward realization. This is now your starting point.

    What different colors might be useful at different times? Are there convenient and obvious places to change the parts to different instruments? Are there some parts of the melody which might want to swap out to a different "lead" instrument?

    Create a little flowchart for yourself with some of these ideas.


    Would it be interesting to take some things up an octave? To create a pedal-point bass to undergird a section in order to build some tension?

    What about opportunities for percussion? And how about that piano?

    Are there orchestral pieces that you really love which might have some common ground with what you've written? Would it be interesting to apply your melody and harmony to some of those orchestral ideas?

    Are there places where you might want to create a more abstract or impressionist approach to some of the work?

    Taking some of the lines you've created, do any of those supporting lines have potential as variations or melodic material for different sections? How about inverting the lines, running them backwards, or applying a different mode?

    You could even construct a matrix, a la 12-tone composition.

    These are all little tricks that composers have used for years to take a given amount of material and develop it or stretch it into more.

    I don't think (by the way) that there is anything wrong with blocking out ideas at the piano. Heck, whatever allows you to get them out is a great thing. It's all good. You can always experiment, and always shuffle things up. That's one of the great things about what we do--it ain't rocket science, brain surgery, or driving a bus. You don't have to worry--nobody is going to get hurt.

    Good luck. I hope some of those ideas help out.

  3. #3

    Re: Instrument comobs/Samples for Replacing Piano

    if you're using arpeggios on left hand, harp+tremolo soft violas (or violins depending on the octave youre playing) and flute or flute+clarinet in octaves for right melody hand could suit for a soft intro.


  4. #4

    Re: Instrument comobs/Samples for Replacing Piano

    Hi Bruce,

    You've helped on this topic before and thank you.

    Piano does seem to create parts that aren't always that playable (won't ask why) - so although I dread it, getting the notes clean-up/quantized is the first step.

    Also right about the bass and melody lines pretty easy to replace/replicate - started a few hours ago when I first read your post and pretty much done. It's the middle stuff that is tougher, but as you say offers the biggest opportunity to interesting counterpoint and harmony. It seems pretty intuitive where to break away from tracking the actual piano chord and create some additonal counterpoint. I tried the running backwards in the note progression and that's an easy trick I keep forgetting.

    You mentioned the "P" word. I would love to find a way to add percussion to this - but percussion is one area where I have absolutely no skill or intuitive feel. It's 3/4 time, sort of waltz, and mostly orchestral in nature and I guess I just need to try different approaches and find something that works. Had a laugh at your line that nobody's going to get hurt.

    Appreciate the time you take to explain. Maybe somebody here knows of a way to deduct your effort (aid to the needy) from your income taxes.

    Hi Luca,

    I owe you a song and promise to send something one of these days, years...

    The flute line for the melody is not enough and needs some foundation with sharper defintion. Hence, I think a Clarinet will work, and I can bury it below the flute as clarinet tends to sound more synthy than flute.

    Harp on the left hand. Never in a million years would I have tried that. maybe harp on left hand with some bass and counterpoint with a little cello or viola. Harp from almost any library sounds good and looking forward to giving it a try.

    The few decent passages I occasionally come up with always remind me of your stuff, and appreciate input from "the guy with those fabulous string harmonies"


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