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Topic: The importance of Piano for Orchestration/Composition

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  1. #1

    The importance of Piano for Orchestration/Composition

    hi guys...i don't practise to much piano....i'm a beginner in reading/playing music....is it important to know how to play other peoples works or it's enough to understand how it is composed...thank u!

  2. #2

    Re: The importance of Piano for Orchestration/Composition

    The important thing is to understand other people's works. How you get there can vary, but playing them on the piano (or other keyboard instrument) is one of the best ways, if only because you can hear the harmonies.

    But music is melody too. Not enough would-be composers are singers. Singing the melody lines can give you insight, and being a good singer means that you will likely compose memorable tunes.

    (Granted that some great instrumental music may contain material that can neither be sung, nor played easily on the piano!)

    Research has shown that performers tend to understand and enjoy music better than non-performers. So get practising!

    Having said all that, a marvellous way to understand an orchestral work is to buy the score and enter it into a sequencer, using GPO for the sounds. Many of us in this forum do that, in order to study the arts of composition and orchestration. It's also fun - you get to play every instrument in the orchestra. The quickest way to work is by using a MIDI keyboard, another reason to practise piano.

  3. #3

    Re: The importance of Piano for Orchestration/Composition

    Quote Originally Posted by aLfR3dd
    i don't practise to much piano
    I don't think it's necessary to play piano to compose well (but I play piano, so what do I know?). However, it is helpful, if not essential, to play some instrument well -- not necessarily virtuosically, but competently. This instrument could be voice, but for most people, a physical instrument outside their body seems to be more helpful.

    i'm a beginner in reading/playing music
    Get your reading skills up. That is the single most important thing you can do for your understanding of music. Besides, if you're composing music, you should be able to notate it.

    ....is it important to know how to play other peoples works or it's enough to understand how it is composed...thank u!
    Learning to play a piece is one of the best ways to get intimately acquainted with it, and thus one of the best ways to study how it's composed. You can also do a lot through score study (along with listening), but that absolutely requires reading skills.

    Learn to play.
    Learn to read.
    Learn some theory.
    Keep practicing.
    Keep writing.
    Good luck! It's not easy, but it's incredibly rewarding.
    Marnen E. Laibow-Koser
    Composer / Web developer
    http://www.marnen.org

  4. #4

    Re: The importance of Piano for Orchestration/Composition

    Not that I'm an expert, but I find the ability to sketch out/improvise possible harmonies with a piano invaluable when writing music (in addition to understanding other works as a performer)

  5. #5

    Re: The importance of Piano for Orchestration/Composition

    @poolman:

    how exactly do you make entering score into notation software fun? I've always found it tedious. Am I just doing it differently? I tend to use the MIDI keyboard along with the number pad for step-time entering. I suppose real-time entering would be faster/more fun, but I've always found it to be terribly inaccurate

  6. #6

    Re: The importance of Piano for Orchestration/Composition

    Quote Originally Posted by savanttrigger
    @poolman:

    how exactly do you make entering score into notation software fun? I've always found it tedious. Am I just doing it differently? I tend to use the MIDI keyboard along with the number pad for step-time entering. I suppose real-time entering would be faster/more fun, but I've always found it to be terribly inaccurate

    Step-time entering is not too much fun, agreed. It is suitable only for notation programs, because it gives each note its full value, producing a result which looks good on paper but which gives a stolid quasi-legato in sound. For expressive results you need a sequencer, where real-time entry is virtually essential. You play with articulation, a mixture of legato and staccato, probably using the pedal to effect the legatos. There is also the mod-wheel to think about. This is my method, broken down:

    1) Set the equipment up with computer on the right and Midi keyboard on the left, with the score on some kind of music stand behind it. Deal with a double page of music at a time, to avoid turning over whilst playing.
    2) Set a convenient tempo in the sequencer. If that be the required tempo, well and good; if not, slow it down, drastically if necessary, to a tempo you can manage. Correct tempo will be set when the entire piece is finished, including any tempo changes.
    3) Start with the Double Bass part. Play it in, using articulation and mod-wheel expression. This involves playing the melody with right hand and mod-wheel with left hand. If the part is too complicated for this, use two hands to play the melody and repeat adding the mod-wheel and/or pedal for legato. (I must confess I don't pedal legato most of the time, I rely on playing it legato.)
    4) Now the cellos, then violas, 2nd violins, 1st violins. The fun has already started, as I hear the harmony and counterpoint build up. when finished, check for balance or other errors and correct them before going on.
    5) Now I mute (turn off!) the strings and start on the woodwind in a similar manner, from the bassoons upwards. At the end of that, check the woodwind section for balance etc., within itself, and then together with the strings.
    6) Horns, tuba, trombones, trumpets, percussion (in that order) can either be dealt with separately as before, or played on top of the strings and woodwind. It depends on the music: if plenty of brass, record separately; if little, as in Mozart, play on top of full ensemble.
    7) Check, check, check for errors of balance, articulation, whatever.
    8) On to next double page of score, and so on to the end.
    9) Now enter correct tempo(s), play and enjoy. That's fun!

    You will have learned something about orchestration and composition, every time. And it shows the value of having keyboard skill.

  7. #7

    Re: The importance of Piano for Orchestration/Composition

    Quote Originally Posted by Poolman
    Step-time entering is not too much fun, agreed. It is suitable only for notation programs, because it gives each note its full value, producing a result which looks good on paper but which gives a stolid quasi-legato in sound. For expressive results you need a sequencer, where real-time entry is virtually essential.
    A couple of points:

    1. You only need expressive results if the computer is going to be performing the piece. If a real person will be reading the part, they'll put the expression in when they play it. I find that I can take this into account when listening to unexpressive computer playbacks. YMMV.

    2. Computer playbacks from notation are no longer necessarily completely unexpressive. Finale's Human Playback feature actually does a pretty good job of adding expression in appropriate places. It works quite well for audio proofreading, and might be suitable for performance in certain cases.

    Edit: I see that you were talking about entering an existing piece into a notation program, whereas I was talking about original composition. Sorry for the confusion. With existing pieces, another good way to study the score is to play it on an instrument that can accommodate such things (generally piano). Your score-reading skills will be developed, which is always a good thing for a composer.

    I used to compose on paper and then enter the notation into Finale, much in the way you're describing. Several years ago, I switched to composing directly on the computer, so I no longer have to take that extra step, and I can hear quick playbacks of what I'm working on as I'm working on it, even if it's not the sort of thing that's playable on the piano or another instrument I play.

    You will have learned something about orchestration and composition, every time.
    Yup. Remember that the great composers of a century or two ago studied scores by copying them out longhand (a complete set of Beethoven symphony scores exists in Wagner's hand...).

    And it shows the value of having keyboard skill.
    Well, it shows the value of having some instrumental skill. Remember that there are other ways to control a synthesizer than from a keyboard: there are guitar controllers, MIDI violins, woodwind controllers...
    Last edited by marnen; 06-05-2006 at 10:17 AM. Reason: Better response to Poolman.
    Marnen E. Laibow-Koser
    Composer / Web developer
    http://www.marnen.org

  8. #8
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    Re: The importance of Piano for Orchestration/Composition

    Professor Poolman,

    How do you start the next two pages after you've finished the first two? Do you use punch in recording or do you just place the cursor at the first new measure and then use a metronome count down or what? In other words, how do you get a smooth continuation so that the sequence doesn't sound cut and pasted and not quite fitting smoothly together?

    Thanks,
    Tom

  9. #9

    Re: The importance of Piano for Orchestration/Composition

    Quote Originally Posted by TomcatII
    Professor Poolman,

    How do you start the next two pages after you've finished the first two? Do you use punch in recording or do you just place the cursor at the first new measure and then use a metronome count down or what? In other words, how do you get a smooth continuation so that the sequence doesn't sound cut and pasted and not quite fitting smoothly together?

    Thanks,
    Tom
    Well, I'm using metronome anyway (in Sonar) with a bar count-in. Suppose the new page starts at bar 20, then I start recording at bar 19 (Sound-on-sound). Having heard the music of bar 19, I can come in correctly in 20.

    Having said that, a fault I sometimes commit is making the last note of bar 19 too short , necessitating a bit of later editing. The best way to avoid the fault is this: say the last note is a crotchet on beat 4, the trick is to press the key down on 4 and release it exactly on 5 (1 of the next bar). With practice it iusually works fine. A more tricky problem occurs when using the mod-wheel over the page! Tricky to pick up exactly where you left off. This usually requires an edit. I still find it all fun.

  10. #10
    Senior Member
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    Mesquite (Dallas)
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    Re: The importance of Piano for Orchestration/Composition

    Quote Originally Posted by Poolman
    The important thing is to understand other people's works. How you get there can vary, but playing them on the piano (or other keyboard instrument) is one of the best ways, if only because you can hear the harmonies.
    In the "bad old days" many moons ago when I was still in middle school I had never even heard of a sequencer, much less could have afforded one and we didn't own, nor could I play the piano (my primary instrument were ww's: flute/clarinet). The way I came to realize harmonies was by getting 2 tape recorders. I would play one line into the recorder, then play it back as I read the next line and recorded the two lines on the second tape recorder. I repeated this process over and over on the subsequent lines. By the time I got, say, a quartet or quintet recorded, the background noise was quite atrocious! But it got the job done and gave me a sincere appreciation for harmonies and counterpoint. [Note: I do not recommend this method. ]
    "The above remarks must not be taken as pointing backwards to the bad old days when viola players were selected merely because they were too wicked or too senile to play the violin. Those days are happily gone forever." [-Cecil Forsyth on "The Viola," Orchestration]

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