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Topic: The importance of Piano for Orchestration/Composition

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  1. #11

    Re: The importance of Piano for Orchestration/Composition

    Quote Originally Posted by Poolman
    producing a result which looks good on paper but which gives a stolid quasi-legato in sound. For expressive results you need a sequencer
    You obviously don't know Finale's Human Playback

  2. #12

    Re: The importance of Piano for Orchestration/Composition

    Quote Originally Posted by Nickie Fønshauge
    You obviously don't know Finale's Human Playback
    Well, no I don't; I only know Sibelius' ditto and it is fair but limited.

    Can Finale make a swell during a held note? Can it produce subtleties of articulation like those I can make whilst actually playing live on a Midi keyboard? E.g. some notes legato, some staccato, some barely detached, all during the same phrase? Not to mention that some notes will have greater velocity, producing different attack characteristics from GPO...

    Terry

  3. #13

    Re: The importance of Piano for Orchestration/Composition

    Quote Originally Posted by Poolman
    Can Finale make a swell during a held note?
    Yes.
    Quote Originally Posted by Poolman
    Can it produce subtleties of articulation like those I can make whilst actually playing live on a Midi keyboard? E.g. some notes legato, some staccato, some barely detached, all during the same phrase?
    Yes, of course.
    Quote Originally Posted by Poolman
    Not to mention that some notes will have greater velocity, producing different attack characteristics from GPO...
    Happens automatically. Can be adjusted en masse or individually.

  4. #14

    Re: The importance of Piano for Orchestration/Composition

    Quote Originally Posted by Poolman
    Can Finale make a swell during a held note? Can it produce subtleties of articulation like those I can make whilst actually playing live on a Midi keyboard? E.g. some notes legato, some staccato, some barely detached, all during the same phrase? Not to mention that some notes will have greater velocity, producing different attack characteristics from GPO...
    In my experience using Finale's Human Playback and GPO, I would simply say that it works well within realistic expectations. Sometimes I have really liked the results it produces- usually during slow sustained passages. For example, if an instrument finishes a passage on a long note, HP will automatically diminuendo it down into the ensemble, rather than the normal sharp cutoff. This is very convenient, except when you want it to stay strong (if you write a crescendo in it will stay strong, but god forbid you want it to crescendo).

    HP is most useful to me for automatically doing the articulations in a piece. The expressiveness is OK, but sometimes you will need to add extra or redundant markings to get the exact effect you want, and it is never as good as when you do it in real-time. So to your questions, I would answer "yes, to a degree, if you work with it". If you're writing for humans, it's not worth it.

    Mike

  5. #15

    Re: The importance of Piano for Orchestration/Composition

    To answer the original question - I believe it is an important skill to be able to play the piano as a composer. With that said, I am a terrible pianist but here is what I found.

    I decided to apply to music conservatory to study composition, where the composition faculty heavilly stressed piano ability believing that the keyboard is the best multi-function tool for composing. Since I didn't know how to play a piano (and have terrible left/right hand coordination) I took a year off from composing just to focus on the piano. By the end of the year, I could play a few Chopin preludes (the easy ones) and a Bach invention and a few other things but what I found is that my composition did improve. One thing to note, to be able to play the piano as a composer is not the same degree of skill needed to play the piano as a pianist. You use the instrument for different things.

    I think I found that my ability to improvise harmonic ideas or melodic ideas on the piano did help me see the light of how great the possitive impact on composing would be if I had years more experience with piano. I don't think it is important to play that well, but any skill you gain on piano (if not some other instrument) will only help your composing.

    Karim

  6. #16
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    Re: The importance of Piano for Orchestration/Composition

    Can not everything be said on the piano? Igor Stravinsky
    Dave Connor www.daveconnor.net

  7. #17

    Re: The importance of Piano for Orchestration/Composition

    I'm definitely not a Stravinsky, far from it, but I support the theory that composing orchestral music from the piano is fine for developing melodic and harmonic ideas, but not necessarily for orchestration itself.
    It is easy to fall into the habit of thinking in terms of block chords or in terms of what can be played easily by two hands. I use to do this. Many people that are new to classical music seem to not realize, or forget, that orchestral music is generally composed of individual lines that when played simultaneously form chords and these chords can be very broad and more complex than what can be played by two hands on a piano.

  8. #18

    Re: The importance of Piano for Orchestration/Composition

    Quote Originally Posted by Jack Meginniss
    I'm definitely not a Stravinsky, far from it, but I support the theory that composing orchestral music from the piano is fine for developing melodic and harmonic ideas, but not necessarily for orchestration itself.
    It is easy to fall into the habit of thinking in terms of block chords or in terms of what can be played easily by two hands. I use to do this. Many people that are new to classical music seem to not realize, or forget, that orchestral music is generally composed of individual lines that when played simultaneously form chords and these chords can be very broad and more complex than what can be played by two hands on a piano.
    I agree absolutely with this. In teaching orchestration I get my pupils to orchestrate piano works, mainly because the material is easily available. They often have difficulty in re-spacing chords in an orchestral manner because they feel bound to transcribe the notes too literally. But after a few mistakes they get the hang of it and become more adept in thinking orchestrally.

    One of the chief pitfalls is a big two-handed chord from Beethoven, with the two hands two octaves apart, and a four-note chord low down in the left hand. This was to get the maxiumum sound from his piano (which was not so full a timbre as modern pianos anyway). This sounds dreadful if literally transcribed for orchestra. Rimsky and others have given us the correct answer: space out the chords like the harmonic series: octaves in the bass and the intervals getting gradually closer as you go higher.

    Let's not decry the piano as a source of good music, though. Many of Ravel's successful orchestral works were composed for piano first. Perhaps he was thinking ahead a bit?

    Terry Dwyer

  9. #19

    Re: The importance of Piano for Orchestration/Composition

    This thread is getting a bit stale, but I wanted to comment on using the piano for developing melodies.

    Due to such things as sense-memory and simply the mechanical limitations of how our fingers work, you will probably find that when you write exclusively on the piano, you tend to arrive at somewhat similar music, in a structural sense. I find that my results when "doodling" on the keyboard are fundamentally different than what I arrive at through singing (I hum a lot in the car, and highly recommend it - I've heard a rumor that Danny Elfman came up with the theme for Batman while on a plane, and ran to the bathroom to hum it into a tape recorder). I get yet a third result by writing directly into the sequencer with keyboard and mouse. And there are variations within those, of course. And, if you play another instrument, that again might be different.

    This is a potential trap if you are not aware of it, but can also be used to great advantage. I am just a beginner at composing, but have now scored three short student films. With one project, I developed the main theme on the piano, and subsequently developed almost all the music on piano, trying to keep a similar "energy" and type of motion to my hands. Thus, despite the appearance of several melodies and harmonies and moods and so forth, the music has a certain structural consistency - it all clearly belongs to the same work. The next project I approached from a completely different angle (voice), and the result was a very different score.

    Of course, such variation is not what everybody is after, but in film/TV/gaming, it is usually an admirable trait of the composer to be able to shed their own personality and bring a unique quality to each work (as much as possible). And that begins with how you approach the very act of composition.

    Here's hoping this is useful to somebody.

    -Robin

  10. #20

    Re: The importance of Piano for Orchestration/Composition

    Just to add my tuppence worth:
    I've been travelling for almost a year now and have been deprived of a piano or keyboard for that time (unless you count those programs that turn your computer keyboard into piano keyboard - not exactly very playable!). While frequently annoying, I've found that it's forced me to develop my musical imagination i.e. trying to imagine what a piece of music is going to sound like, rather that jumping straight to the piano to play it. I've found that my writing process has got quicker and the music I'm writing has changed as a result as things are possible in my head that aren't on piano. I'm sure when I go home I'll be using the piano a lot less for writing. Having said that, I often visualise a piano keyboard when working out harmonies etc.

    Ben

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