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Topic: Feedback on writing for specific instruments

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  1. #1

    Feedback on writing for specific instruments

    Here's something that I would find useful -- and might be helpful to everyone. Assuming that everyone here plays some type of instrument, it would help to get feedback on what types of scoring works best (and what doesn't) on those particular instruments.

    There was a post from a piccolo player that I found very helpful (because I had been reading RK and other orchestration books that had said its range was poor in the lower register, that is was overly shrill, etc. and none of the versions in my sample libraries sound that bad.) I also find the comments from conductors helpful. I just wish there were more.

    The only instrument I play is the piano ... and I'm far from a virtuoso. My pet peeve about contemporary scores (and most contemporary books about orchestration) is encouraging the use of chord symbols rather than writing out the part. A player can still embelish, improvise, simplify or otherwise improve what you have written if all the notes are there, but ifyou leave them out you run the risk of him not knowing what you want or not being as creative as you. If you can write music, you ought to be able to write a full piano part. I've always found that to be a much more inspiring starting point than a collection of chord symbols.

    My other recommendation is that you write idiomatically for the piano. Don't be afraid to write a bassline. You can do stride piano stuff, arpeggios and chromatic runs with a keyboard much more easily than with just about any other bass instrument -- especially if it's fast moving. Use it. My left hand gets bored if you don't give it something interesting to do.

    Finally, don't forget that the piano has a great range of pitch and dynamics, which composers forget to exploit when they have lots of other instruments in the ensemble. (It has a sustain pedal, too!)

  2. #2
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    Re: Feedback on writing for specific instruments

    Quote Originally Posted by ejr
    Here's something that I would find useful -- and might be helpful to everyone. Assuming that everyone here plays some type of instrument, it would help to get feedback on what types of scoring works best (and what doesn't) on those particular instruments.
    That's a very good idea ejr. I have found that advice from members who play a particular instrument are very helpful when scoring that part. Professor Jim Williams for instance is who I would turn to for advice about Euphoniums (and also Italian restauruants in Indianapolis). We have so many talented people here in the Northern Sounds communities who are encouraging and helpful. Thanks for the suggestion.

    Gary Garritan

  3. #3

    Re: Feedback on writing for specific instruments

    Speaking of Euphoniums ... I once stumbled onto a site created by a Euphonium player that consisted of images of every playable note on the instrument, on the staff, all known fingerings and advice for players on how to hit each note. Fortunately, I printed it out, because the site is now gone. I have found it very helpful because it addressed a lot of things you seldom see in orchestration books. For example, notes that are playable but technically not in the range of the euphonium, some that are in the range but difficult to play, some that are playable but sound notably worse sounding than the others. Just one musician's opinion, but invaluable to a composer. If there is more than one way to get the same effect, obviously, I'd rather do it in the way that is technically easiest for the performer, so that he can concentrate on the feeling and the quality of the tone. Also, writing within the limitations of various instruments keeps me from making every line sound like it was written for the piano.

    I'm still considering using a euphonium in the score I am writing for a musical. I found that I was consistantly using the French Horn in the lower part of its range and I also need an bass/baritone/tenor voice in the brass for chromatic runs and ostinato figures that I'm afraid may be too difficult for the trombone. I'm toying with the idea of scrapping the french horn and having the trombone player play euphonium on some numbers. I am an actor, based in NY. I have met euphonium and trombone players who play in Broadway pits and they say that most of them double on both instruments (as well as valve trombones and bass trombones.) I think theater musicians are getting to be very versitile in order to compensate for the reduced numbers imposed by the last contract.

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