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Topic: Orchestra rules question

  1. #1

    Question Orchestra rules question

    I understrand Gary has a section for this on his site, but I would like the old hands to answer this

    What would you say ,would be the most often made mistakes when doing symphony arranging

  2. #2

    Re: Orchestra rules question

    This should be a good thread. I'd like to hear what others have to say as well.

    Off the top of my head, I'd say:

    Overuse of percussion, especially cymbals
    Not varying the texture
    No breathing places for winds
    The dreaded "Everyone-must-be-doing-something-itis"
    - Jamie Kowalski

    All Hands Music - Kowalski on the web
    The Ear Is Always Correct - Writings on composition

  3. #3

    Re: Orchestra rules question

    I'll add: piano chord voicings for the strings and too often doubling the woodwinds with the strings. Another pet peeve of mine is arrangers who give violin parts to the clarinets. If they're going to double the ww's with the strings, I much prefer flutes = vln1, oboes = vln2, clarinets = viola, bassoon = celli. That makes life easier on everybody and sounds better, too.
    Paul Baker
    Baker's Jazz And More
    Austin, Texas, USA

  4. #4

    Re: Orchestra rules question

    -don't write woodwinds too low: flute isn't audible if too low, oboe is quite loud below f1, but it's still loud in general, if the player isn't a professional

    -be exact when writing crosspins: always specify the starting and ending dynamics and sometimes even the dynamic in the middle so that the conductor doesn't have to guess it

    -be very exact when writing the score in general, think through every note and it's dynamic and write it there

    -vary the texture often enough, don't stick to a single sound for too long (depends on the piece of course)

    -when playing tutti, remember that brasses often overpower the rest of the orchestra so as a good rule would be to write one dynamic less for them as for the other orchestra

    -think if something is actually possible to play, don't think players can play the same as midi can.

    I'm not a pro, but this is something I've come across with.

  5. #5

    Re: Orchestra rules question

    All good points above (many of which i have goofed up on myself!). so I'll add a few things I've learned, sometimes from others, sometimes the hard way:

    - For a full orchestral score, it helps me to turn off all reverb and listen to it dry for harmonic and rhythmic problems.

    - Listen to each section (wood winds, brass, strings, etc) separately for volume balance and harmonic issues

    - re: everyone must be playing (to which I am prone, I admit) -- if you write "tutti" alot, liberal but judicous use of dynamics is a good way to have different parts come to the fore at different times. I use the technique of fading one instrument out while bringing another in -- sometimes even on the same note, to gradually vary the timbre. So, you can have your tutti and eat it too

    - Beware of losing the forward momentum - often, you can add just one or two notes in one part to keep the sense of it going. Vary the rhythms.

    - Keep the mood or imagery you want always in mind, and write to that (it can change throughout a piece, of course, just know when it does!

    - Learn to use the basic techniques of augmentation, diminution, imitation, retrograde and inversion to add interest to your piece while still leaving it sounding somehow familiar to the ear.

    - Ask others to listen and critique when possible (eg in the Listening room)

    - Listen to it til you're sick of it -- then you start hearing things that you'd like to change.

    - When you're tired or can't get passionate about it, take a break!

    - Trust your ear more than your theory.

    - Some advice Dave S (etLux) gave me: listen to as much music you can, with a score if possible, especially music you don't like or "get" at first, to expand your ear. And take risks.

    Some of that is not technical arranging advice, really, I know, but they have all helped me. Hope some of it is useful for you and best of luck!

    Listen at: www.soundclick.com/kepeaceusa
    Scores at: http://stores.lulu.com/ke_peace

  6. #6

    Re: Orchestra rules question

    ps - there are options in Finale to check ranges, too, as well as many other aides to composing and checking and formatting scores. (probably in most good notation programs as well). email me if you want to know more about that.
    Listen at: www.soundclick.com/kepeaceusa
    Scores at: http://stores.lulu.com/ke_peace

  7. #7

    Re: Orchestra rules question

    Quote Originally Posted by KE Peace View Post
    - Learn to use the basic techniques of augmentation, diminution, imitation, retrograde and inversion to add interest to your piece
    I'm actually unaware of these techniques, well, few of them. ^^ I know what imitation and inversion mean, but what are the others? Could you explain, even with few sentences what augmentation, diminution and retrograde mean in terms of composition techinques?

  8. #8

    Re: Orchestra rules question

    hey thanks JJ, i came back to offer an explanation, but couldn't have explained it better myself! When I started using some of them, i found it alot easier to write a piece -- after you have a motif or two, use a few of those and it's almost like the piece writes itself...

    Then once you've got those under your belt you can move on to the more advanced techniques such as contemplation, perversion, and fermentation.

    "the demonstration you are about to see was done by trained professionals. Do not try this at home!
    Listen at: www.soundclick.com/kepeaceusa
    Scores at: http://stores.lulu.com/ke_peace

  9. #9

    Re: Orchestra rules question

    oh and try to avoid using retrograde in sacred choral music, or if you do, at lesat make sure the words don't go backwards too -- people used to get burned at the stake for that in the not too distant past
    Listen at: www.soundclick.com/kepeaceusa
    Scores at: http://stores.lulu.com/ke_peace

  10. #10

    Re: Orchestra rules question

    Poor voice leading drives me crazy! Remember, each instrumental line is melodic, not just any old note in a chord.
    Dan Powers

    "It's easier to be a composer than it is to compose."
    --Ray Luke (1928-2010)

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