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Topic: Fairy Dance

  1. #1

    Fairy Dance

    Okay guys, this is a song I’m writing for my wife’s next album. It’s a tune called Fairy Dance, and I’m using a traditional melody.

    To preface, I haven’t done any of the humanizing work necessary to make it sound realistic, this is just straight from the notation software and adding the GPO voices. So don’t expect perfection right now. This question is about orchestration, and the polish work will come after that.

    The version I posted contains the melody played by a flute, though we do have lyrics and my wife's lovely alto will take over that chore at a later date. So this isn't an instrumental piece, the flute part will be sung.

    As for the rest of the midi parts, the main chording accompaniment is done by full orchestral strings, as are the harmony additions. The violin (melody) and flute (harmony) parts are used for an instrumental break, during which there are no vocals.

    Now, I like the way this is sounding, as it’s in keeping with my original vision. My wife says it “needs something else”. When I pressed her, she said it needs “more than strings and a flute”. Personally, I think it sounds good as is. The subject of the song is a dance of fairies, a topic that is light, airy, and carefree. I think the current orchestration achieves that, and adding much more, especially something brassy or low pitched, would detract from it.

    But I acknowledge that I could be wrong. So, I’m asking the good people on this forum, whose compositions I have listened to and enjoyed on many occasions, to give me the benefit of their experience. What changes, if any, would YOU make to the orchestration?

    Fairy Dance

  2. #2

    Re: Fairy Dance

    Quote Originally Posted by HongKongCV View Post
    The subject of the song is a dance of fairies, a topic that is light, airy, and carefree. I think the current orchestration achieves that, and adding much more, especially something brassy or low pitched, would detract from it.
    I like what you have so far.

    I agree that adding something loud and brassy would detract from the mood, but the addition of additional woodwinds could enhance the "dance" mood by creating the impression of more movement in the background. Perhaps some of the upper-register winds (clarinet, oboe, or flute (since you say this flute will be replaced with vocals)) in a counterpoint melody? Even a bassoon if done well would not detract from the mood. I picture the instruments intermingling their phrases to create a picture of dancers coming and going from the scene and/or becoming the main focus of the moment (perhaps a flute/clarinet fluttering briefly as a man-fairly twirls his woman-fairy partner around).

    Using multiple instruments could also imply that there are multiple characters involved in the dance. Done tastefully (don't use a heavy bassoon or tuba to indicate a ponderous "fat elephant fairy"), I think you could add personality to the background and make your wife very happy.
    Best Regards,

  3. #3

    Re: Fairy Dance

    Thanks Lunker, glad you like it so far. I already have a harmony line (same rhythm and played with melody) played by the orchestral strings. I know that's not a counterpoint (I'll have to think about that one), but it seems to me to match nicely. You think I should try switching that part around to be played by a high woodwind or two? Possibly have two or three instruments trading the harmony back and forth? That's a thought...

    I liked your suggestion about using short inserts to characterize the dancing fairies. Essentially small descants by various instruments tossed in at appropriate moments. I will give that careful thought.

    I also liked your thoughts of using different insturments for specific characters. At one point the lyrics introduce a fairy lad, who snags a fairy lass and they dance together. So I could add the counterpoint melody (with a harmony), and have the two instruments combining as the fairies dance. Yes, that's a nice thought. Another thing I'll think about carefullly.

    I also considrered percussion, but rejected the idea. Adding in percussion will make it seem more structured and measured (at least, it does when I add it), and I want it sounding more wild and free.

  4. #4

    Re: Fairy Dance

    Okay, I've changed the piece around quite a bit. I've thrown in some oboe and clarinet, which seem to have clarified the piece by bringing out the harmony to better effect and providing a greater sense of movement and activity. I haven't had time to add the individual flourishes and trills that it needs, but I feel this is getting very close to what I initially envisioned.

    Again, the primary flute part will be replaced with vocals... or maybe we'll just decrease the volume and play it behind the vocals. Whichever sounds better. Also, none of the work to make it sound more realistic has been done; I have to finalize the overall sound before polishing it.

    So, here it is:
    Modified Fairy Dance

  5. #5

    Re: Fairy Dance

    The piece feels like it needs some rythmic time stamp apart from the melody. It is very hard to discern phrasing or even a measure structure with the melody in the beginning.

    You also never come out of the higher register for your string harmony. So you really only ever get one impression of the sound. I suggest adding pizzicato celli alternating tonic and dominant on 1&3 durning slower sections switching to arco during the faster "dancing" secitons. Also moving the harmony an octave down or at least to a lower inversion of the chord structure when you add the clarinet and oboe. This will add contrast in the sound canvas and highlight the sound of your melody and harmonies. Here you may want to keep that pulse going by accenting the half notes in the celli with a gentil tap on timpani, again alternating tonic and dominant. Or if you really want to stay clear of the percussion use basses in a pizzicato fashion as before with the cellos

    Be sure to check the cadences of your chord structure. There are a couple places at the end of phrases that are calling out for a stronger V-I.

    As a skeleton, this is fairly complete. Just the business of fleshing it out remains.

    I look forward to hearing the final.
    Experience what is necessary to build upon self character, for that is Life's most significant learning event.

  6. #6

    Re: Fairy Dance

    You're off to a solid start with this sketch, CV.

    In most general terms, I think -- and this is probably
    true of most anything at the early, framing stages --
    what's needed most is the addition of two things:
    motion, and contrast.

    Obviously, there a thousand ways to achieve either;
    and I'll be looking forward to hearing where you go
    with this.

    My best,

    David Sosnowski

  7. #7

    Re: Fairy Dance


    Seems like the "tessitura" of the piece is high. Most of the
    melody and supporting instruments are in a high range with
    nothing in the middle or down below. This means that you
    will have to really play the accompaniment very SOFTLY if
    you want your wife's lovely voice to shine.

    Also, the high strings get a little overplayed as the piece
    moves along. A little break will cure this. Maybe even an
    arpeggio setting might work or tremolo strings.........Also,
    have you thought about some pitched percussion instruments like
    the Glock, xylophone, or marimba. At least, these are some things
    to think about.

    Will look forward to hearing this again when you have had a
    chance to work on it some more.

    Jack Cannon--MacBook Pro (2015, 13") GPO4/5, JABB3, Auth. STEINWAY, YAMAHA CFX, Gofriller CELLO, Stradivari VIOLIN, COMB2, WORLD, HARPS, PIPE ORGANS, FINALE 25.5, DORICO 1.2.10, Mac Pro 2.66 GHz CPU, 8 GB RAM, DP 9.51, MOTU Traveler, MOTU Micro Express, MacBook Pro (2012, 13") 2.2 Ghz CPU, 8 GB RAM.

  8. #8

    Re: Fairy Dance

    Hi, CV,

    I enjoyed your piece - it is quite evocative. You have very well captured the feel of a country dance in your writing. You asked about orchestration, so here is my two cents.

    Right now the piece is a little too clean, too sweet for the music, I think. The strings are syrupy and the winds are perfect. A large part of the charm of folk music is in it's imperfections, and especially how the musician used those imperfections in the music itself.

    I agree that something bassy or brassy is not called for here, but I sure would love to hear something a little more imperfect. Let's swap out the section strings for solo strings, and turn up VAR 1 a bit to unclean up the tuning a little. Not too much, but enough to make it more "real."

    If you can play the winds in real time (either on keyboard or wind controller) that would be a big plus, as well.

    You wife thought it needed somthing else, and being your wife, she is certainly not wrong. Ever.

    If I may, I think that it what it needs is some simple percussion. Not orchestral percussion, but something folksy, in keeping with the spirit of the tune. I would recommend you find a decent bohdran or djembe or some other frame or skin drum sample and play with a simple rhythm (maybe as simple as a nice round bass thump on 1 and 3). Put it in the background with volume and reverb, and it might be just the ticket.

    Looking forward to hearing more,

  9. #9

    Re: Fairy Dance


    I think Jack (Rhap2) hit the nail on the head. The piece is missing the low end. Some lower register cello work would help this out a lot.

    If you add in a female voice on top of this, the problem will be even more compounded.

    A clarinet in the lower register would bring in the middle and lowering the bassoon from time to time would also help out the lower end. HAving the bassoon and flute follow each other all of the time can get a touch monotonous. Let the bassoon find a note and stick with it for awhile.

    Too much parallelism can ruin a piece.

    This is a great start.

    "Reality is merely an illusion, albeit a very persistent one." Albert Einstein


  10. #10

    Re: Fairy Dance

    I'm working on a modified version of this, but it will take a little while. I'll post the new version sometime in the next month or so. My thanks to Scott for his willingness to provide off-forum assistance, and for giving me some good guidelines on how to fix this piece.

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