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Topic: 2 Questions about Combo/Stage Band arranging

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  1. #1

    2 Questions about Combo/Stage Band arranging

    1. When creating an arrangement of standards where vocals will be performed, what keys are generally good to use if the range/ability of the singer is not known beforehand?

    2. Is there a standard way of arranging for a combo (Trumpet, Tenor/Alto, Trombone + RS) that will generally sound good and be playable by musicians of unknown but general ability? For example, allow the bass note to be played by the Bass and then use close position melody, 7th and 3rd in the horns, or drop 2 style, etc.?

    If anyone knows of any resources for this information, I would appreciate hearing about them, either books or web links. I haven't found any combo arrangements in the library to study, only big band charts.

    I just looking for some guidelines to use to get a reasonable sounding generic arrangement as a place to start from.

    Thanks for any replies.

  2. #2

    Re: 2 Questions about Combo/Stage Band arranging

    If you don't know the specific singer who'll be singing your arrangements then about all you can do is to use the original key in which the song was written. Other than that, it could be any one of the other eleven possibilities. For instance, I was just on a gig where the vocalist sang everything in G and A, and her song list mainly consisted of tunes that were originally written in C and Eb. If you use the original key, then at least the chart could be used later to feature an instrumental soloist because, the instrumentalist probably learned the song in its original key.

    As for your second question, I'm assuming there is no vocalist involved - just an instrumental chart? In either case, with only three horns, you are correct. Leave the bass note to the bass player and just use color tone voicings in whatever inversions are necessary to accommodate the melody. A big thing to keep in mind with small horn sections is voice leading. Since the individual parts are so much more apparent to the listener, more attention must be paid.

    Other tips:

    Write the horns in the ranges where they sound the best, which might not be where any arranging "rules" say they should go. That might require switching between open and closed voicings. Don't be afraid to try voicings you might no ordinarily use with a larger section. The bottom line is how it sounds. If it sounds the way you hear it in your mind's ear, then stick with it and put that on paper.

    Write contrapuntally. Don't get stuck in the habit of harmonizing every note. Counterpoint gives the ear more to follow and can make the band sound larger that it actually is.

    Unisons work.

    Octaves work.

    Rests work.

    Whole notes work.

    You don't have to reinvent the wheel every eight bars.

    Resources: go to Amazon.com and look for arranging books by Nelson Riddle, Sammy Nestico, and Henry Mancini. THose are three of the "standard" texts for arranging and will get you pointed in the right direction. Also, listen to jazz groups from the 50's and 60's that feature 3-4 horns and listen to how they're written. Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers, records on the Blue Note and Impulse labels, Oliver Nelson, Dave Pell, Shorty Rogers, any of the West Coast "cool school" groups, etc.
    Paul Baker
    Baker's Jazz And More
    Austin, Texas, USA
    www.bakersjazzandmore.com

  3. #3

    Re: 2 Questions about Combo/Stage Band arranging

    Hi, Paul. Thanks again for the thoughtful answer. I have requested a copy of Nestico's "The Complete Arranger" via Inter-Library Loan. Thanks for the advice - I will try playing around within the ranges as you suggested. I will soon be upgrading to Finale 2009 from the light version of Overture (SE) that came with JABB/GPO, and I'm hoping I will get better realizations of my arranging attempts - the Overture SE seems to have some voicing bugs that make it difficult at times to hear full arrangements.

    One more question if you would... I've been googling around trying to find a forum where folks are sharing arrangements - kind of like a "composer's forum" at university, but for arranging. Some of that seems to go on here, and Berklee has some forums but they seem to be closed to their students, but I haven't found any forum that addresses the kind of questions I don't even know I should be asking. Also, many of the forums I've googled haven't been active for some time. Do you have any advice on finding such a group of peers online? Are there specific professional organizations it would be worth joining - for instance, the American Composer's Forum? I don't think ASCAP or BMI have the kind of forums students like myself would be looking for (as far as I can tell), but some sort of student organization would be great.

    Thanks again for your time and advice.

  4. #4

    Re: 2 Questions about Combo/Stage Band arranging

    I like Don Sebesky's book "The Contemporary Arranger", even though it is a bit out of date (with the synth section especially) and is a little more geared toward recording than live performance.

    Also, for very small jazz combos, David Baker's "Arranging & Composing" and Vince Corozine's "Arranging for the Real World" were helpful.

    There is a new book coming out about orchestrating for the musical theater - no idea yet if it is any good. But this is the first one I've heard of specifically devoted to this subject. Vince had one in the works, but I gather that project is now on hold.

  5. #5

    Re: 2 Questions about Combo/Stage Band arranging

    To add to the fine suggestions above I would like to recommend The Professional Arranger Composer (in two volumes) by Russell Garcia. Request these thru an Inter-Libray loan. They are two thin volumes but there is NO BS in them - it is straight practical info.
    In theory there is no difference between theory and practice, but in practice there is.

    http://reberclark.blogspot.com http://reberclark.bandcamp.com http://www.youtube.com/reberclark

  6. #6

    Re: 2 Questions about Combo/Stage Band arranging

    Sadly, I think this is probably about as close as you're going to get. I'm not aware of any online forums for arranging per se. It's my impression that arranging is considered a subset of composition so it gets lumped into those conversations. It also lurks under the term "orchestration". Any more, arranging seems to be kind of a dying art, given the parameters of contemporary commercial music, although it's certainly applicalble there, just with different combinations of instruments and sound generating decvices. However, I think that the fundamentals still apply those situations, too.
    Paul Baker
    Baker's Jazz And More
    Austin, Texas, USA
    www.bakersjazzandmore.com

  7. #7

    Re: 2 Questions about Combo/Stage Band arranging

    Thanks to all that have replied. I will take these suggestions and work through them. I appreciate the help and I do rely on Inter Library loan - it is a great resource and I recommend it highly. It helps me figure out what to purchase. I have both of Baker's books (1st one a bit too sketchy for my level but it got me working, 2nd one way too much) and I have the Corozine book. I came across Garcia's books a few years ago, but could not purchase them at the time. Time to look into them again.

    Paul - I have visited your site and listened to your arrangements. Woof - as Wayne and Garth said, "I am not worthy!". The live recordings are terrific and work nicely as "incentive".

  8. #8

    Re: 2 Questions about Combo/Stage Band arranging

    You might want to try the books by Ted Pease - Jazz Composition and Modern Jazz Voicings
    Derek
    Things may come and things may go but the art school dance goes on forever
    NOW WITH Cubase 5, JABB,GPO, Fender Strat, Ibanez RG, Yamaha Fretless Bass, Framus Archtop, The Trumpet and Mr T Sax, together with GREEN SEALING WAX


  9. #9

    Re: 2 Questions about Combo/Stage Band arranging

    Quote Originally Posted by bmdaustin View Post
    Sadly, I think this is probably about as close as you're going to get. I'm not aware of any online forums for arranging per se. It's my impression that arranging is considered a subset of composition so it gets lumped into those conversations. It also lurks under the term "orchestration". Any more, arranging seems to be kind of a dying art, given the parameters of contemporary commercial music, although it's certainly applicalble there, just with different combinations of instruments and sound generating decvices. However, I think that the fundamentals still apply those situations, too.
    http://www.jazzarrangingclass.com/

    This one is fairly helpful...

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