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Topic: Octave Leaps in Wind instruments

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  1. #1

    Octave Leaps in Wind instruments

    I know that they discourage this in most orchestration books, but I know that it is done sometimes and I am looking for better practical guidelines. When is it okay to have an octave leap on the various instruments?

    Piccolo? Flute? Clarinets? Oboe / English Horn? Bassoon? Trumpet? Trombone?

    I am most often encountering two types of situation:

    (1) In the reeds: Fairly rapid (16th notes at a lively tempo) alternation of a note and the same note an octave higher or lower.

    (2) In the brass: a short phrase played in one octave and then repeated an octave above or below the original.

    Thanks.

    Allegro Data Solutions

  2. #2

    Re: Octave Leaps in Wind instruments

    I think it is ok when you mean it is ok... , depends on the composition.
    "Music is the shorthand of emotion." Leo Tolstoy

    Listen to me, tuning my triangle http://www.box.net/shared/ae822u6r3i

  3. #3

    Lightbulb Re: Octave Leaps in Wind instruments

    Quote Originally Posted by ejr View Post
    I know that they discourage this in most orchestration books, but I know that it is done sometimes and I am looking for better practical guidelines. When is it okay to have an octave leap on the various instruments?

    Piccolo? Flute? Clarinets? Oboe / English Horn? Bassoon? Trumpet? Trombone?

    I am most often encountering two types of situation:

    (1) In the reeds: Fairly rapid (16th notes at a lively tempo) alternation of a note and the same note an octave higher or lower.
    This can be awkward on woodwinds, as the horn will tend to stay in the upper octave (except for the clarinet) where the only change in fingering is the register key. Since the clarinet does not overblow in octaves, the fingering is different for each octave, e.g., middle C, 3rd space C, and C above the staff each has a very different fingering, so the instrument has no "inertia" to stay on the same pitch. That said, you can still write such passages for a sufficiently skilled musician. A single skip is really no problem: a series of rapidly alternating skips (like a shake or tremolo) could be difficult.

    (2) In the brass: a short phrase played in one octave and then repeated an octave above or below the original.

    Thanks.
    For the brass, this would not be a problem.
    ==============================
    Grant Green ||| www.contrabass.com
    Sarrusophones and other seismic devices

  4. #4

    Re: Octave Leaps in Wind instruments

    Quote Originally Posted by ejr View Post
    I know that they discourage this in most orchestration books, but I know that it is done sometimes and I am looking for better practical guidelines. When is it okay to have an octave leap on the various instruments?

    Piccolo? Flute? Clarinets? Oboe / English Horn? Bassoon? Trumpet? Trombone?

    I am most often encountering two types of situation:

    (1) In the reeds: Fairly rapid (16th notes at a lively tempo) alternation of a note and the same note an octave higher or lower.

    (2) In the brass: a short phrase played in one octave and then repeated an octave above or below the original.

    Thanks.
    For number 2 it highly depends on where the original phrase is.

    And remember: register changes in brass and woodwinds also can imply timbre changes. Moving a passage down an octave on a sax, for example can make it a honker if it's in the low register and not subtoned.

    Also: Just because a trombone player CAN play C above middle C pianissimo does not mean that a composer should write that.

    Great brass arrangers/composers/orchestrators realize that each register of each brass instrument has unique tonal qualities that can be used advantageously. C above middle C on a small-bore tenor trombone will cut and sparkle, especially if played on a small-bore horn with a smaller mouthpiece. That setup is common for lead players.

    C above middle C on a bass trombone with a Bach 1 1/2-size mouthpiece will elicit some unkind remarks from the player and have a totally different character than the same note on the King 2B triggerless peashooter lead trombone with a Bach 12C mouthpiece.

    So it's not just pitch; it's tone quality as well. On brass, quick leaps can be treacherous especially if one of the notes in the leap is in an extreme
    register high or low.

    How about leaps to/from other chord tones than the octave? (Not seeing the score makes advice-giving somewhat difficult; I'm suggesting some things I've come across). How about diatonic trills instead of the octave leaps? That's much more idiomatic for WW...would it work for your score?

    For the brass, you might consider a call-and-response, where (say) a trumpet makes the call (the original lick) and the trombone responds an octave lower (or vice-versa!)...that way, both instruments can be in a comfortable register and a the listener perceives the change of texture.

    Snorlax.
    Jim Williams
    Professor of Capitalism
    N9EJR
    Indianapolis Brass Choir
    All Your Bass Sus&Short Are Belong to Us.

  5. #5

    Re: Octave Leaps in Wind instruments

    In the woodwind section of the piece I am thinking about most, there is a Major triad consisting of a piccolo, a flute and an Eb Clarinet. The phrases are four chords (the chord in the lower register, then the same chord an octave higher, followed by a brief rest and then the both chords repeated in the same manner).

    I later repeat the whole thing in reverse (i.e. the higher chord is played first, followed by the same chord an octave lower).

    I don't know if this makes a difference.

    Maybe it would be better to replace the chords with a keyboard (playing bells or a xylophone patch or something) and the clarinet doubling the root of the chords.

    Allegro Data Solutions

  6. #6
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    Re: Octave Leaps in Wind instruments

    Flutes, piccolo, saxes, oboe & Eng horn have the same fingering for notes from D to B in octaves. Piccolo has a weaker sound in low octave.
    Flute, oboe, & Eng horn also have uneven sound in octaves.
    Higher & lower notes have different fingerings.
    Saxes honk in low notes(Bb-Eb) Bari is more difficult in notes above High C.
    Sop. sax, Eb Clarinet, piccolo fail to project in lowest octave.
    Alto clarinet has weak high octave. Lowest bassoon notes are all fingered by the right thumb.
    Clarinets have a certain type of register uniqueness.
    Easiest to always slur up to next register; much more difficult to slur down.
    These notes are easiest:
    Low E TO 3rd line B
    F TO C
    G TO D
    A TO E (ETC)

    GARY

  7. #7

    Re: Octave Leaps in Wind instruments

    This is an awful lot of info to digest and I'm not yet sure how to apply it to my score. Piano is the only instrument that I really play. I originally composed the score on the piano. Octave leaps on chords (as I am doing with the woodwinds) and repeating a phrase in two or three point harmony, first in one octave and then in the other (as I am doing with the brass) is no big deal on a keyboard. This is the hardest adjustment I have had to make when trying to learn how to write for an orchestra.

    Re: Trills for woodwinds. I am using them elsewhere in the score. I don't want them here. The tempo is slower and I want more punch on each of the chords.

    Re: Brass registers. I am being careful about them and steering clear of the extremes in the ranges. 2-part harmony in thirds with Middle C or B as the lowest note on the lower trumpet in the lower chord, the higher register not going much above the staff in the higher trumpet in the high chord. I know that the character of the sound changes, but that's why I am scoring it this way: to get that effect. Two rather mellow and sonorous trumpets in harmony (the low phrase) followed by a higher, punchier, brassier repetition (the same phrase an octave higher). It's a different effect than alternating between brass and woodwinds, or a solo trumpet and a solo trombone. And it feels right for the few places where this happens in the score.

    So, based on the above feedback, and what I now know of these instruments, I think what I have done with the brass will work, but I need to re-work the woodwinds. I'm thinking of using pitched percussion instead (bells or xylophone patch played on a MIDI keyboard) with the upper part doubled by the flute on the low chords and the piccolo on the high ones. (Or clarinet & flute if the part is low enough). I want it punchy, but not too bright -- I'm trying to save that stuff for where I really need it. I have to play around with it and see how it sounds. Thanks again for all the feedback.

    Allegro Data Solutions

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