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Topic: Practical arranging for orchestra

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  1. #1

    Practical arranging for orchestra

    Hi gang,

    This is directed towards any of you with "real world" experience arranging for orchestra. I am working on a piece right now that actually started in the concert band world. Due to this and the fact that the piece almost completely in minor keys, this thing has more flats than a London tenement. Mainly Bb minor, Gm, Fm, Dm.

    I know many string players prefer the convenience of sharp keys, and that a professional orchestra should be able to play in any key. But I'm trying to take into account that my piece may appeal to school and community orchestras, and also that groups appreciate pieces that take a minimum of rehearsal time - especially for lighter stuff (which this is).

    So the question is: transpose it up a step to make the keys friendlier for the strings, or just have them grumble and work it out? Transposing it would alter some nice wind sonorities but it's not drastic.

    Thanks,
    David

  2. #2

    Re: Practical arranging for orchestra

    if those are your keys, just transpose it up a 2nd.
    it will place the whole thing in slightly more comfortable keys.

  3. #3

    Re: Practical arranging for orchestra

    I agree with Michel. Because it is now for orchestra the wind parts must adapt (IMHO). If you have to re-orchestrate the wind parts you may find some new material or sonorities that surprise you. Enjoy the exploration and good luck!
    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

  4. #4

    Re: Practical arranging for orchestra

    Or down a half-step. For minor keys, the music will sound even darker (usually a good thing), and is less of a change from the original tonal plane. C# minor (4 sharps) becomes the least comfortable key, but still ok for strings.

  5. #5

    Re: Practical arranging for orchestra

    Yup. I suppose it's all in the tessitura and general shape of the lines as to which direction you transpose it.
    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: Practical arranging for orchestra

    Sorry for the dumb question, guys... but I do not get why it should be more or less comfortable for a string player to hit a flat/sharp note instead of a natural one.
    String players always think in terms of sequences of notes, can not handle chords properly. For them, hitting Db, D or D# as simple notes is exactly the same thing. Of course, transposing creates other issues as it may alter the registers certain notes fall in and different registers do have different sound... but this is not what we are discussing, right?

    I really did not understand.

  7. #7

    Re: Practical arranging for orchestra

    Quote Originally Posted by sec2 View Post
    For them, hitting Db, D or D# as simple notes is exactly the same thing
    Hi David.My experience with real world instruments it is very little, but I can say that your statement it is only partially correct. In fact, you can generate the same note in different places along the neck of a stringed instrument, but where you generate the following interval could be easy or difficult to reach. Or almost impossible. Just half cent, but there are more savvy people here that can explain it much better than me.

    this thing has more flats than a London tenement
    The funniest thing I read from months now!
    Fabio
    Arrigo Beyle / Milanese / Lived, wrote, loved -- Stendhal
    Being Italian is a full-time job -- B. Severgnini

  8. #8

    Re: Practical arranging for orchestra

    Quote Originally Posted by fabiolcati View Post
    Hi David.My experience with real world instruments it is very little, but I can say that your statement it is only partially correct. In fact, you can generate the same note in different places along the neck of a stringed instrument, but where you generate the following interval could be easy or difficult to reach. Or almost impossible. Just half cent, but there are more savvy people here that can explain it much better than me.

    The funniest thing I read from months now!
    David? You got the wrong guy. Fellow countryman Fabrizio here.
    Look, I play the violin or we should probably say I try to play it. Difference between playing a C note, say a C4 note on the A string and a C#4 is approximately a cm. Further down the keyboard, C5 on the same string is a couple of mm away from C#5. Most of the times you are planning to hit C5 and you inevitably hit, if not C#5, D5 or worse. That's not me saying this but Jascha Heifetz himself who once declared that he was hitting as many bad notes as anyone, only he was fast enough to correct them in order to make virtually impossible for anyone to realize the mistake.
    I still do not see where the problem is. Difficulty is not catching those flat/sharp notes, but comes from the specific phrasing, the number of string crossings you are forced to do, the fingering and so on, tonality only minimally affects these aspects.
    Example: we have a phrasing developing on the violin D string, and it ends on a B note. If the previous note is an A and I am holding it with my third finger, I will catch the B on the same string with the fourth finger. If I have to catch the Bb instead, it is actually somehow simpler to do as it is slightly closer. If I was holding the A with the fourth finger then I 'd rather go on the next string to hit that B with my (free) first finger instead of sliding the already busy fourth, and there catching the B (rather than Bb) is somehow simpler (closer) but no real trouble. It depends... but really I do not believe this is much of an issue. Or it is but I do not get it.... told you mine was a dumb question.

  9. #9

    Re: Practical arranging for orchestra

    Quote Originally Posted by sec2 View Post
    David? You got the wrong guy.
    Someday I will learn how to use those **** scrolling bars...
    Fabio
    Arrigo Beyle / Milanese / Lived, wrote, loved -- Stendhal
    Being Italian is a full-time job -- B. Severgnini

  10. #10

    Re: Practical arranging for orchestra

    sec2,

    What you say is exactly right, it really doesn't make any difference at all (to a pro player). They've seen and done it all in a 1000 different combinations. They may not be crazy about playing in Cb, but they can definitely deal with it.

    However, students & amateurs (specifically what Dargason was asking about), even pretty good ones, usually have had much less experience, both on the instrument and the kinds of things they've seen (so far). The dictum is to keep key signatures for these players within 3-4 sharps and 3 flats, primarily for ease of reading if nothing else. They automatically know where C# is on the A string, but might have to think a second about Db and how to finger it.

    Still another consideration for string key selection is resonance. C, G, D, A, E (and consequently the parallel minors Cmin, Gmin, Dmin, Amin, Emin) are all resonant keys for the strings due to sympathetic open strings and the ability to write double, triple, quadruple stops using open strings. This is less so with other keys, some keys much less so. So lots of symphonies and what-not were commonly written in these keys and as much for this reason as any other. On the other hand, if the desire is to have a dull, veiled sound instead (a la Impressionism), then put the strings in Gb or something, adding mutes even better. Works like a charm, excepting the difficulties students & amateurs might experience as explained previously.

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