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Topic: "Sound the Horns" -- Song for full orchestra for critique

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  1. #1

    "Sound the Horns" -- Song for full orchestra for critique

    I am new here, so I hope one of you will take just a bit of your time to help me with a piece I wrote for full orchestra.

    First the Audio File: http://calebwilliamsphotography.com/...-the-Horns.m4a. I am no mixing expert, so this is standard HP in Finale 2011 w/ GPO4 and JABB3 sounds. My laptop isn't the best sound production platform so please excuse a few errant sounds.

    The Instrumentation:
    * Flutes (1 and 2)
    * Oboes (1 and 2)
    * English Horn
    * Clarinets in Bb (1 and 2)
    * Alto Sax (1 and 2)
    * Tenor Sax (1 and 2)
    * Baritone Sax
    * Bassoons (1 and 2)

    * Horns in F (1, 2, 3 and 4)
    * Trumpets (1, 2, 3 and 4)
    * Trombones (1, 2, 3)
    * Bass Trombone
    * Tuba

    * Timpani (E, Eb, A, Ab)
    * Cymbals -- mostly for the gong sound
    * Glockenspiel
    * Xylophone
    * Snare Drum
    * Basic Orch. Percussion -- mostly for bass drum and triangle

    * Harp
    * Piano

    * Violin I
    * Violin II
    * Viola
    * Cello
    * D. Bass

    Specify Questions:
    1) Are the key changes too forced/unessecary? These occur at 0:22 (Ab major to Eb major), 1:24 (Eb major to Eb minor), 2:10 (Eb minor to Eb major), 2:53 (Eb major to E major, the one I have the most trouble with), 6:07 (E major to A major). There are a few temporary modulators to the dominant, such as a few seconds at 3:30 (E maj. to B maj.) and things like that, but other than that, it's pretty much in the given key.

    2) Does the melody repeat too much in the Lento cantabile section (from 3:07 to 5:22). This is by far the longest uninterrupted melodic section. I tried to vary it as much as possible though orchestrating differently while maintaining the same feel:
    a. Tonic. Violins I and II, with Violas in Unison, then Vln. I an octave above. Flute I and II, Ob. I counter melody
    b. Dominant. Violins I with Violins II and Violas providing harmony. Ob. II, Clarinet I and II present same counter-melody as in section a.
    c. Tonic. Vln. I melody with Vln. II and Vla providing a different harmony than before. Some counter-melody with Horns and later the glockenspiel and xylophone.
    d. Tonic. Cello presents melody, though without the octave skip in the second part. D. Bass doubles one octave lower.
    e. Dominant. Cellos in unison with no accompaniment.
    f. Tonic. Repeat of section d.
    All the tonics are played mp in the strings. All dominants are played piano in the strings. Also, in sections a, b and c, a triangle notes sounds on the third beat of every other measure.

    3. I'm not sure the part at 2:39ish (muted trumpet) really fits into the larger piece, so I'd love some feedback on that bit of it and then immediately following at 2:49 the start of the first transition to E major in which the horns play a phrase and then again up half-a-step in E major with a conclusion to the section which leads into the Lento cantabile section described in question 2.

    4. I'm not in love with the ending, so anything there would be helpful.

    4a. In between the introduction and the strings playing playing chromatic runs up the scale, they do not play. Should I feel compelled to have them playing?

    5. General feedback, questions, etc. are helpful too. I am in the middle of preparing a photography portfolio show, but I will try to reply to this thread as quickly as possible.

    Thanks,

    - Caleb Williams

    PS: I will of course share the next revision of this work with you.
    PPS: I started this on 11/8/11 and finished (length-wise on 11/21/11).
    Last edited by Caleb Williams; 11-21-2011 at 05:05 AM. Reason: fix link.

  2. #2

    Re: "Sound the Horns" -- Song for full orchestra for critique

    Hi Caleb,

    First up, welcome to the forum. I'm instantly reminded of my first dive into the forum using the very same tools. Armed with GPO 4 and Finale - a great combination.

    I don't know if I can answer any specific questions you listed - I enjoyed the whole piece though.

    It's very varied orchestration and lots of colour in places.

    The repeated melody section you mentioned does, as you probably feared, outstay it's welcome a little - I feel this is because although you are changing the leading instruments, nothing in the accompaniment is changing much during it. It's a bit like each instrument family is taking turns, which stops working well after the 2nd or so turn swap. More so when the instrument family is then playing solo.

    I also echo your thoughts on the ending, nothing wrong there musically - the orchestration however didn't come alive as I would expect it to - a lot of low register tones - gave it an anti climatic ending. I think more percussion would help here - the lone triangle sounds a bit machine gun like (repeated sample effect).

    Finally - in Finale, where you add the VST instruments, there is a master volume, and a volume for each VST instrument. These also have little circles beside them that turn red if the volume clips above 0db (reset the indicator by clicking on it).

    This creates that bad distortion you hear when the music gets loud. A compressor helps with that (you can get a plug in and add it to the vst list in that same window) - or you can simply adjust the volume master, and play the track. Each time making small adjustments until finally the red indicator doesn't appear. (some normalisation - peak - would probably be needed afterwards though so the quiet parts don't disappear)

    Hope that helps, but loved the piece, and keep up with finale and GPO4 - play with the HP settings too. It's a great piece of software.
    Cheers
    Graham
    Website:
    www.grahamplowman.com
    YouTube Music:
    My Channel
    Twitter:
    @GPComposer
    Facebook:
    Facebook

  3. #3

    Re: "Sound the Horns" -- Song for full orchestra for critique

    Graham,

    Thanks for the reply. I have to go work now, but when I get done, I will take a look through the piece and see what I can see, so to speak.

    I will post the results as soon as I get some results to post.

    Also, please don't stop the feedback.

    Thanks,

    - Caleb

  4. #4

    Re: "Sound the Horns" -- Song for full orchestra for critique

    Welcome to The Listening Room, Caleb -

    It's a lot for me to chew on, your post along with the music - I admire the ambitions expressed in your post.

    For now - I just want to say that I really enjoyed hearing your composition. There's a purity and directness about it that I found rather uncommon, arresting.

    I want to return - see if I can offer anything that might be helpful - But for now, I just wanted to thank you for the music, and let you know that I'm impressed by both your focus on your work, and what you have so far in this ambitious piece of music.

    Randy

  5. #5

    Re: "Sound the Horns" -- Song for full orchestra for critique

    Thanks for the response(s) -- though it seems like one of them is a bit lacking in originality as it appears to be a direct quote of the previous comment.

    Anyway, I wanted to share a bit about my journey to this point. I started "composing" in middle school by just doing the equivalent of throwing paint on the canvas -- basically just putting notes into a notation program and then playing them back, then in high school I would play melodies on the piano as the popped into my head and some times adding a left hand bass note or two every couple measures, but didn't really ever make any strides in playing the piano or learning more about music theory.

    Up until that point I had been a trumpet player, with just a bit of french horn, alto horn and trombone thrown in to make things interesting. I did however compose music in Finale (2005 and later 2007) as large as full orchestral size, but looking back it doesn't seem like much compared even to this.

    I attended one year of college for music (2006-07) and learning the basics of music theory, but shortly after that I pretty much gave it up. Then this summer, I started back up again with a few piano pieces and jumped right in, only this time applying the theory I had learned in college and more recently some of the orchestration I learned in the RK section of this forum.

    Most recently, I composed a piece with the following instrumentation of about 5:30 in length that I will share soon.

    Parts:
    * Solo Horn in F
    * 2 Flutes
    * 1 Oboe
    * 1 English Horn
    * 2 Clarinets in Bb
    * 2 Bassoons
    * 1 Contrabassoon
    * 2 or 4 Horn (Section)
    * 2 or 4 Trumpets (Section)
    * Timpani in C, Bb and G
    * Violin I and II, Viola, Cello and D. Bass sections

  6. #6

    Re: "Sound the Horns" -- Song for full orchestra for critique

    Quote Originally Posted by Caleb Williams View Post
    Thanks for the response(s) -- though it seems like one of them is a bit lacking in originality as it appears to be a direct quote of the previous comment...
    It doesn't happen very often here, but I think you probably realize now that the response you're talking about is some sort of auto-bot spam post - Sorry about that.

    Randy

  7. #7

    Re: "Sound the Horns" -- Song for full orchestra for critique

    Quote Originally Posted by rbowser- View Post
    It doesn't happen very often here, but I think you probably realize now that the response you're talking about is some sort of auto-bot spam post - Sorry about that.

    Randy
    Well, I was thinking it was, but wasn't sure if they just didn't know how to use a forum or not.

  8. #8

    Re: "Sound the Horns" -- Song for full orchestra for critique

    "...Wiktor's a Jekyll-Hyde personality..." - Lycos Music
    http://www.miserymadebeautiful.com
    "...Wiktor's a Jekyll-Hyde personality..." - Lycos Music
    http://www.miserymadebeautiful.com

  9. #9

    Re: "Sound the Horns" -- Song for full orchestra for critique

    "...Wiktor's a Jekyll-Hyde personality..." - Lycos Music
    http://www.miserymadebeautiful.com
    "...Wiktor's a Jekyll-Hyde personality..." - Lycos Music
    http://www.miserymadebeautiful.com

  10. #10

    Re: "Sound the Horns" -- Song for full orchestra for critique

    Odd that, my comment was apparently worthy of being turned into spam! Such an honour.

    Anyway, hope my original comment was useful.
    Website:
    www.grahamplowman.com
    YouTube Music:
    My Channel
    Twitter:
    @GPComposer
    Facebook:
    Facebook

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