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Writing for band.

Discussion in 'Tips, Tricks & Talk' started by Claude Ruelle, Apr 1, 2018.

  1. Hey guys,

    So I’ve been commissioned by my local wind band to write a piece for their next concert. I’m taking this opportunity quite seriously as I will be able to attend their rehearsals and try things with the players.

    I’m realizing that I don’t have a lot of experience writing for band and I wanted to know if some of you guys had some advice or if you could give me a couple of resources like books I should read or composers/arrangers I should listen to and study.


    Claude_
     
  2. Hi Claude,

    Do you checked the orchestration videos of Mike? I believe they can help you to put the things together and keep your writing simple and focused.

    Concerning books, you have the classics about orchestration (Adler, Rimski-Korsakov, Piston, etc) but I deeply agree with Mike when he said that music and experience cames first and then theory does.

    Anyway, It was one good book of jazz arrangements for big band, it was Inside the Score, it had arrangements from Sammy Nestico, Bob Brookmeyer and Thad Jones, quite clear and amazing stuff. I found it really interesting and useful but I was using it years ago with a real big band playing the themes, then I admit it was very easy to squeeze the juice from it.

    It was said that one of the keys of the Ellington sound was about knowing their musicians very well; what they like, on which points they were strong and where the weak points were. In one of the videos Mike said that he likes to write for concrete people, trying to give them good parts keeping their interest. It reminded me a lot about the Ellington thing. Maybe you can take profit of having the band near to you, can't you? hang with them, talk with them and listen to them as much as you can!

    When you finish your mock up or real recording please share it with us! Good luck!
     
    Claude Ruelle likes this.
  3. Thanks Tony,

    Yes, I’ve studied (and am still studying) orchestration and have worked with live players. But I’m realizing that the vast majority of it has been oriented towards the symphony orchestra.

    And so I was wondering about the wind band specifically. I wrote once for that type of ensemble as a student, but didn’t know what I was doing at the time... I never got the opportunity again until now.

    I’ll make sure to share the mock up and the score once they’re done.
     
    Tony Domenech likes this.
  4. Awesome that you're going to get a chance to have some real interaction with the band - I hope you get a lot out of it!

    You should definitely get Brad Boone to give you some tips here; he REALLY knows what he's doing there!!

    I'd give you two recommendations to get started with things to look at: the first is Sousa marches! You probably know any number of them from memory - but might be surprised by some of the details of the scoring if you haven't looked at them in any kind of depth. The first thing most people say about concert bands are that the clarinets are the soul of them; which is probably right of course, although I think it might be more accurate to call it the fabric of the band, filling things together in a way that the strings do in an orchestra. The Euphoniums are the real soul of the band - wherever there's something interesting going on, they're there in the thick of it, but without ever really being the defining 'sound.' Like a kind of 'band magic sauce.' Go through some Sousa and you'll see how often those cornet/trumpet & upper wind tuttis have the Euphs sitting at the lower octave, just fattening it up a bit at the fundamental. Then when the bones come in too - you definitely know that they've arrived. Which isn't necessarily what you want!

    The second thing I'd do is look at the Hal Leonard Concert Band channel. It isn't mind-altering stuff, but it's stuff you know, much of it originally for orchestra. There are plenty of 'paint-by-numbers' parts, where the saxes are yet again doubling the horns, the trumpets rarely are given any independence, etc. - but then again, painting by numbers still works, right?

    For doing something 'artistic' within the medium, I'd dig into Maslanka, Ewazen and Ticheli. For that matter, just spend some time finding all of the North Texas Wind Symphony's albums - they're all really, really clear and well recorded.
     
    Claude Ruelle likes this.
  5. Thank you so much for this Brian! - I'm gonna check this out. I was already having a look at different things including works by John Glenesk Mortimer which I really liked.

    I think one of my main concerns is the number of players. I'm writing for a semi-pro band and with a large number of woodwind players and a lot of doublings, I would have to be careful if I don't wanna have something that's going to be cacophonous or muddy. I also wanna be careful with my voicings and how I balance them within the band... Don't wanna have weird voices sticking out here and there.

    I'm almost done with the piece which is gonna be around 5min, and I'm soon going to start to orchestrate it.
     
  6. One of the pieces I'm checking out:


    The conductor has the score for this - I'm gonna transcribe a few things and borrow his score to check.
     

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