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Preparing for Christmas

Discussion in 'Critique & Feedback' started by Duncan Formosa, Nov 18, 2022.

  1. Been trying to get this Christmas piece ready in advance and I think it's really taking shape. Only thing is there's a couple of points that are annoying me and I can't figure out what to do about them.

    The trumpets near the end for example don't have an awful lot to do. I like the ideas that are currently there for them, but it feels to me like they appear, go away for a bit, then come back and then the piece is done. Been trying to work out a counter melody but I can't find something that fits in nicely. I then tried having them play in unison with the horns after the little fanfare part but then I feel like I'm wasting the colour for the finale.

    Was also trying to come up with a counter melody at the second part of the B section but then I felt it was getting a bit too much. I'm not sure. It's annoying because I think this piece is getting really close to being done and I'm very proud of it.

    What do you all think?
  2. I like it. Here are my thoughts as I listened to it a few times.
    • The introduction feels too long for such a short song; it leaves me thinking "when will it start?"
    • 1:24 onward is the actual song
    • The trumpet at 1:46 comes out of nowhere and surprises me, but not in the way I think you intended (i.e. "It's not your turn yet!")
    • Just when it starts getting going, it ends too soon
    Are there more variations on the melody that you can use to extend the song? Because the introduction lasts so long, it feels like nothing is happening, then there is a sudden development and it ends too soon. If I was arranging this song, I would cut the introduction at 0:27, jump to 1:24 (and extend that section), then bring the oboe solo back at the end. The oboe solo could also be used to bridge to another section before the ending. The way I am interpreting this song can be illustrated by the following timeline of internal dialogue:
    1. "Nothing exciting ever happens to me"
    2. "I'm comfortable wearing these slippers"
    3. "Time to check my brokerage account and feed my dogs"
    4. "The love of my life just showed up on my doorstep and I proposed and she said yes and we got married and now we are on our honeymoon and have 5 kids"
    If you give it more time to develop (especially melodically), I think the result will be more engaging. I like the melody, but it doesn't seem to go anywhere after it's been said, and instead is repeated with different instruments.
  3. I attempted to transcribe the melody and rhythm in the attached PDF. Included is a suggestion on creating variations on the rhythm.

    Attached Files:

  4. Hey Eric, I appreciate you taking the time to give me your thoughts.

    Not really sure I agree with your notes here other than the trumpets and I had mentioned that in the original post.

    I'm not looking for it to be this big piece right from the beginning, I want it to start soft and slow. The intention was to emulate the feelings I have on Christmas day. Waking up to the quiet streets as everyone is tucked away at home, not rushing to work and watching the snow fall.

    Everythings feeling relaxed and calm and then all of a sudden there's a mad rush as we're trying to tidy everything, set the table, grab Christmas dinner and rushing to try and get round to see all of the family and before you know it, the day is over and we wait till we do the whole thing again next year.

    Going by your comments here I've achieved the pacing I had set out to do in the first place. Whether you like it or not that's of course up to you, you can't please everyone but I think most people won't be bothered by this (though I could be wrong, we'll find out.)

    The only problem is because it's so short and I'm holding the energy until the end I have a problem with the trumpets since they get introduced right at the end and at the moment don't have a lot to do which I think feels a bit sloppy. I tried removing them and having their parts played by the woodwinds section but I don't think the colour is right. It really does need the trumpets to say what I'm intending, but they need a little something else for sure.
    Michael Lückgen likes this.
  5. I think you nailed the vibe.

    The thing which stood out to me was a delayed note in the melody at around 0:25/0:26. You break the pattern here, and I think this goes back to the comment you gave me: don't try to be smart, just stick to the pattern ;)

    As for the trumpets:
    I believe they are too loud, so they stick out in a weird way here. Maybe pull them down one or two dynamic markings.
    Also, have you tried let them enter at 1:28? In my head I heard a simple counter line, which maybe is like: two 16th notes followed by a quarter note.
    And speaking of which, maybe, just maybe make the trumpet counter line a bit simpler? I would go with the counter line pattern mentioned and just repeat it over the two sections maybe.

    Hope it helps!
    Duncan Formosa likes this.
  6. If that was your intention, then I agree you have achieved the pacing you wanted. When I think of Christmas, it is a time for celebration with joyous singing and excitement to honor the birth of Christ, rather than a slightly melancholy self-reflective moment. My expectation for a Christmas song falls along these lines, but I understand your perspective, now that you have explained the context.

    Regarding the trumpets, have you tried playing the line in a lower register and doubling with another instrument, such as flutes? The trumpets stick out for a couple reasons:
    1. The timbre is a harsh contrast against the rest of the orchestra, which is playing softly, and the other brass has a golden tone
    2. The register is much higher than everything else
    3. The tempo is faster than everything else
    Perhaps changing only one of these elements, rather than all 3, will allow the trumpets to blend better with the rest of the instruments. If the trumpets play together with the other brass, then make a smooth transition out for a solo, and back in to rejoin the brass, it could also be less jarring.
  7. Hmm, I've tried sticking to the same rhythmic pattern for the end here but I'm not sure if it's as satisying. Could just be because I've heard it so much. I think because the pattern has been established for quite a bit of time now breaking the pattern isn't as bad? Feels like it's needed to round of the entire phrase. In this new version I feel like it's not rounding it off as nicely. What do you think?

    You're right, when I checked the midi the modwheel cc was at max which is never good. I've brought them down and then doubled them with oboes which I think softens it out a bit.

    It hadn't occured to me to add a counter melody there. I just tried to get something down but still not coming up with anything I'm happy with. I get the sense it's cluttering up the section and it's not as clean. My thinking is maybe because although we are hearing the A section again the rhythm in the strings have created something new that the listener needs to adjust to first before the counter melody can be introduced...Although I could be talking rubbish here. This part is infuriating to say the least.

    That's fair enough, I think everyone has a different idea on Christmas. I'm trying to come up with a Christmas piece every year so maybe I'll go down that route next year!

    Here's what I've tried so far before I made the original post.

    1. Moving the trumpets an octave lower. This doesn't sound like it's in the instruments meat range and didn't sound very good. So then I tried 2 trumpets down an octave and 1 trumpet in the horn range and vice versa. Still didn't sound quite right.
    2. Having the trumpets double with the horns. While this sound works it means that when I try to make this counter melody at around 1:59 it feels very odd when the trumpets drop out suddenly. I really like that moment in 1:59, feels like we're reaching the climax and I don't want to ruin it by having the trumpets play too much with the horns. It wastes the colour...But it does need something. A counter melody that can weave it's way in and out of the main melody with the horns without it burning out the colour of the trumpets for the finale.

    I have also tried a version where I ditch the trumpets altogether and have the parts I had in mind played on woodwinds instead but it doesn't have the same feel at all.
    Michael Lückgen likes this.
  8. I think it works better now.

    You had a similar note on my piece with the delayed note and I felt the same as you describe because I was so used to hear it like that.
    The original melody certainly is not bad. I think for a non musician listener it is great as it is. They will probably just accept that the pattern changes at the end (because it is so minor). I did too after the first few sections, BUT I recognized that this deviation from the pattern stood out to me in a slightly unpleasant way right at the start. So it may not be necessary to change it and this might be micro level improvements, but for me it sounds better now.
    It sounds like a John Debney Christmas Movie Tune to me now, which I totally love!

    Sounds better now.
    But other than changing the rhythm and making it simpler I have no idea how to go about it.
    Maybe try out a few more things or somebody with more knowledge has an idea?
  9. Out of curiosity, is it only at the start that it stuck out to you? What about at 1:40 when it's on the horns? Should I change it at that part too or is it just when it's the piano?
  10. I'm having some deja vu, didn't you already post this piece ages ago?

    I agree the intro could be a little shorter but the rest is just fine.
  11. I posted the piano sketch but never posted the orchestrated version. The original version I had I hated with a passion, so I've been putting in everything I learned this year into this version.

    When you mean the intro, do you mean 0:00 - 0:10 or right up to 0:46?

    I think Eric said till 0:46 but I consider 0:10 to be the intro. Just to make sure.

    I was thinking of having the main melody come in after the first part of the intro rather than repeating it twice. Was trying to lock in the pattern but I think it's so simple that people will get it if they only hear that bit once. Plus, it's repeated through the melody too.
    David Healey likes this.
  12. Up to 0:46. I don't think the second repetition is needed, but I like the second rep's instrumentation.
  13. I think as a development of the melody it would be cool

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