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OK I got into a real funk over this. I thought it was OK but everyone I played it to shook there heads over it.

It was written for a particular group in mind who played it through without me there and just handed it back.

Two things I think

  1. My first piece for small concert band.
  2. I had a particular story and images in mind which was Jesus' friends gathering to take his body down from the cross, while waiting a mix of sadness, anger, remembrance, then acceptance as they get the OK. Does this come across in the music?

Wanted to get some feedback and ideas. My then mentor told me to bin it. Needless to say I am not with him now.

Thanks for any input.

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The first thing I noticed was the blockiness of the harmonic movement.  Just looking at the score, you see a lot of half notes moving in unison that just seem to stop when the next idea starts.  An example is in measure 3, you build the voicings and suddenly drop the low end (T-bone and euph).

What I've done here to the intro is to try to connect the harmonic movement a bit.  The progression is the same one you had, but I allowed some of the notes to suspend to smooth the movement out.  The chord in measure 6 (Cm6) seemed awkward to me.  Just my opinion.  I also rescored some of the voicing to avoid the bouncing of the melodic line from voice to voice.

I don't think the piece needs to be binned, but does need some work in the transitions throughout.

Hope this helps a bit.

Thanks for the trouble you've gone to Tim.
Your suggestions (particularly about not binning it) are good.
Thanks Bob.
I use sibelius which is pretty good at orchestral music, giving you an idea of how your piece might sound.
With the band instruments though it struggles to sound other than soup.
I wrote this about four years ago when I was just starting out and with the negative comments decided to shelve it.
With the feedback I am getting may have another go at it.
Sibelius 7.5 now.
I think night was created using 6 but I remade the MP3 using 7.5.
Have 7.5.1
I only learnt recently how to play with individual notes using the inspector..
Ideally want to get pieces played by real musicians.
Had a chat with Adelaide composer Julian Cochran who mentioned the Ravel Studio where, for a price, you can get a "conducted" rendition with advanced virtual instruments.

Hi Michael,

I am assuming what I'm listening to are just MIDI instruments, what software did you use to create the audio file?

I am currently using Finale Print Music and when I play a whole ensemble, it sounds like an accordion.

By the way nice composition...your melodies and harmonies are better than mine.

Oh sorry. I didn't read your posts. You used a Sibelius 7.5.1.  I once had a Sibelius 6 and it wasn't able to install in my laptop because it needs to be registered to another software like a finale or a musescore. Something like that. I'll try explaining more if you reply.

If I get the latest Sibelius, will I ran to the same problem or will I be able to install Sibelius right away on my computer?

Sorry, don't have time right now to give more detailed feedback, only listened through once, but I just have to say this: don't bin it!! Just because it doesn't meet some people's expectations, doesn't necessarily mean it's bad. I think the music itself is good; it just needs some more work in its execution. I think it's tragic that your "mentor" would just tell you to bin it without any more specific feedback on why he thinks it's so bad. That's not the way to encourage a budding composer! I didn't hear something so horribly unfixable that it should be binned; I heard something that's quite nice, but perhaps a bit lacking in its execution. With a bit more work on it, I think it could be made into a pretty good piece.

Anyway, gotta run, I'll see if I get a bit more time this weekend to give it another listen through and come up with better feedback. But in any case, don't give up!! Keep at it, and eventually you'll produce something praiseworthy.

Alright, I'm giving a more careful listen to the opening themes, and here are my thoughts. (I don't claim expertise here, and these are mostly just my opinions, not necessarily in line with what you have in mind, so take it as you will.)

I feel that the opening themes could be more clearly delineated. Your instrumentation from m.1 to about m.26 or so seems pretty uniform. I don't know how much is intentional (maybe you just wanted to set the mood that way?), but it was only after about 4-5 listens that I picked up that mm.1-4 are a kind of introduction, and the first main theme begins with the cornet solo in mm.5-12. I'm wondering if perhaps you could have brought out that theme more by using a different accompaniment for it -- perhaps a different register for the block chords,  or a different combination of instruments playing those chords, or maybe use some suspensions as Bob suggested. Alternatively, score the opening measures differently so that when the cornet solo begins the block chords sound fresh. Basically, something to set mm.1-4 apart from the cornet solo.

Now, that first cornet melody itself seems pretty important, as it (or its derivatives) recur throughout the piece. Given its importance, I'd say you want to make it as outstanding as possible (not in the sense of being loud or pompous, which isn't the mood you're going for here, but in the sense of making it as memorable as possible). One little suggestion toward this end that occurred to me, is that in m.9, when it leaps up to the high F, you could intensify the emotion of that leap by harmonizing it a 3rd below by the 2nd cornet, just up to m.10, then revert to the solo in m.11. This is just how I'd do it, of course, you probably have other ideas that are more in line with your vision of the piece, but my point is that you want to think a bit more about how to bring out key moments in this important melody so as to make it memorable to the listener.

Then at rehearsal mark A (mm.13-16), if I'm not mistaken, I hear a kind of transitory passage that leads to the second important theme with the pair of cornets playing a countrapuntal melody. Here's another place where I felt the instrumentation could use a change, in order to clarify the structure of the music: you're moving from the first important subject to the second, so it would help a lot if the instrumentation reflected this change. Say, change the instruments playing the block chords, change their register, or something else. The cadence at m.17 introducing the contrapuntal melody seems pretty important to me; if I were writing this piece, I'd think hard about how to score the music leading up to this juncture -- maybe some kind of buildup (not necessarily in volume, but in anticipation, perhaps, by using some tension in the preceding harmony). The on-beat in m.17 is a pretty important resolution that begins the second important melody, so I'd even think about scoring the bass note an octave lower for emphasis (just that one note, in order not to spoil the overall mood you want to achieve). Because of the importance of this cadence, I wouldn't drop out trombone and euphonium here as you did; I'd have them playing for that one chord before dropping them out.

I'd also think about whether to score this second theme differently from before.  Right now, you have essentially the same style of block chords, with essentially the same instrumentation, as the preceding material. This makes the new melody seem somewhat less fresh, as though it has been heard before (even though it hasn't). Given the crescendo in m.18, it seems to me that you really want to make this melody stand out; for this, I think you shouldn't just rely on changing the dynamics alone. Try changing the instrumentation as well to match. I would seriously think about changing the block chords, or perhaps the instrumentation of the block chords, to provide some contrast, so that the crescendo in the melody would be even more pronounced.

Similarly, at rehearsal mark B (m.21), the dominant D major chord is another pretty crucial juncture in the piece; perhaps there is some way to give even more emphasis to the downbeat in this measure. Perhaps have the E-flat bass play a quarter note an octave lower before holding the pedal note. OK, that probably is totally out of character for what you have in mind, but I hope you understand my point -- you want to use the instrumentation to emphasize these important junctures in the music.

One of the things I discovered in learning orchestration was that holding a loud chord for many measures is much less effective than playing it for only 1 measure and then dropping it out thereafter. Our ears somehow "remember" how loud that initial chord was, and seems to carry it on many measures, perceiving the music that follows as being "loud" or played tutti, even though it's really just a few instruments that carried on after the initial chord. Dropping out the chord also makes it less tiring on the listener -- I've written pieces where I have tutti chords held for many measures, because it was climactic and I wanted to emphasize that, but actually, it was tiring to listen to because of the sheer volume imposing itself upon the listener's ears. Holding the chord for just a single bar and then leaving just a few instruments to continue the climactic theme is much less tiring to listen to, and is actually surprisingly effective: it improves the clarity of the climactic theme, and the listener still perceives it as being climactic because of that loud initial chord.

Because of that, my suggestion is to emphasize these important transitions in your piece by emphasizing just that one chord or bar at the transition point -- you don't have to rescore the entire passage to do this effectively.

Well, looks like I'm running late again... I hope you find this helpful (and I hope I didn't trample all over your piece by spoiling everything you wanted to achieve with the mood and transitions!). I'll have to analyse the rest of your piece some other time... but I think you have something good going here, and with a bit more work, it could become a pretty good piece.

Hi Bob,

I have already moved on. Yes it is a Crossgrade. I bought Sibelius 6, because it was the latest version of that time. I'm ready to buy Sibelius 7.5.

If I buy the full version, instead of the crossgrade, I wouldn't have trouble installing it, is that what you're saying?

Bob Porter said:


Sounds like you bought the crossgrade from Finale instead for the full version. If you contact Avid Support, they can sort out what version you need and how to install it.

Thank you T.S. for your critique. So happy that you have given such thoughtful comments.

This was one of my earliest attempts and written for a particular band (who rejected it).

One of things they did say was that for such a small group not having them all playing most of the time did give it an empty sound.

I am heartened enough to put it back onto my "must finish one day" list.

Glad you found my feedback helpful.

I'm not sure I agree with the assessment that such a "small" group should have every instrument playing all the time, but then again, I am no expert in this area so what do I know.

One thing you can do that might alleviate this concern, is to use instrument doublings.  Having two identical instruments play the same note usually does not make that note twice as loud, because two players almost never play at exactly the same pitch and dynamic, so a lot of the sound waves would destructively interfere, thereby reducing the overall volume. This effect also changes the timbre somewhat, causing the overall timbre to become "flatter" (note that I don't mean pitch), losing the individuality of a single instrument. (This is why a solo violin can stand out against an entire violin section background, and it's not necessarily much softer.)  So perhaps you could take advantage of this by doubling the block chord notes with the same instruments, so that they all kinda blend into the background while your important melody lines can be given to the solo instruments to make them stand out more.

(Note that this is one area where electronic music markedly differs from a live band -- the electronic instruments are always pitch-perfect, so they may very well sound twice as loud when playing the same note, whereas in a live band you'd likely get a different kind of sound altogether.)

Another alternative is to have all the instruments play most of the time, but drop them out during important junctures when you want to bring out the melody, or when you want to convey a specific atmosphere. E.g., at the most emotional moment, suddenly most of the instruments stop playing, leaving only a few (maybe even just one!) carrying the most important melody. Or reserve this effect for that one, most important passage of the whole piece.

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