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Hello Colleagues,

I recently posted a piece here for solo piano called Spies!, along the idea of a mythical spy movie theme song. Fellow Composers' Forum member Stephen Lines liked it well enough to arrange it for orchestra and I think it worked out pretty well. Here's Stephen's arrangement. Comments as always invited >

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Bob,

This is not for performance as a sound file as far as I’m concerned...I use Sibelius simply as an indicator of what a live performance might be like....so it’s only representative. I have never once mashed up a score simply for the benefit of the sound file....although as you rightly say I could do. My first priority is always to ensure the pdf is suitable for performers to read from and to understand the composer’s/arranger’s intentions.

It’s not too much trouble (I’ve never been accused of being lazy) to produce, but I’m far more interested personally in composing....I have no interest whatsoever in becoming a sound engineer. My fine tuning and interpretive processes are reserved for when I’m rehearsing and conducting live players, I’ll leave the rest to others!

Bob Porter said:

Stephen,

As You know, for the purpose of playback only, you can give each part of the drum kit its own  staff. Then you can control the volume of each. Too much trouble? If you're after somewhat realistic playback, why shortchange the drum kit?

I get it. I only mentioned it because you brought it up. This nothing to do with being a sound engineer and everything to do with composing. If I remember, you use NotePerformer. You do so because you think it gives you better playback. You go to a lot of trouble to write out parts for other sections of the band just so. But don't do the same for the drumkit? Sure, a real drummer will kind of do their own thing, as might other sections. But if you're trying to give a representation of the music, why not afford the drums the same thing you do for the saxes? 

I guess the simple answer to that Bob, is because I don't want to!

Incidentally, it was Greg Brus who brought up the subject, not I.

Bob Porter said:

I get it. I only mentioned it because you brought it up. This nothing to do with being a sound engineer and everything to do with composing. If I remember, you use NotePerformer. You do so because you think it gives you better playback. You go to a lot of trouble to write out parts for other sections of the band just so. But don't do the same for the drumkit? Sure, a real drummer will kind of do their own thing, as might other sections. But if you're trying to give a representation of the music, why not afford the drums the same thing you do for the saxes? 

As requested, score attached.

Spies%21%20-%20Score%20-%20Full%20Score.pdf

Fair enough.

Writing for musicians vs writing for notation software :)

Although I agree with the remark about letting the drummer do their thing. Just give them a good idea of what the groove is about, and they'll fill all the ghost notes and other juicy bits better than you ever would. This works well.

However! My initial comment wasn't about the drum kit guy, but rather about the 2nd and 3rd percussionist - you know, the ones playing your timpani, gongs, xylophone, temple blocks, wind chimes, glock, world percussion... all the *cool* stuff. Those players don't exist in your score at all. Perhaps they should? Lots of incredible possibilities here. Even if all you do is punctuate the drive that's already established in your winds, you still bring a lot of flavor to the music.

Stephen Lines said:

There are restrictions with Sibelius regarding drum kit and it’s lack of flexibility - even the tom-toms are difficult to bring to the fore. (...)

If you'll excuse me saying so, what comes across about your brass writing is that it's controlled without that control sounding contrived. I've experimented, come up with some growly, maybe "dirty" sounds and tried to open out in the higher registers but it still sounds clogged here and there. Your work sounds clean and open. I suspect it's my harmony that needs cleaning up.

A great arrangement. Can I also comment on the piano part (without knowing how much of it is the Gavin original or your arrangement)? - masterly to say the least. I noted the hammered chords from bar 74 effective but not so difficult to play (if one aims right, with courage)!

Stephen Lines said:

Thank you Dane for your kind comments,

I’m quite happy to append a score with Gav’s agreement!



Dane Aubrun said:

Superb (both composition and arrangement) and deserving of a decent bond-style film. A grand prelude/overture.

Just a shame the score wasn't offered. There're things to be learned from Stephen's brass writing!

Cheers.

Hi Dane, the original piece is here if you'd like to compare >

https://composersforum.ning.com/forum/topics/spies-for-solo-piano

Gav

Dane Aubrun said:

A great arrangement. Can I also comment on the piano part (without knowing how much of it is the Gavin original or your arrangement)? - masterly to say the least. I noted the hammered chords from bar 74 effective but not so difficult to play (if one aims right, with courage)!

Yes, Greg - there are possibilities but I've kept it tight because that's the way I see it (arranger's prerogative). The score is appended, so if you're that enthused by the idea why not supply an example of what you're alluding to? I'd find it interesting to see where you'd take this. I think there's a danger of employing a second percussionist just because it's possible. All the big band work I've done has included just one guy on the drum kit (as much for the reason of minimising costs as any other), but of course it's easy to incorporate cow bell or woodblock on the kit - or even rototom(s).

Greg Brus said:

Writing for musicians vs writing for notation software :)

Although I agree with the remark about letting the drummer do their thing. Just give them a good idea of what the groove is about, and they'll fill all the ghost notes and other juicy bits better than you ever would. This works well.

However! My initial comment wasn't about the drum kit guy, but rather about the 2nd and 3rd percussionist - you know, the ones playing your timpani, gongs, xylophone, temple blocks, wind chimes, glock, world percussion... all the *cool* stuff. Those players don't exist in your score at all. Perhaps they should? Lots of incredible possibilities here. Even if all you do is punctuate the drive that's already established in your winds, you still bring a lot of flavor to the music.

Stephen Lines said:

There are restrictions with Sibelius regarding drum kit and it’s lack of flexibility - even the tom-toms are difficult to bring to the fore. (...)

Great job, both of youse guys. The thing that bothered me was not the snare, but the bass drum. Perhaps it was a bit too loud? Or just maybe too much of it. Percussion is that hardest thing to get right, isn't it? That's why I barely bother with it... Anyway that's all this really needs, some better behaved percussion. At least, that's my story. And I'm sticking to it.

As a young French horn player I was 'volunteered' to be the drums man in our small dance band. At the end of each gig we played the (British) National Anthem which is preceded with a long snare-drum roll - there were so many bones in my roll that people got up and started dancing again - I went back to playing the horn pretty soon after that!

michael diemer said:

Great job, both of youse guys. The thing that bothered me was not the snare, but the bass drum. Perhaps it was a bit too loud? Or just maybe too much of it. Percussion is that hardest thing to get right, isn't it? That's why I barely bother with it... Anyway that's all this really needs, some better behaved percussion. At least, that's my story. And I'm sticking to it.

May I ask about the choice of key Stephen?

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