This seems like a great forum to discuss composition techniques so I wonder if I can raise a discussion on composing for a small number of instruments.
What do you think are the advantages and limitations of writing for small groups? How best can you express your musical ideas and harmony?
I am interested specifically in composition for trio as I am working on a trio piece at the moment, and I am intrigued by the unique setting provided by three instruments.
Does anybody have any suggestions of trio pieces that I could study?
Have you got the piece rehearsed yet? How did reality match up to what you expected?
I'm intrigued by the CA harmonics - what is the reason for using these? Are you sure they are possible - normally you get (3rd) harmonics from low notes on a wind instrument (most fingers down) - maybe the bottom perfect fifth or so of the instrument, whereas your opening note is a written B - one finger down only which I would have thought was hard to get harmonics from and the next written note is itself an octave harmonic (seven fingers down plus octave key, I think). Unless I've misunderstood your notation. (they would work well on the oboe, at notated pitch afaik)
Also the notation you've used for the natural harmonics on the violin isn't the normal notation - it looks almost as though you are stipulating an open string. Normal practice is to write the sounding note itself with a circle over it to it indicate that it is a natural harmonic.
At bars 94 - 97, you may be lucky and get the CA player to play those notes piano, but you will be lucky! Something closer to mf (or maybe mp) is far easier to play.
But mostly I agree with Richard - there is some good writing here, lots of independence of parts, but interplay also, with each part able to stand on its own as a solo part. Trios (without piano) are actually harder to write than quartets, in my opinion, because you don't have the crutch of full harmony to lean on. Ending on a bare fifth, with each instrument in a separate range, is a nice touch
Thank you very much for your reply and helpful comments. You are right - I wasn't entirely sure about the cor harmonics, and the natural harmonics. It is something I need to work on and your suggestions are really helpful to me. I had a rehearsal with the ensemble before the performance and these mistakes were pointed out and corrected by the musicians. In the end the cor player managed to hit the 'harmonic' pitches with a clever bit of over-blowing I think, but I certainly know more about the range and what is possible, so you are right that what I had written wasn't entirely possible. The effect I wanted was achieved though which was great, same for the violin harmonics.
The performance went very well and I was delighted with the results - I got exactly what I wanted, with soulful playing from some fabulous musicians. It was recorded but it may take a bit of time to get it as the group are so busy - when I do though I will be sure to share it with you all!
Thank you as well for your kind words about the score. It was a challenge and I learned a huge amount about trio writing. I really appreciate the time you took to look and comment, that means a lot to me!
I thought you might like to hear the recording from the performance - the recording quality isn't great but it gives you an idea of the sound.
I've attached it here, it's on my page, and you can also listen to it on my soundcloud too. https://soundcloud.com/luci-holland
It was a piece for a short film so I will hopefully be putting the film up on my website soon.
As always any feedback is very appreciated! I hope you enjoy.
Thanks Raymond! I'm glad you enjoyed it and I really appreciate your feedback. Thank you for listening.
This worked out beautifully, Luci! Even though I hadn't posted in this thread earlier, I've been following it, and appreciate that you posted the performance. It is sparse enough to not compete with a film, and yet still very compelling and listenable on its own. I can't wait to hear with the film. :)
Small groups are harder to write for. But you need to remember some very important things for composing for these types of groups:
1. Melody- almost always the most important piece of the music. But don't make it such a big deal that you forget about everything else with the piece.
2. Countermelody (obbligato)- you need a countermelody or harmony with the melody or the bass line (upcoming). It needs to compliment the melody and bass line at the same time. In a larger piece of work, there may be as many ten countermelodies.
3. Phrasing- it is more important in a small ensemble than a large one. You need to phrase your melody in increments like 4, 6, 8, or 10 measures. More 4 and 8 than 10. Be sure to stick with it throughout the piece.
4. Bass line- YOU NEED THIS! It is very important. Without it, the entire piece just falls through the cracks and falls apart. Adding a bassline gives it more depth and changes it from being "2D" to "3D."
Hope these help and good luck with you composition!
~Taduhi N. Thetch (Ethan)
Sorry, I thought that the most recent comments were at the top. Right after I read it, I saw that she had posted something. I am sorry, I'll do a better job this time. This is just my first time on here, so I am new at this. I was mislead by thinking that the most recent comments were at the top in the thread. Sorry.
Raymond Kemp said:
Oh my. Last three posts - priceless. Especially the first, innocent one.
Thank you for listening Janet! I'm delighted that you enjoyed it. I will certainly keep you posted when it is put up with the film.
Janet Spangenberg said:
I've been a victim of the misread too Ethan, no worries. However please note that this thread isn't about basic composition elements. I was looking for more specific insight into the technique of writing for small groups of musicians - in this case a trio. Thank you for your input though and happy composers' forum-ing.
Ethan Hitch said: