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?
Writing for chamber groups can be a great way to get your music performed, and if you can develop a relationship with a group you can write specifically for them. As for pieces to study, I would start with Beethoven's chamber music. For something in a non-classical mode, I think there's a lot to be learned from Schoenberg's String Trio.
Thanks all for the great advice, that's all extremely helpful and supportive! Hopefully have something to share with you by the end of the year.
What kind of trio are you writing for? If you're talking compositional challenges, then having a piano is kind of cheating: any missing harmonies and dynamics can be supplied by that instrument.
I'm always blown away by craftily written trios for monophonic instruments, especially if you're adhering to classical harmonies. Ok, Bach trio compositions on the keyboard are along the same lines. It's very hard to say everything you want to say if every single note counts.
Very good points made here. I am writing for a specific ensemble of violin, viola and cor anglais, for a film screening. To this point I had already scrapped three separate drafts, and I think I've got something now. I found at first that I was focusing too much on the harmony and melodic elements, in terms of fitting to the film. I've tried something a little sparser now, and in this instance, every note especially counts. It's been a challenge but it's opened my eyes to many techniques.
If anyone wants to have a look, I'd be delighted! Positive criticism greatly appreciated... I still have to go over a lot of the harmonic effects.
4. Weapons - Luci Holland.pdf
Take a look at you average romantic piano sonata. Leave out one third or so of the chord notes. Now hear the new piece for the first time. Would you say that something is missing? I'm guessing no.
Fredrick zinos said:
Hi all, not sure if those earlier comments are aimed at me - I didn't say that notes don't count? If they were then perhaps you misunderstood me.
I can arrange for a midi file, however as the piece is "effects" driven, it doesn't sound much like the written score, or rather, not what I'm going for with the live instruments!
Should have a rehearsal at the end of the month, I'm looking forward to it!
Good suggestion Jon, was thinking the same today on my ponderous walk to work. I will try and arrange a recording and hopefully have something for you all to listen to!
Thanks for your comments and support.
As you rewrite this (if you're still working on it) I suggest going through section by section and asking which idea is the foreground and which the background and then making sure that's come through in how you're voice it. For instance, if this is an untransposed score the C.A. in ms 41 is going to be very prominent as that's the top of the range of the instrument. (And you'll want a technically solid player performing it.) At ms 50, are you intending the Viola to be the focus or the C.A.? The figures in the viola and violin are going to draw a lot of attention so if you want the C.A. to come through you'll want to notate that. You clearly have some knowledge of the C.A. harmonics and those should add some really nice colors to the piece.
When you have it finished and performed, I'd love to hear it. Good luck!
Hi Richard, thank you for taking the time to look at the score and write your feedback, I really appreciate that. I will absolutely be working on this more; now that I have a solid draft to work on, I can start to polish it. Your comments on finding the focus in the sections have really helped, as I wasn't sure on where to start fixing the piece up.
I still have to double-check a lot of the harmonic writing - I'm pretty sure I'm in the right area, but always good to be sure before a rehearsal with professional musos! You are right, that is an untransposed score. I paid pretty close attention to the ranges I was working with but you have pointed out some places where there might be problems, such as those descending phrases in the cor - I'll be rethinking those pitches. At ms 50, my hope was that the harmonic on the cor will drift over the movement in the strings - I think my intention regarding the focus was to have the violin at the foreground with the octaves. I think the violin may have to play that by "jumping" over a string (by playing the top B on the A string), but I may be over-thinking that and making it too difficult. It might be easier to play those phrases on the G and D strings.
I'm at work now but once I'm at home I will be going through the piece again with all your comments in mind. Once again, I really appreciate your comments, you have inspired my confidence. Thank you!
Richard Ford said: