This is the second movement of a piece I will post probably in a few days. It was an attempt to make an orchestral version of, and develop, musical ideas I came up with on piano years before. I'm posting a quick iPhone recording I did of the piano melodies so you can hear the source material I was trying to adapt (the toddler running around making noise, while cute, was not part of my musical statement). I hope to get feedback on a couple things:
1) Suggestions for improvements in the chords/rhythms/harmony lines.
- I'm an okay-at-best piano player, so my left hand was playing simple octaves, sometimes on quarter notes, sometimes syncopated. I'm sure there must be a better way to incorporate this feel into the string section, but I'm not sure what that is.
2) Comments/suggestions about the form/structure
Thanks for your help!
Great! Lots of variations are possible with a string arrangement of this piece.
All arrangement is about turning something composed on one medium into another so it sounds like it was written for the “target” medium - which usually means a literal transcription isn’t always the best way.
Here are some possibilities:
Allow the cello to play accented notes pizzicato.
Let the Vla and Cello copy the rhythm of Vln 2. Accent the notes you want syncopated. Let them sometimes play staccato / short detaché.
Bar 9 – letting the Bass copy the Vln2 rhythm might sound a bit fluffy. Possible also to let it play a quiet pedal note and give the rhythmic thing to the cello or let both take this rhythm.
Might be worth exploring if the Vln1 melody at bar 33 could be developed further along as an inner part – Viola or even Cello, which would mean some rearrangement of the harmony and rhythm around it. As your melody carries so much of the harmony itself, it could be played as a solo accompanied by just pizzicato bass or something. **
One possibility could be all parts other than the melody line playing pizz or staccato.
In bar 3 you use a chromatic passing note the C nat to get back to the C# on the A chord. There’s a lot of scope for suspensions and accented passing notes in this piece, given the tempo. Might add interest and colour.
Then – this is a matter of taste so just an opinion. Bars 2-4 and similar, let the cello drop to the lower D to fill out the chord a bit. (It would have to come up to the B at the end of bar 4 to be in register). It would work well in contrary motion against Vln2. Then…I notice you double the 3rd of the chord in bar 2 – no problem with this except it naturally sounds weak (which you may prefer) but if you moved the cello down to the bottom D you could leave the viola on A giving the chord root+3rd+5th, more full-sounding. A slight hairpin up from Bar 1 into bar 2 might be nice then an equally slight diminuendo going toward the end of the phrase (bar 4).
May I say, you’ve come up with a very nice piece that lends itself to many interesting possibilities.
** I had a few minutes and had the cheek to try out just the viola , also the cello as solos with a pizzicato bass. It doesn’t sound too shabby at all. I haven’t the nerve to post the results. Wouldn’t presume upon you! But it does work. Seems to.
Please, feel free to post your ideas! I am very aware of my learner's status when it comes to composing. I played trumpet growing up, so I have a decent idea of what winds can do to sound good, but not so much with the strings. My goal with posting is to get feedback of exactly the type you offered; I really do welcome all suggestions. I had a minute to play with a couple of your ideas. Even just changing some of the bass quarter notes to whole notes sounded way different.
Tomorrow my 4th and 5th graders have their recorder concert, so I'll get back to playing around with this piece when the busyness subsides later this week.
Thanks for your help!
Well, as long as you're happy with me doing that, then here's what I tried out - just short phrases from your bar 33.
(Not sure where the files will appear but let's try).
There's one with just viola and bass, the next is with cello, bass with violins pizz. The last viola, bass and with violin elaboration.. (The pizz one is a bit rough and ready. LOL, was just trying it before suggesting so finesse wasn't the aim!0
Matt Baker said:
Unlike notation software, my DAW can produce an absolutely literal music score as a pdf (using 2 staves per instrument), so it comes up with some weird note values. If it's any help here's the score for the 3rd try. Unfortunately it's a half-measure out of step with your work but the gist should be clear.
Perhaps there are settings to improve things but I rarely use it so haven't explored them yet!
I'm in the process of learning what to do with brass - so you could probably drop me a few hints when the time comes!
Cheers and thanks!
Dane has put a lot of work and effort into responding so well to your music Matt. I like what you've written and I agree entirely with Dane's suggestions. When I first listened I thought very much along similar lines to Dane but, sadly, didn't have the will to go to the trouble he has - I apologise for that. However, if you follow up on his suggestions and incorporate them, I'm sure a fine arrangement will be the result.
Keep up the good work.
Seems it wasn't too hard to make the music score at least decipherable. Something I had to learn about!
Here's the better version aligned with your piece, Matt, and the double bass transposed up an octave.
Let's think about this. I don't think what you have written lends itself to orchestra all that well. Think about adding a drum kit and bass line. Then you need a melody and a melody instrument. It kind of reminds of a samba kind of thing.
Not that an orchestra couldn't do this, but....
Stephen, apologies for not thanking you for your comment earlier - I had just a few minutes to put up that "improved" score! Mocking up those few bars wasn't so much work. It's been a lazy day - uninspiring weather; composer lassitude - wanted to wade into my Sinfonia Grandiosa (hahaha!), got as far as the first bar and....the inspiration vanished! I was going to hide under a pile of disused crotchets decomposing in the shed.
No, seriously, I wanted to try out a suggestion and since Matt was ok to see what I was thinking, I was happy to hand it over!
Stephen Lines said:
Thank you for your reply. I don't entirely disagree with you. That's mostly why I posted this second movement before putting up the entire piece; I've always known it was lacking something, and I wanted advice from more string-oriented people on ways to improve. I think I'm going to plug away and try to make it work (if anything to learn about how to make things work for strings), but it's not because I think you're wrong.
I wrote the original piano piece during a particularly gloomy part of my life, so it has a very melancholy mood at its core. I did record the provided example somewhat faster than I normally play it, mostly because I was running out of storage space on my phone at the time. I find it fascinating that it lead you in a samba direction, and I fully intend to develop the musical ideas in that direction as well at some point in the future. What instrument would you recommend for playing a melody? I'd think trumpet? I know nothing about samba, other than I've heard it before. I'm looking forward to learning more about it.
Thanks again for your comments!
Bob Porter said:
Wow! Such simple changes that make it so much less boring! Needless to say, I enjoyed your ideas, and I will attempt to work them in. One thing I've noticed in string scores is that sort of passing of melodies/musical ideas around the orchestra. Every time I see it, I think, "Duh, that makes total sense," yet I always forget it's a thing when I'm writing, and I tend to write one line for each instrument, like how I might arrange a garage band type song. Thank you for posting these examples.
I also liked how you broke up the melody slightly with the 16th note/rest combo. I really like the the recording of that note. Is that a specific technique that should be notated as such, or is that just how it would be played naturally? How would one notate for a player to play it that way?
Thank you so much for your input!
Dane Aubrun said: