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Carlos Lalonde

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  1. As many comments have stated, you have a knack for melodic writing, and that is fantastic. As you have written for marching band instrumentation, I will comment from the standpoint that this is to be performed during a halftime show, however most of my suggestions should help you regardless of what type of ensemble you write for. All beginning composers all have difficulty with balance and blending. For example, the clarinet solo at m. 32 is lovely, however you have to remember that the clarinets will not be heard on the field especially with low brass accompaniment. You can either double the solo on other instrument(s), or score the melody for instruments that will project over the texture and across the field (e.g, brass, high woodwinds, pit percussion (xylophone, glockenspiel)). During that same clarinet solo, the marimba is doing some cool things. However, marimbas are rather quiet unless they're mic'd (which most high school marching bands don't bother with), so maybe write that marimba line out to something with more punch. Finally, keep in mind like adding triple forte for woodwinds and pianissimo to brass won't give you the desired effect you want in real life. Balancing the sections to bring out the line is more important and comes with time as you grow as a composer and orchestrator. Notation is another big thing that beginning composers struggle with. Being able to convey your music in the most effective way to players, is the name of the game. Composers do this by following a set of notational conventions that you learn over time and teaching yourself. I highly recommend the holy grail on all things notation, Behind Bars by Elaine Gould. Many college professors I met also use this book religiously, and the language used is friendly to beginners, too; if you are serious of pursuing composition in college, I'm sure that you will invest in such a valuable resource as this book, as well as other orchestration books. Anyways (I'm gonna ramble here), small things like using appropriate note value durations, adding that fermata to all instruments in m. 38, avoiding whole note slurs in m.18, etc. These little things are learned over time and from reading notational resources, like I mentioned. [I won't comment on the harmonic choices as @Tónskáld has already mentioned many.] I am currently a senior in high school looking to pursue music composition in college as well! I began writing things just like this, and it is amazing how much you can grow. As long as you keep educating yourself, doing score studies, etc., you will improve dramatically. Just this year alone, my writing has increased 10-fold, and I won a composition competition for a youth orchestra, and my piece will be performed live at Orchestra Hall this May! And that is from being involved with the composing community (American Composers Forum, Reddit, YoungComposers, etc.) In conclusion, my advice on this front is to be as involved as possible, get your pieces played by live musicians, and to hone your craft.
  2. If this was written five years ago, I'd love to hear your writing now! This was a very relevant post for me, as I am also looking into John Williams' score for orchestration guidance and ideas, and I have to say this piece has some excellent melodic and harmonic ideas that are truly inspiring. I don't want to comment too much on your orchestration skills as you have most likely improved greatly as an orchestrator and composer since writing this. However I want to share a small idea that might be of use to you (if no one ever mentioned it). I recommend dove-tailing the woodwinds in measure 113 and onwards (sharing the sixteenth runs between the first and second players to increase fluidity of line). Other than that, your orchestration was masterful. I think we can all learn something from this. Nothing is better than live players and it isn't safe to rely on samples or midi to give us an accurate representation of what the score will sound like. In particular, the flutist was excellent and it was fantastic to hear; for example, the solo at m. 71, and the flutter-tonguing at m. 163 sounded excellent and can't be reproduced from today's samples (or even the glorious NotePerformer!). I've always had a sour look on my face listening to samples, too. But this gave me the idea to incorporate live players and samples to produce the best recording you can (at a steep discount to professionally recording it!). Lastly, I am a stickler for notation and your score was notated beautifully. As we are both Sibelius users, I want to learn how to add the little part numbers (1 & 2) to the right of the instrument names. I can't find a solution out there, but hopefully you can send me in the right direction, haha. Great work.
  3. Nicely done! I have some food for thought as you continue to broaden your 'large ensemble' tool belt. 1. You have a knack for nice melodic ideas and there are some nice melodies throughout, however there should be more development of those ideas. In other words, give us a melody that will build and means something significant that you can reference later in the piece, for example. Speaking of which, I think there's more potential more that 3-note motif in measure 90. That can definitely become a signature motif that you can start exploiting near the beginning of the piece (and eventually shows up at the end, as it is); also explore more harmonic ideas that can further enhance your writing. For that motif, maybe experiment with contrary motion (harmonies go in opposite directions) to provide some added interest instead of an orchestral unison. 2. The strings acted like a good 'padding' for the piece and provided the main harmonic accompaniment for the piece; however, that seemed like their only purpose. I felt as if it was the strings vs. the woodwinds (and french horn). You can give the woodwinds some chordal structures and accompaniment as well, especially if this to be played by real performers. The strings could also take some melodic ideas too! Based on the instrumentation, the bassoon can provide a rich, low end (not that its are particularly loud) that you can use to your advantage to increase the orchestral 'flavor'. The clarinets also have a resonant low-end that you can use to fill that tenor range, and maybe have the clarinets divisi (one plays low, the other high in order to rise above the texture). The oboes and flutes can also provide interesting textures too, instead of playing intermittent soloistic melodies. All-in-all, incorporate the woodwinds and strings together instead of woodwinds accompanied by strings. 3. Finally, be aware of how the different instruments mix together. For a majority of the piece, the strings are written at piano and the woodwinds play at forte. In real life, those woodwind players would play at a dynamic level that would distort the sweet-sounding melodies you had in mind, since the quiet woodwinds are trying to rise above the entire string section. You can go about this in a few ways: one, double the melody on more than one instrument and maybe experiment with octaves here. You don't wanna overdo it, just an idea. Also, take some time to research the ranges of each instrument and how they sound in those ranges. If you want a solo flute (well, most instruments in that matter) to stand above the orchestral texture, make sure to write it in its higher register. But be careful not to go crazy here, as some instruments don't usually go as high as MuseScore or Sibelius say they can without screeching. Speaking of ranges, you did pretty well in the woodwind section, but keeping in mind that flutes are one the quietest acoustic instrument in their low register (maybe C5 and below?); you can give that lower melody to the oboe or clarinet. The oboe range was pretty reasonable, but be careful not to write it too high (same with clarients); they are not flutes. The high 'E' in measure 53 is out of the range of most players (except flute), especially at the end of a piece. I don't know how deliberate and intentional your instrumentation decisions were, however the lack of a full brass section certainly changes the textures you could be missing out on, but that is purely subjective. Final note, this is a non-transposing score, which is fine. However, make sure to give your players their transposed part if they are a transposing instrument (i.e. Clarinets, and French Horn). Great job and keep writing!
  4. You must've put a lot of work into this piece! I'd love if you'd attached a score!
  5. This sounds fantastic. Judging from the lack of a score, I'm assuming you have a D.A.W. workflow(?) I'm curious as to what your composing process is to create such an immersive sound!
  6. I like this piece a lot! Your orchestral textures really sell the 'menacing'/'haunting' vibe you're going for.
  7. EDIT: I have finished this song! In case anyone wanted to see what orchestration things I added/changed. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TmJpzXYXq2I
  8. Hey all, I finished a rough draft of a work and need feedback on its orchestration, playing techniques, etc. I will adjust any notational errors later as I have not proofread the work yet. Any general advice/feedback is great, as the form of the song is set in stone. Thanks!
  9. Hey there, had a quick notational question: I noticed that some composer put beams over rests, like the image I attached. Is this a useful/preferred technique, or is it completely personal preference to the composer? Thanks a lot!
  10. Just a quick remark on flute range. Flutes can of course play low, however, it is difficult to hear them under the orchestral texture even if everyone is playing piano, and it is difficult to produce sounds in those lower registers. Also, Sibelius' instrument ranges can be "off"; for example, oboes can play a D6, however it is more difficult to produce a consistent good sound compared to a flute.
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