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Orchestration: PART 2 (brass) discussion

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Guest QcCowboy

Hi Mark, I'm sorry for the delay in responding. (I hurt my back and have been on pain medication... not the best time to be examining orchestration exercises).

OK, first off, the range of your horns is perfectly fine.

On the other hand, if you're following common practice rules, there are a

few issues:

beat 2, there's parallel 5ths between horn 1 and 4.

beat 3, horn 1, the G is the 7th of the chord... it remains unresolved?

still beat 3, horn 1, the F and D... what are those notes? non-chord tones that are neither prepared nor resolved? the problem with them is they are 2nds on either side of the E in horn 2. So, in common practice harmony, they are unprepared, and unresolved dissonances. Not good, generally. They also make a nice little cluster: C-D-E-F#-G.

If beat 3 were rather a V7 chord in 3rd inversion (horn 2 would play a D, horn 4 plays the 7th, which would have no resolution on the next beat.. the 7th would become the root of IV) then we could analyse that horn 1 part as being a passing note on the first 8th, then two chord tones (the F# and the D).

Your analysis of the 2nd measure doesn't quite add up either..

Horn 3, second beat... that B? That whole second beat wants to be a I7 chord. Not a great choice, mind you, since the 7th would not resolve.

Be careful not to confuse counterpoint figurations (like measure 1, beat 3) with legitimate 4-part harmony passing note figures.

OK, that was all about the harmony. Just looking at the horn parts while ignoring the harmony, the part layout is good, though I might have avoided putting horn 3 above horn 1 for so long.

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Thanks for taking a look at it.

I'll try to address all of your points:

Hi Mark, I'm sorry for the delay in responding. (I hurt my back and have been on pain medication... not the best time to be examining orchestration exercises).

OK, first off, the range of your horns is perfectly fine.

On the other hand, if you're following common practice rules, there are a

few issues:

1 beat 2, there's parallel 5ths between horn 1 and 4.

2 beat 3, horn 1, the G is the 7th of the chord... it remains unresolved?

3 still beat 3, horn 1, the F and D... what are those notes? non-chord tones that are neither prepared nor resolved? the problem with them is they are 2nds on either side of the E in horn 2. So, in common practice harmony, they are unprepared, and unresolved dissonances. Not good, generally. They also make a nice little cluster: C-D-E-F#-G.

4 If beat 3 were rather a V7 chord in 3rd inversion (horn 2 would play a D, horn 4 plays the 7th, which would have no resolution on the next beat.. the 7th would become the root of IV) then we could analyse that horn 1 part as being a passing note on the first 8th, then two chord tones (the F# and the D).

5 Your analysis of the 2nd measure doesn't quite add up either..

Horn 3, second beat... that B? That whole second beat wants to be a I7 chord. Not a great choice, mind you, since the 7th would not resolve.

Be careful not to confuse counterpoint figurations (like measure 1, beat 3) with legitimate 4-part harmony passing note figures.

6 OK, that was all about the harmony. Just looking at the horn parts while ignoring the harmony, the part layout is good, though I might have avoided putting horn 3 above horn 1 for so long.

1: Didn't notice them, thanks. :)

2: I've taken a liking to the sound of non-dominant seventh chords that aren't necessarily prepared or resolved, I like the little surprise you get :happy: I know that this is considered a mistake in common practice harmony, but as we're not in the 18th century anymore I don't think it's too much of a problem.

3: These were just random passing notes, I agree it certainly wasn't the greatest choice, I just liked the double neighbour note type thing.

4: I like that - emmended.

5: I did have I7 on the 2nd beat, must've accidently deleted that when I moved the chords down as they got in the way of the pianoissimo. As for the lack of resolution, see point 2 ;)

6: Would it be a good idea to have horn 1 playing what horn 3 had in measure 2, and vice versa?

Thanks very much for looking at it, I appreciate it :)

PS - Attached is a revised version after reading your comments

Ex2.MUS

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Guest QcCowboy

Generally, and this is important to remember generally, horn 1 is the guy (or gal) that gets the solo parts.

Often, a composer would take care to make "background" horn parts that were played by horns 2-4, leaving horn 1 to rest his/her lips until that big, exposed solo part coming up.

In these exercises, obviously, we're not taking that into consideration.

I don't believe it's really necessary any more to give extended rest-time to the 1st horn in most contexts.

*******

And a last comment to Mark: generally, when you have "dissonant" notes (ie: 7ths or suspensions, etc...) while you might not necessarily resolve them in a common-practice sense, it's important to understand that in a largely tonal context, they WILL tease the ear into WANTING a resolution. To get away with this effect without resolving, you will have to probably move a tiny bit further away from a really tonal sounding harmony.

I'd suggest that you at least treat thos "dissonant" notes as linearly as possible.

Even if they aren't resolving in the traditional sense, dissonant notes still require a bit of care. You may want to avoid leaping away from them, particularly if you're leaping from a dissonant note to yet another non-chord tone.

And again, this might be something you want to explore: having your dissonant tones move to other dissonant tones... it might create a strong sense of instability. However, be sure that the surrounding context is not so "common-practice" that it just ends up sounding like errors.

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Your comment about the dissonances make a lot of sense, I'll take care about that in the future - thanks very much for pointing it out :D

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Qc... I have a question for you. How do you treat cornet vs. trumpet? What do you think we should consider when choosing one or the other, or how to write for one as opposed to the other? Have cornets had a history for ever replacing trumpets in the orchestra, have they even ever been called for?

Also, in your woodwind theory thread, you provided an image illustrating the range of the horn, and I tell you, the low written D you call the lowest extreme is damn near impossible. I can hardly go beyond low written Ab, myself, and the lowest I've heard ever called for was Eb below the stave, but I've never heard it with my own ears. I would call these notes virtually impractical, would you agree?

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Guest QcCowboy
Qc... I have a question for you. How do you treat cornet vs. trumpet? What do you think we should consider when choosing one or the other, or how to write for one as opposed to the other? Have cornets had a history for ever replacing trumpets in the orchestra, have they even ever been called for?

Also, in your woodwind theory thread, you provided an image illustrating the range of the horn, and I tell you, the low written D you call the lowest extreme is damn near impossible. I can hardly go beyond low written Ab, myself, and the lowest I've heard ever called for was Eb below the stave, but I've never heard it with my own ears. I would call these notes virtually impractical, would you agree?

I don't take cornets into consideration at all, as they are not a "normal" part of an orchestra. Cornets are band instruments.

Through the development of cornets and trumpets, the two instruments have grown very similar, and the need for either/or has diminished. There ARE still parts for the cornet in some orchestral works (Strawinski: Petrushka; Tchaikowski: Capriccio Italien). The distinguishing characteristics of the cornet are not as noticeable within an orchestral context (cf: Piston).

The cornet would seem to have some advantages over the trumpet in its ability to blend with the woodwinds, however, it lacks the "heroic" quality of the trumpets.

For the purposes of this course, we will stick to instruments that are traditionally used within the context of the modern symphony orchestra.

As for that low D on the horn, it's a pedal tone. Berlioz's Romeo and Julliet calls for a low C. Strawinski's Rite of Spring calls for a number of low G's. And if I recall correctly, Mahler's second has a low C for the 4th horn. That low register is for very special effects, and IS very difficult to control and produce. If you notice the little graph I made, I had "full range", "normal range", and most importantly, "most useful range".

NOTE: There are a lot of instruments that are not "standard" in the orchestra, yet have a valid place in modern repertoire. If you know of someone who plays that instrument, then by all means, write for it. However, when writing without a specific ensemble in mind, remember that the slightest departure from the norm can put a stop to ease of performance.

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I have finally done exercise 2 :)

In the .mus file there are two variants. I was not too pleased with the first one, so I simply made another on in the same file.

Hope they are not too bad. Otherwise I'll gladly to them again. I had problems writing an ostinato - I doubt I even managed to write one in the end :toothygrin:

Anyways, here it is.

*Saiming prepares for a total Michel-rampage* :D

Exercise 2 [Brass].mus

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Just to point out Matthew, that is one bloody high 1st trumpet part in your second example - playable, but the player would almost certainly not be able to stay up in that range for much longer.

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Guest QcCowboy

As Mark pointed out, the 1st trumpet part in your 2nd example is considerably high.

I would recommend you consider "High C" a practical upper limit. When you know some good trumpeters willing to perform your work, then you can start to stretch that upper limit.

A notation thing to "correct" (or rather to discuss): your 2nd and 4th horns, while "low" horns, don't need to be in bass clef. There are not enough ledger lines to warrant it in your examples. Write them all in treble clef, right down to the F below the staff. Only change to a bass clef if there is an extended passage that remains below that (or if the notation would otherwise be much too cluttered.. this is a very difficult decision to take, but will come with experience).

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Yes I see it now (the 1st trumpet) stupid of me not to see that before submitting.

Ah yes, about the incorrect notation for horns. I guess that is something I do so in-order to remember that there are two 'lower' horns - I will try to think of it now that you mention it. Thank you guys for the comments :)

I have also updated it, just fixed the things you guys pointed out. I guess I better have another go at it?

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As has been said, the low written D on the horn isn't that low. Any professional low hornist would be expected to be able to play it. (It would never be expected form a high hornist though.) Actually, a low C might also be expected, and some can play to the A below that or so. (Personally, I can, with preparation, get to B). For me, the pedal tones from F to D or so actually are much easier than many of the notes above it. I actually find it a pity how seldomly those notes are used, as I find they sound awesome. (Shostakovitch's 5th symphony also has a nice part for the fourth horn with a long low E.)

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*raises hand*

Ooh! Ooh! I can play down to low Ab in bass clef! *jumps up and down*

I've gotten down to F before, but rather airy and quiet, I haven't quite got that embourchure down yet. Anyways... a little philosophising here... if we, as composers, take it upon ourselves to continually write for very low horn parts, such as those mentioned in the Shoshty 5, wouldn't it make sense that hornists would tend to try harder to learn to better play these low notes in effort to perform these newer works requiring them? That's how I like to look at things. Nobody will ever learn if we don't ever require them to.

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If I remember correctly, that low D you're talking about is the false fundamental (M3 above standard fundamental) for the Bb side (I could very well be wrong, however).

A couple things:

1) If you look at Classical/Early Romantic music, you may see horn parts that are high, florid, and seem more appropriate for the trumpet. Generally, these would be written for a natural horn pitched in a higher key (horn in c/d) without a crook. These smaller instruments have a more pronounced higher range, while a crook could be added for chromatic tones/lower range. With the standard double horn/horn in F, these notes are much harder to produce cleanly.

You can, however, write for two "horn" instruments that are "sometimes" more standardly seen. One is the horn in Bb, and the other is the descant horn.

Horn in Bb - It's exactly how it sounds. I'm not sure how transposition works, but traditionally, the tone is not as desireable as the horn in F, but since it's pitched a P4 higher (or P5 lower... see below) the higher range CAN be more easily obtained.

Descant horn - the regular "double horn" is actually two instruments, the low horn in F, the high horn in Bb. a rotor on the instrument allows for switching between the two. For the purposes of playing older orchestral music (that would be written for a smaller natural horn), makers have developed the Descant horn, which has a low Bb and high F. The fingerings are backwards, and will generally require a "specialist", as compared to other auxiliary instruments. Like the Basset Horn (in F, which is also my favorite clarinet), it's usually used for modern performances of older music, but if you're writing for a group that you KNOW either has the descant horn, a single horn in Bb, or a high horn in F, this could be a great instrument to use. I know my school has one and I'm at the "off-shoot" campus of a larger state school (to be fair, though, our horn professor is Bruce Atwell, who has enjoyed a more-than-modest share of success as a performer and pedagog). The horn in Bb, however, is not incredibly uncommon. Most music educators recommend the single horn in Bb, since most "beginning" repetoire is written in the range more suited for this instrument.

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*raises hand*

Ooh! Ooh! I can play down to low Ab in bass clef! *jumps up and down*

I've gotten down to F before, but rather airy and quiet, I haven't quite got that embourchure down yet. Anyways... a little philosophising here... if we, as composers, take it upon ourselves to continually write for very low horn parts, such as those mentioned in the Shoshty 5, wouldn't it make sense that hornists would tend to try harder to learn to better play these low notes in effort to perform these newer works requiring them? That's how I like to look at things. Nobody will ever learn if we don't ever require them to.

Exactly! After all a lot of Strauss' horn parts were considered practically unplayable in his time, and are today part of every orchestral hornist's standard repertoire, and it was considered exceptional if a hornist could play Wagner's Siegfried-Ruf without a mistake, while today this is expected from everyone who wants an employment in an orchestra.

Horn in Bb - It's exactly how it sounds. I'm not sure how transposition works, but traditionally, the tone is not as desireable as the horn in F, but since it's pitched a P4 higher (or P5 lower... see below) the higher range CAN be more easily obtained.

Horn in Bb can mean two things: A horn part in Bb, which is transposed like a trumpet or clarinet in Bb (if it's Bb alto), or like a bass clarinet if it's in Bb basso. This, like all other "non F" transpositions is something out of the natural horn era of course.

OR (what you are talking about) a valve horn that is tuned in Bb (or the Bb part of a double horn), in which case it's still written and transposed "in F". It's generally up to the hornist on which horn he wants to play a certain passage, so the composer just tranposes in F and it's the hornists job to find appropriate fingerings for the horn he wants to use. While in America the F horn is most common, in many parts of Europe most music is played on the Bb horn (even if the same type of double horn is used).

I wouldn't say that the tone is less desirable. Apart from the fact that not everyone finds the same sound "desirable" (and for many instruments you will find vastly different tone "ideals" in different countries), it also depends a lot on the build of the individual horn.

The only thing you can say for sure is that a passage played on a Bb horn is in a lower part of the harmonic series than the same passage played on the F horn. And since the lower a tone in the harmonic series the stronger the overtones can sound with it, that means you have -theoretically- more overtones when the same passage is played on the Bb horn. (Whereas on the F horn, you have a greater range of possible fingerings, due to the natural tones being closer to each other, which especially is an advantage when it comes to fine intonation, lip trills, or stopping.) Often though, I don't really hear this theory of overtones in reality, maybe because the mensura of the horn has such a big influence on what tones are emphasized. It's possible that the mensura of some horns is more made towards the Bb horn and others more for the F horn, but I don't know.

Personally, I find the Bb horn often a lot softer and mellower, and the F horn stronger and more brilliant, which is of course quite contrary to the theory of overtones I mentioned.

Also, the F and Bb horns are often tuned slightly differently, to help with the intonation of certain tones, so even a tone that would be possible on both horns might not have a good intonation on a certain horn, because the horn isn't "tuned for it".

Last but not least a higher horn of course has advantages when you want to play high, whereas with a lower horn you have more possibilities in the low range, so in the low register you'll use the F horn a lot, and in the high register the Bb horn. (In the low register you often can't "choose" anyways, since the natural tones are so distant down there that you're generally "forced" to play a certain tone either on the F horn or on the Bb horn.)

If I remember correctly, that low D you're talking about is the false fundamental (M3 above standard fundamental) for the Bb side (I could very well be wrong, however).
I think we were talking about transposed pitch "in F", so the D we're talking about is actually a G and is a minor third -below- the fundamental of the Bb horn. (A minor third above the E string of a double bass.)

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Guest QcCowboy

OK, I will put my foot down now.

This IS a thread only for participants in the orchestration masterclass, and not for extended discussion on topics that might issue from this class.

I welcome the input, I truly do, however, I'm afraid it is taking a turn into territory that is NOT covered by this class, and which may very well lead to more confusion than actual learning.

So I will ask you kindly, if you wish to continue this (very interesting) discussion, please do so in a thread in the appropriate section of the forum.

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Oh dear.

I did this wrong I see.

I shall make the corrections right now.

In execise 4 I was trying to create a funeral march feeling by adding a forlorn/mornful/sad atmosphere to the piece.

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Guest QcCowboy

Sax, why is your 1st horn so low in the 2nd example you posted?

For purposes of this course, I highly recommend you use considerably simpler harmony.

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the reason I mention starting from the beginning of this course is that in one of the 1st sections on woodwinds (horns and woodwinds are very closely related families) I DO mention the reason for the disposition of horns in F. There are two "high" horns, and two "low" horns.

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I see. Thank you.

I will go over both sections.

I started with the brass first because I only write for brass specifically right now until I can further branch out into better music programs.

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Guest QcCowboy

as I said, I highly suggest you use considerably SIMPLER harmony.

The goal of the course is not to amaze the other participants with your originality, but to learn how to use the instruments properly in a controlled environment.

And if you carefully reread the exercise you will notice that it says to write a short chord progression, 1 to 2 measures (that implies changing harmony on each beat for the former, or every 2 beats for the latter), and arrange it for each of the groups requested. Not write a new one for each group.

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