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Orchestration for Band: PART 1 - Woodwinds

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The Flute Family

The Piccolo

The piccolo is the highest natural woodwind instrument, with a piping, sweet, cheerful, and sometimes piercing tone quality. Due to the extreme range of the instrument, and because of the ear's natural tendency to focus on higher pitches, the piccolo tends to be audible above the Band at nearly all times. Since this makes the piccolo rather exposed to the listener, the conductor will usually assign an extremely competent and confident flutist on the piccolo part.

The piccolo is normally played by a single musician in a Band, regardless of the size of the ensemble. Since the flute section may vary considerably in size, this presents the composer with concerns regarding balance between the piccolo and the flutes. In the Orchestra or the professional (chamber ensemble-type) Band where there are only 3 flutists, the composer is free to treat the piccolo and two flutes as equally balanced when writing harmony and melody lines amongst the flutes. In such a situation, the flutist playing piccolo will be expected to also double as the 3rd flute in the ensemble.

A Band may have a great preponderance of flutes due to the instrument

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The Flute

The natural soprano voice of the woodwind family, the flute has a sweet, pretty, and light timbre throughout the major portion of its range. The upper octave becomes progressively more assertive and even shrill as it reaches C7, while the lowest octave becomes richer, softer, and lush down to C4 or B3. As with the piccolo, there is usually little aural competition in the register comprising the upper half of the instrument

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The Alto Flute in G

This lower cousin of the flute has a beautifully full sounding and lush timbre, but is unassertive and easily covered. Compared to the same register on the flute it is more capable of holding its own, but still must be accompanied with great care.

Sadly, the alto flute is rarely seen in the Band setting, though it has become more common during the past decade in professional ensembles. The alto flute will normally be played by the 2nd flutist, unless the part is a substantial solo work, in which case the 1st flutist may play it instead as a feature. The instrument can hold its own aurally against other flutes, but its upper register (above written C6) is a pale imitation of the flute; it lacks the crispness associated with the same register on the flute. The alto flute is not sufficiently assertive to compete with other instruments in the band, except perhaps a soft clarinet section or similar accompaniment.

The following graphic illustrates the full range and recommended range of the Alto Flute.

YCMCaltofluterange1.jpg

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The recommended ranges are for: a.) Professional band. The alto flute will not normally be encountered in non-professional ensembles; even in professional ensembles it is a rare instrument. The range given is the most effective and useful range for the instrument, but the composer may of course use the full range of the alto flute if he/she deems it appropriate. The alto flute is always written exclusively in the treble (G) clef.

Since the alto flute is rarely encountered, cross-cueing the part is essential. The common replacement is the Bb Clarinet (typically one of the 1st Clarinets, as a solo), though a softly played Eb Alto Saxophone or horn (or muted trombone) could be appropriate for the alto flute

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The Oboe Family

The Oboe

The prima donna of the Orchestral woodwinds, the oboe's temperamental nature and relatively uncommon availability (compared to the other woodwinds) have contributed to a diminishment of its importance in the Band. The oboe's unique timbre is pungent and reedy throughout most of its range, becoming progressively brusque and assertive below E4 and thin and delicate above A5. In the hands of a competent player it is capable of being beautifully expressive; in the hands of a less competent player it can be an unforgiving landmine of poor intonation and strident, unattractive timbre.

The oboe, due to being a comparatively more difficult instrument to learn, is studied far less frequently than the other woodwind instruments (possibly second only to the bassoon), and this dearth of oboists can be quite pronounced in the Band. The number of parts may vary; many works have but a single oboe part, while others may have 2 separate parts. Occasionally, the second oboe part may require the oboist to double on English Horn, while others may have a separate English Horn part in addition to one or two oboe parts. A professional band will normally have 2 oboists playing 2 parts, with a third oboist playing English Horn exclusively. Other ensembles may have similar number of personnel, but the actual number of oboists available may fluctuate wildly. A Collegiate band may have only one oboist, or they may have several (there are usually more oboists available at universities with well-known oboe professors), and the quality of player may vary considerably. In a Community band, there may be no oboists at all.

The oboe generally has no difficulty competing aurally with the other woodwinds through the 2 lowest octaves of its range, but scoring it against brass instruments in the same range (trumpets and cornets, specifically) will cause its perky yet plaintive timbre to be lost in the ensemble. Above A5, the sound becomes thinner and more delicate, and benefits from a more carefully considered accompaniment. In this range against the Bb clarinet or the flute, the timbres will blend well enough to neutralize most of the oboe's personality. Caution must be used above D6, as the oboe speaks less readily in this register, and suffers from complex fingerings and difficult-to-control intonation. Do not, under any circumstances, write for the oboe above F6 unless you are either an oboist yourself, or are writing in close collaboration with a professional oboist. Another factor to be considered is that the oboe can be fatiguing to play, most particularly in the extremes of its range, due to the careful control that must be applied. Frequent rest breaks are appreciated and will help to alleviate the oboist's premature fatigue.

One aural peculiarity is that two oboes playing in unison can create a raucous deviation in sound even when played completely in tune, but adding a third oboe (or the English Horn) neutralizes the effect and smoothes out the timbre. This effect is frequently also observed in the string family as well as between unison Trumpets.

The following graphic illustrates the full range and recommended ranges of the Oboe.

YCMCoboerange1.jpg

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The recommended ranges are for: a.) Community band, b.) Collegiate band, c.) Professional band. Please keep in mind that these ranges are merely suggestions, as one never knows the quality of the musician one is dealing with in non-professional situations. The oboe is always written exclusively in the treble (G) clef.

Despite the haphazard availability of the oboe in the Band, composers (thankfully) continue to include prominent oboe solos in many works. One can only hope that this optimistic inclusion will promote more use of the instrument and encourage budding oboists to tackle the instrument enthusiastically. However, due to the frequent absence of the oboe, all important oboe solos should be cross-cued in another part in the ensemble. The Bb Clarinet or flute as expressive high woodwinds are obvious and appropriate choices to replace a solo oboe, as are the Bb Soprano Saxophone (if available) or Eb Alto Saxophone (provided the part is not too high). One extremely poor clich

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The English Horn

The prettier, younger, larger sister of the oboe, the English Horn (or Cor Anglais to you funny people across the pond) has an expressive, gentle, but well-rounded and amply robust timbre well suited to solo or ensemble work. Like the oboe, the timbre is pungent and reedy throughout its range, becoming progressively rich and reedy below written E4 and thin and delicate (almost hoarse, even) above written A5.

In the Professional band, the English Horn will usually be played by the third oboist, though occasionally parts are seen where the English Horn is played by the second oboe as a double; in such cases, either the third oboist is tacet throughout the piece while the second oboist doubles on English Horn, or the third oboist may play the English Horn while reading from the second oboe part only for the appropriate section of the piece. Be advised that the English Horn player in an ensemble with 3 oboists is not expected to play oboe (unlike the Piccolo player, who is expected to function as third Flute); your English Horn part should not have the player doubling on the oboe, which is a deviation in practice from the Orchestra. Finally, other ensembles may only occasionally have the English Horn available, if at all.

The English Horn has no difficulty competing aurally with the other woodwinds through the 2 lowest octaves of its range (its timbre blends well with clarinets and saxophones), but scoring it against brass instruments in the same range is inadvisable. The lowest fifth (below written G4) is far easier to control than the comparable register on the oboe, but the upper register (above written A5) tends to be less effective, sounding choked off or pinched, except in the hands of an exceptional player. The English Horn is not as fatiguing to play as the oboe due to the larger reed and more open sound, but rest breaks are still appreciated.

The following graphic illustrates the full range and recommended ranges of the English Horn.

YCMCenglishhornrange1.jpg

YCMCenglishhornrange2.jpg

The recommended ranges are for: a.) Community or Collegiate band, b.) Professional band. Please keep in mind that these ranges are merely suggestions, as one never knows the quality of the musician one is dealing with in non-professional situations. The English Horn is always written exclusively in the treble (G) clef.

Due to the uncommon availability of the English Horn, all important solos should be cross-cued in another part in the ensemble. Nearly every composer's first choice to the replace the English Horn is the Eb Alto Saxophone; it is common and expected in Band music that all English Horn solos are to be cross-cued for the 1st Alto Saxophone. Another possible replacement would be the Bb Soprano Saxophone or the Oboe, provided the part does not go too low to play, or too low for the player to effectively or musically control. Finally, the Bb Clarinet or Bb Tenor Saxophone may be an appropriate replacement as well.

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The Clarinet Family

The Eb Clarinet

The Eb Clarinet is a smaller cousin of the standard Bb Clarinet, and can be considered an extension and exaggeration of the Bb Clarinet's qualities. The timbre of the Eb Clarinet is somewhat "shallower" than the Bb Clarinet in the lower half of its range, while the upper half of the range is brighter and more intense.

Like the Piccolo, there is usually only one Eb Clarinet in a band, though there are older works where more than one Eb Clarinet is expected (notably, Gustav Holst's First Suite in Eb, which features 2 divisi Eb Clarinets at the start of the second movement, Intermezzo). In the professional band, there will be one Eb Clarinetist, and when there is no Eb Clarinet part, the player may instead play the Bb Clarinet (typically 1st Clarinet) in the band. Another possible way of using the Eb Clarinet, particularly if there are only a few sections where the instrument is playing, is to have the 1st (Bb) Clarinet part contain the Eb Clarinet as a double. Be aware that in a collegiate or community band, there may be no Eb Clarinet available due to the relatively uncommon nature of the instrument.

The Eb Clarinet is more easily covered in the lower half of its range than a Bb Clarinet in a comparable register and will not project well unless the accompaniment is carefully scored. One interesting use is to exploit the Eb Clarinet's pale throat tones to augment a lower register clarinet line - the Eb Clarinet can play higher without pushing into the clarino register of the clarinet and the subsequent immediately noticeable change in timbre that occurs when crossing the

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The Bb Clarinet

As the star of the band, the Bb Clarinet is well suited to its role: agile, expressive, dynamic, and versatile. Each register of the Bb Clarinet has a unique sound that nevertheless blends seamlessly with the other. From the dark chalumeau register, the pale throat tones, the bright clarino register, to the brilliant altissimo register, the clarinet is equally able to play the quietest pianissimo through a powerful fortissimo. In contrast to the Orchestra, the Band only ever uses the Bb Clarinet; the A Clarinet is never used.

The Bb Clarinets are, much like the strings in the Orchestra, the most important section of the Band. In fact, many band transcriptions of orchestral works are written so that the violin and viola parts are scored directly to the clarinet parts. The Bb Clarinets are divided into 3 parts, 1st Clarinet, 2nd Clarinet, and 3rd Clarinet, with 2-6 players per part. The parts may be as similar or dissimilar as the composer wishes, though more often than not the parts tend to be fairly similar to one another. It is not uncommon for any of the three separate clarinet parts to be scored divisi within itself, though this is discouraged if it is overdone, as it weakens the carrying power of the section. If the composer wishes only one clarinet to play, solo must be indicated in the part, and at the end of the solo section a2 is required. The composer may also specify two players or half of the part if appropriate.

Despite its unique timbre, the clarinet blends more readily than any other woodwind, often synthesizing a new timbre in the process. It is generally only against loud brass that the clarinet would be difficult to hear. When the lower register of the clarinet is used, the effect on the ensemble is one of adding warmth to the sound, while the upper register of the clarinet adds focus to the group.

The following graphic illustrates the full range and recommended ranges of the Bb Clarinet.

YCMCbbclarinetrange1.jpg

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The recommended ranges are for: a.) Community band 1st Clarinets, b.) Community band 2nd/3rd Clarinets c.) Collegiate band 1st Clarinets, d.) Collegiate band 2nd/3rd Clarinets, e.) Professional band 1st/2nd Clarinets, and f.) Professional band 3rd Clarinets. Please keep in mind that these ranges are merely suggestions, as one never knows the quality of the musician one is dealing with in non-professional situations. The Bb Clarinet is always written exclusively in the treble (G) clef.

As the Bb Clarinet is commonly encountered in the band (one could argue that it *is* the band), it is rarely cross-cued in another part in the ensemble (except for simple landmark cues). If necessary, a high register clarinet line could be augmented using Flutes, while a low register line would be appropriate for the Eb Alto Clarinet, Bb Bass Clarinet, Eb Alto Saxophones, Bb Tenor Saxophone, or Horn.

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The Eb Alto Clarinet

The red-headed bastard inter-racial half-elven stepchild of the Clarinet family, the Eb Alto Clarinet is an unfairly maligned and persecuted instrument. Played by a competent clarinetist with a decent instrument, the Alto Clarinet produces a beautifully somber, mellow, and expressive timbre that has been famously likened to "musical chocolate". A well-played Alto Clarinet has been said to have the most "clarinet-like" timbre of all the various sizes of clarinet. Its chalumeau register is rich and mellow, while the throat tones are more well-rounded than any of the soprano clarinets. The clarino register is clear and even, and the altissimo register (though infrequently used) is bright yet reserved. The Alto Clarinet is quite as capable of agile lines as the Bb Clarinet.

The Eb Alto Clarinet is infrequently found in the band despite parts appearing in nearly every published piece in the past century. Its slow and painful decline can be attributed to conductors who, when faced with an embarrassing amount of Bb Clarinets in their bands, decided to begin converting clarinetists from Bb Clarinet to the Eb Alto Clarinet in the name of "balancing" out the section. Often the most competent clarinetists were kept on Bb Clarinet, while the less competent players were moved to Alto Clarinet. Sadly, taking a less-than-competent musician and placing them on an instrument to which they were even less competent is not a winning situation. Composers, hearing their carefully thought-out Alto Clarinet parts being butchered by poor musicians, began writing easier or less important parts for the Alto Clarinet. This created a feedback cycle where conductors put the worst players on Alto Clarinet and composers wrote less and less interesting parts, which caused many of these already-marginally talented players to have less incentive to excel.

As indicated in an earlier article, the clarinet section of the Band serves much as the same role as the string section in the Orchestra. The Alto Clarinet could therefore be thought of as functioning in the same manner as viola of the band (which is ironic, considering how the viola suffers from much the same unfair situation; most violists are converted violinists, violists are considered less competent, etc.). In the professional band, if the conductor uses the Alto Clarinet, there will be one player on the part, while in the collegiate or community band the number available may vary from zero to 2 players. More players are possible but uncommon, though a celebrated collegiate band has been known to have no less than 5 clarinetists on Alto Clarinet. The composer should not use divisi for the instrument.

The timbre of the Alto Clarinet is mellow and relatively unassertive, but like other clarinets blends well with other instruments, particularly the horn, euphonium, or trombone. The typical Alto Clarinet part is often in the background, reinforcing the harmony or playing material related to the 2nd or 3rd Clarinet part. Given proper aural space, the Alto Clarinet would be an effective and novel solo instrument since it is relatively uncommonly used as such.

The following graphic illustrates the full range and recommended ranges of the Eb Alto Clarinet.

YCMCaltoclarinetrange1.jpg

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The recommended ranges are for: a.) Community or Collegiate band, and b.) Professional band. Please keep in mind that these ranges are merely suggestions, as one never knows the quality of the musician one is dealing with in non-professional situations. The Eb Alto Clarinet is always written exclusively in the treble (G) clef.

Since the Alto Clarinet is infrequently encountered, any important material should be cross-cued in another part in the ensemble. The obvious choice to replace the Alto Clarinet would be either the Bb Bass Clarinet or the Bb Clarinet (typically the 3rd Clarinets), depending on the range of the line. The Bassoon or Tenor Saxophone could possibly be appropriate in certain situations, or an unobtrusive Horn or Euphonium.

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The Bb Bass Clarinet

Having a wonderfully well-rounded and solid lower range and a uniquely colorful upper range, the Bass Clarinet is a favorite of composers and audiences alike. The chalumeau register is dark and can be almost comically sinister, while the throat tones, like the Eb Alto Clarinet, are less "fuzzy" and more direct than the throat tones of the soprano clarinets. The clarino range has a diffused, almost falsetto-like quality, while the altissimo register (though very rarely used) is centered and focused. Though the Bass Clarinet is nearly as agile as the Alto or Bb Clarinet, it is rarely used in such a capacity in the band, focusing more on bass line or background material.

As indicated in earlier articles, the clarinet section of the Band serves much the same role as the string section in the Orchestra. The Bass Clarinet could therefore be thought of as functioning in the same manner as the cello of the band (though in practice the Euphonium is often specifically anointed "the cello of the Band"). In the professional band, there will be one player, while a collegiate or community band may have several. A Bass Clarinet divisi is not usually appropriate as it would weaken the sound of the section, and is not considered idiomatic.

The Bass Clarinet has a dark and mellow timbre in the lower half of its range that blends well with both the Euphonium and Tuba in the same ranges. Its upper range lacks carrying power and would benefit from a carefully considered accompaniment. Especially in its lowest octave, the Bass Clarinet is an effective solo instrument in either a serious or humorous vein.

The following graphic illustrates the full range and recommended ranges of the Bb Bass Clarinet.

YCMCbassclarinetrange1.jpg

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The recommended ranges are for: a.) Community band, b.) Collegiate band, and c.) Professional band. Please keep in mind that these ranges are merely suggestions, as one never knows the quality of the musician one is dealing with in non-professional situations. The Bb Bass Clarinet should always be notated in the treble (G) clef. ("German" notation - placing the Bass Clarinet in the bass clef a major second higher than the sounding pitch - is obsolete and should never be used in Band music)

A special mention is in order regarding the low register extension on the Bass Clarinet. Please be advised that the Low C extension on Bass Clarinets is still not considered standard equipment, only being present on about half of the professional-quality instruments currently made (and not available at all on student or intermediate instruments). Therefore, the composer should always indicate an ossia passage (or ossia notes) for Bass Clarinets without the extension, otherwise the player may simply play the written notes an octave higher (which is not always appropriate). If a section is to be played only by Bass Clarinets with the extension, a helpful indication such as tacet if no low C extension would be appropriate (followed of course by a2 or all when the remainder of the section is to return to playing). Note that the conductor may override your indication and request that the remaining Bass Clarinets play it one octave higher (hence, why it is important to indicate an ossia passage) regardless of how carefully considered your notation is.

The Bass Clarinet is considered a standard member of the Band and though it is not usually cross-cued for solo passages, occasionally it may be cued for support. The Bassoon is frequently encountered supporting the Bass Clarinet, though the timbres of the two instruments are not particularly complementary, and doubling of the line by both is usually aurally unsatisfying. A higher Bass Clarinet line may be enhanced by adding the Eb Alto Clarinet or Bb Clarinets (usually the 3rd Clarinets), while a lower part may be strengthened by adding the Eb Contra-alto Clarinet, Baritone Saxophone, or Tuba.

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The Eb Contra-alto Clarinet

With a rich, robust, and potentially powerful timbre, the Eb Contra-alto Clarinet is a wonderful addition to the clarinet choir. Only slightly less agile than the smaller Bb Bass Clarinet, the Contra-alto is more facile than its great size would imply. The chalumeau and throat tones blend together seamlessly, creating a more homogenous sound than the other clarinets, at the cost of having a noticeable change in timbre at the "break" (between written Bb4 and B4). The upper (clarino) register is similar to the Bass Clarinet in that the timbre has a diffused, falsetto-like quality. In contrast to all of the smaller clarinets, the Contra-alto Clarinet does not have easy access to its altissimo register (due to the fact that the instrument has covered tone holes that prevent the clarinetist from partially venting the tube, which is necessary to enter the altissimo register), therefore the composer should not write for the instrument above written C6.

As indicated in earlier articles, the clarinet section of the Band serves much the same role as the string section in the Orchestra. The Contra-alto Clarinet could therefore be thought of as functioning in the same manner as the string bass of the band. In a professional band, there may be one Contra-alto Clarinet (though possibly zero, with the band using the Bb Contrabass Clarinet instead), while in the collegiate band there may be one or two players. The Contra-alto Clarinet is uncommon in the community band, where at most one will appear if available at all.

The Contra-alto Clarinet has a dark and rich timbre that blends extremely well with the Tuba and Eb Baritone Saxophone. In the lower half of its range, it functions superbly as the bass of the woodwinds of the ensemble yet is powerful enough to also hold its own against moderately loud brass. The Contra-alto Clarinet is an infrequently used solo instrument but is very effective throughout its range when needed.

The following graphic illustrates the full range and recommended ranges of the Eb Contra-alto Clarinet.

YCMCc-aclarinetrange1.jpg

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The recommended ranges are for: a.) Community band or Collegiate band, and b.) Professional band. Please keep in mind that these ranges are merely suggestions, as one never knows the quality of the musician one is dealing with in non-professional situations. The Eb Contra-alto Clarinet is always written exclusively in the treble (G) clef.

While low C extensions are becoming common on the Bb Bass Clarinet and are standard on professional Bb Contrabass Clarinets, they remain pitifully rare on the Eb Contra-alto Clarinet, with no modern firms producing an instrument with the extension. A small fraction of older professional Contra-alto Clarinets posses an extension to written low C (C3), therefore the composer is urged to either keep the part within the commonly accepted range of the instrument, or to provide extended notes as ossia passages.

The Contra-alto Clarinet can be considered uncommon in the Band, therefore any solo or otherwise exposed lines would benefit from being cross-cued for the Bb Contrabass Clarinet or Tuba part. The Bb Bass Clarinet may also be appropriate provided the line does not reach too low for the Bass Clarinet.

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The Bb Contrabass Clarinet

The largest member of the clarinet family in use, the Bb Contrabass Clarinet has an incredibly dark and intensely deep timbre. Less agile than the either the Bb Bass Clarinet or Eb Contra-alto Clarinet, the Contrabass Clarinet is nevertheless equally or slightly more agile than the Tuba (and more than one might think, given the monstrous size of the instrument). Like the Contra-alto Clarinet, the chalumeau register and throat tones are more homogenous than the smaller members of the clarinet family, blending into a seamless lower register. The clarino register, however, has a markedly different timbre with a unique, almost colorlessly indescribable quality. Also like the Contra-alto Clarinet, the altissimo register is inaccessible and should be eschewed by the composer.

In a professional band there will be one Contrabass Clarinet, while a collegiate ensemble may have up to two (though possibly zero, depending on the size of the band). The Contrabass Clarinet is rare in the community band.

The Contrabass Clarinet has a dark, smooth timbre that blends well with the Tuba, and at louder volumes can be almost sinister in quality. Like the Contra-alto Clarinet, the Contrabass Clarinet easily functions as the bass of either the woodwind or brass section, but is an infrequently used solo instrument.

The following graphic illustrates the full range and recommended ranges of the Bb Contrabass Clarinet.

YCMCcbclarinetrange1.jpg

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The recommended ranges are for: a.) Community band or Collegiate band, and b.) Professional band. Please keep in mind that these ranges are merely suggestions, as one never knows the quality of the musician one is dealing with in non-professional situations. The Bb Contrabass Clarinet is always written exclusively in the treble (G) clef.

Be advised that low C extensions are standard on professional-quality Contrabass Clarinets, but are not available on non-professional instruments. Therefore, the composer must indicate ossia notes when writing below low Eb (written Eb3).

The Contrabass Clarinet should be considered uncommon, and any solo or exposed line would benefit from being cross-cued for the Eb Contra-alto Clarinet, Contrabassoon (itself rare) or Tuba.

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The Bassoon Family

The Bassoon

The Bassoon has a reedy, playful timbre and a wide usable range. The lowest fifth of the instrument's range is full and very reedy, and also difficult to play softly, further complicated with difficult fingerings (nearly all involving the movement of the thumb). In its middle register, the bassoon is agile and as expressive as any other woodwind, but above G4, the cumbersome fingerings and difficulty in speaking render the instrument less secure, though with a uniquely nasal and insistent timbre.

Sadly, due to a dearth of players (possibly attributed to a lack of visibility to the public at large), the instrument is uncommon in the Band, where conservative composers have often written uninspiring, unimportant (or worse, inaudible) parts. In the professional band, there will be two bassoonists on separate parts (rarely, there will be a third bassoonist playing Contrabassoon exclusively). There is a fair amount of band music in which there is but a single Bassoon part (to be played by all of the bassoonists), though normally this is confined to less complicated works for younger ensembles. The number of bassoonists in collegiate or community bands is usually left to chance; frequently there is but one player, or even none at all.

The timbre of the Bassoon blends well with the Eb Baritone Saxophone, Euphonium, Trombone, and Tuba, though at louder volumes it is easily covered. Despite frequent pairing with the Bb Bass Clarinet (or larger members of the Clarinet family) the combined timbre is not particularly effective, as the rounded timbre of the Bass Clarinet and nasal timbre of the Bassoon do not blend well. Above G3, the Bassoon tends to blend more effectively with the members of Clarinet family. The Bassoon is an effective and expressive solo voice that is not overused in the band.

The following graphic illustrates the full range and recommended ranges of the Bassoon.

YCMCbassoonrange1.jpg

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The recommended ranges are for: a.) Community band, b.) Collegiate band, and c.) Professional band. Please keep in mind that these ranges are merely suggestions, as one never knows the quality of the musician one is dealing with in non-professional situations. The Bassoon should always be written in the Bass (F) clef in works for collegiate or community ensembles. Tenor © clef may be acceptable in professional situations only, and only for extended passages above C4.

The Bassoon should be considered slightly uncommon, and any solo or exposed line would benefit from being cross-cued for the Eb Baritone Saxophone, Bb Bass Clarinet, or Eb Contra-alto Clarinet. Higher Bassoon parts may appropriately be cross-cued for the Bb Clarinet, Eb Alto Clarinet, Bb Tenor Saxophone, or Trombone, while lower Bassoon parts may also be cross-cued for the Euphonium or Tuba.

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The Contrabassoon

Twice the size of the Bassoon, the Contrabassoon has an often frankly comical yet sinister timbre. Its distinctly reedy timbre is heavy and not as agile as the Bassoon, yet easily on par with the Tuba or Bb Contrabass Clarinet.

The Contrabassoon is only found in professional ensembles, and even there it is considered very rare. Like the English Horn (but unlike the Piccolo), if there is a Contrabassoon in the band the performer does not normally double on Bassoon, but plays the Contrabassoon exclusively.

The timbre of the Contrabassoon blends well with the Eb Baritone Saxophone and Tuba (and of course, the Bassoon). Much like the Bassoon, the aural combination of Contrabassoon and the lower members of the Clarinet family is not particularly effective due to the mismatched timbres. Despite this incompatibility, one often finds the Contrabassoon doubling Eb Contra-alto and Bb Contrabass Clarinet parts.

The following graphic illustrates the full range and recommended ranges of the Contrabassoon.

YCMCcontrabassoonrange1.jpg

YCMCcontrabassoonrange2.jpg

The recommended range are for: a.) Professional band. Please keep in mind that this range is merely a suggestion, as one never knows the quality of the musician one is dealing with in non-professional situations. The Contrabassoon should be written in the Bass (F) clef, though Tenor © clef may be acceptable for extended passages above C4. Exclusive use of Bass clef is highly suggested, however.

The Contrabassoon is very rare (possibly the rarest instrument in the band), and all solo or exposed lines should be cross-cued for the Eb Contra-alto Clarinet, Bb Contrabass Clarinet, or the Tuba. Higher Contrabassoon parts might be effectively cross-cued for the Bassoon, Eb Baritone Saxophone, or Bb Bass Clarinet.

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The Saxophone Family

The Bb Soprano Saxophone

The Bb Soprano Saxophone, the highest pitched saxophone in common use, has a pungent, reedy timbre often considered reminiscent of the Oboe. Like the Oboe, the Soprano Saxophone is assertive and can be difficult to control in its lowest register (written D4 and below), but in the hands of an exceptional player this concern is not as apparent. Above written C6 the timbre becomes slightly thinner and intonation more difficult, but again in the hands of an exceptional musician this is not cause for great concern, other than the fact that the instrument can be tiring to play for extended passages in this highest range.

The typical saxophone section in the band is in four parts (the professional band having four saxophonists), with the most usual configuration being 1st and 2nd Eb Alto Saxophones, Bb Tenor Saxophone, and Eb Baritone Saxophone. Another common configuration is one part each for the Bb Soprano, Eb Alto, Bb Tenor, and Eb Baritone Saxophones; in such a setting, the 1st Eb Alto Saxophonist doubles on Bb Soprano Saxophone while the 2nd Eb Alto Saxophonist performs the Eb Alto Saxophone part. The Bb Soprano Saxophone, therefore, is not yet a standard member of the band, though it is far from uncommon. There is usually no problem with availability in the collegiate band (though the level of musicianship may be less than expected), but the instrument is usually only haphazardly available in the community band.

The Soprano Saxophone blends well with the Oboe and English Horn (and of course, the other saxophones), and to an extent can blend and balance with the brasses without difficulty. Above written D5, the Soprano Saxophone also blends well with the Flute, Eb Clarinet, and Bb Clarinet. The instrument is quite expressive and is an effective solo instrument.

The following graphic illustrates the full range and recommended ranges of the Bb Soprano Saxophone.

YCMCsopsaxrange1.jpg

YCMCsopsaxrange2.jpg

The recommended ranges are for: a.) Community or Collegiate band, and b.) Professional band. Please keep in mind that this range is merely a suggestion, as one never knows the quality of the musician one is dealing with in non-professional situations. The Bb Soprano Saxophone is always written exclusively in the treble (G) clef.

The Soprano Saxophone is uncommon, and all solo or exposed lines should be cross-cued for the Eb Alto Saxophone (provided the part is not too high). The Flute, Bb Clarinet, or Oboe (all expressive high woodwinds) can also be effective replacements.

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The Eb Alto Saxophone

Capable of great expression, the Eb Alto Saxophone is the primary saxophone in the band. Its reedy timbre is slightly difficult to control in its lowest register (written D4 and below), but in the hands of an exceptional player this concern is not as apparent. Above written D6 the timbre becomes slightly thinner and intonation more difficult to control, but again in the hands of an exceptional musician this is not cause for great concern.

The professional band will have two Alto Saxophonists, each with a separate part; infrequently, there is only a single Alto Saxophone part in much older works (this should be avoided). The 1st Alto Saxophone will double on Bb Soprano Saxophone if necessary. Larger bands may have several saxophonists on both Alto Saxophone parts, which can cause balance and intonation issues. The composer should therefore clearly indicate solos in either part when appropriate (even if one is assuming that only player will play each part).

The Alto Saxophone blends exceptionally well with the Bb Clarinet and the Horn (and of course, the other saxophones), and to a large extent can blend and balance with the brasses without difficulty. The instrument is capable of being quite expressive and is an effective and common solo instrument.

The following graphic illustrates the full range and recommended ranges of the Eb Alto Saxophone.

YCMCaltsaxrange1.jpg

YCMCaltsaxrange2.jpg

The recommended ranges are for: a.) Community band, b.) Collegiate band, and c.) Professional band. Please keep in mind that this range is merely a suggestion, as one never knows the quality of the musician one is dealing with in non-professional situations. The Eb Alto Saxophone is always written exclusively in the treble (G) clef.

As the Alto Saxophone is commonly encountered in the band, it is not often cross-cued in another part in the ensemble (except for simple landmark cues). The Bb Clarinet or Eb Alto Clarinet may be used for much of the Alto Saxophone's range, while lower parts may be effectively augmented by use of the Bb Tenor Saxophone, Horn, Trombone, or Euphonium.

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The Bb Tenor Saxophone

The Bb Tenor Saxophone has a reedy, robust, and hearty timbre that is capable of being quite warm and expressive. The instrument is slightly difficult to control in its lowest register (written D4 and below), but in the hands of an exceptional player this concern is not as apparent. Above written D6 the timbre becomes slightly thinner and intonation more difficult to control, but again in the hands of an exceptional musician this is not cause for great concern.

The professional band will have but one Tenor Saxophonist, but a collegiate or community band may have several on the same part, which can cause balance and intonation issues. The composer should therefore clearly indicate solos in the Tenor Saxophone part when appropriate (even if one is assuming that there will be only one player).

The Tenor Saxophone blends well with the Bb Clarinet, Eb Alto Clarinet, Horn, and Trombone (and of course, the other saxophones), and can blend and balance with the brasses without difficulty. The instrument is capable of being quite expressive and is an effective, if uncommon, solo instrument.

The following graphic illustrates the full range and recommended ranges of the Bb Tenor Saxophone.

YCMCtensaxrange1.jpg

YCMCtensaxrange2.jpg

The recommended ranges are for: a.) Community band, b.) Collegiate band, and c.) Professional band. Please keep in mind that this range is merely a suggestion, as one never knows the quality of the musician one is dealing with in non-professional situations. The Bb Tenor Saxophone is always written exclusively in the treble (G) clef.

As the Tenor Saxophone is commonly encountered in the band, it is not often cross-cued in another part in the ensemble (except for simple landmark cues). The Eb Alto Clarinet or Eb Alto Saxophone are appropriate replacements for much of the Tenor Saxophone's range, and other parts may be effectively augmented by use of the Bb Bass Clarinet, Trombone, or Euphonium.

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The Eb Baritone Saxophone

The lowest pitched saxophone in common use, the Eb Baritone Saxophone has a warm, full timbre that has been likened to that of a reedy Euphonium. Compared to the other saxophones, the instrument is more easily controlled in its lowest register, though the upper register (above written C6) may have a pinched quality.

In the professional band there will be one Baritone Saxophonist, though rarely the collegiate or community band may have two. The instrument is less common than the other saxophones, and occasionally a smaller ensemble may lack a Baritone Saxophone altogether.

The Baritone Saxophone blends well with Bassoon, Bb Bass Clarinet, Eb Contra-alto Clarinet, Trombone, and Euphonium (and of course, the other saxophones), and can easily blend and balance with the brasses. Though infrequently heard as a solo instrument, it is quite effective in that capacity.

The following graphic illustrates the full range and recommended ranges of the Eb Baritone Saxophone.

YCMCbarsaxrange1.jpg

YCMCbarsaxrange2.jpg

The recommended ranges are for: a.) Community band, b.) Collegiate band, and c.) Professional band. Please keep in mind that this range is merely a suggestion, as one never knows the quality of the musician one is dealing with in non-professional situations. The Eb Baritone Saxophone is always written exclusively in the treble (G) clef.

As the Baritone Saxophone is commonly encountered in the band, it is not often cross-cued in another part in the ensemble (except for simple landmark cues). The Bassoon, Bb Bass Clarinet, Euphonium, or Tuba all could be considered effective or appropriate replacements/reinforcements for the instrument.

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If you wish to participate in the Orchestration for Band: Woodwinds class, please go to this thread and post a score!

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