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This is the revised version of my piece "Baron von Munchausen, Or, Munchausen's Narrative of his Marvellous Travels and Campaigns in Russia" for concert band, which I originally submitted for the Winter Competition here.

Some changes: I completely replaced the "Wild Boar," "Horse-Taming," and "Journey to the Moon" sections, replacing them with something more thematically tied to the rest of the piece; I added more "connective tissue" between the sections of the story to give it more cohesiveness; finally, I added some instruments and spruced up the score/notes quite a bit.

The sound quality may be worse than the original, since this is just the raw MuseScore mp3 export, although some things (like dynamics and accents) will sound clearer.

@Adrian Quince, I know you were interested in hearing a revised version -- although I know you've done quite a lot of work reviewing my pieces lately, so no pressure!

Edited by Noah Brode
Added score with major changes marked
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Hi Noah,

Sorry I've not been around much lately. Between starting a new job and trying to wrap up my own music projects, it's been a couple of crazy hectic weeks. Anyway...

Overall, I really like your revisions. The piece feels a lot more unified now. Since you're pushing for a May 1 entry deadline, I'm going to focus my commentary on getting the work cleaned up and ready to submit.

1. The balance of the opening section is off. The way I'm reading the score, all three trumpets would be playing the same notes for the first four bars. Likewise the three trombones. Those lines are going to be way more prominent than the others. Either split the trumpet and trombone sections into parts straight away or indicate one only for the first 4 bars.

2. I'd leave the euphonium out of the first 4 bars. The trombones will be clearer in the fanfare without the rounder tone and softer attacks of the euph.

3. I know you're kind of limited by the format of the score and what MuseScore will let you do, but ideally Trombones 1 and 2 would go with the trumpets on the fanfare line. Three trombones plus Bari Sax, Tuba, and Euphonium on that bass line is overkill.

4. In 4/4, the staccato half seems odd to me. Maybe a quarter tied to an 8th to indicate an off on 4?

5. Throughout the piece, it looks like there are only 1 or 2 trumpets. I never see the third anywhere. Third trumpet is very standard in a concert band or wind ensemble, so I think you need to go back through and look for places to do three part trumpet writing. Similar feedback on the trombones, although 3rd trombone will sometimes go off and double the tuba while 1 and 2 are doing something else. Also, similiar feedback on Clarinets.

6. Unison Alto Saxes cut through the ensemble a lot. The places where you have two altos on the top of a duet and the tenor on the bottom would likely be better served with the altos playing both duet lines and the tenor doing something else.

7. The chord at m. 24 is going to get muddy. Given the harmonies you're using the bar, the euphonium should be up an octave on the G at least. Also, this is a great spot to block out your trombones and horn in three- and four- part chords. Remember, things doubled at the unison and in octaves are always louder.

8. Your writing really shines in the sections where you're using less of the ensemble. I love the movement of the line through the different solo instruments at B.

9. When it comes to allocating solos, they should generally be placed in the first part for any section, regardless of range. The best players will be on that part. In the Horns, there is the additional aspect of managing fatigue for the player. In most bands and orchestras, the practice is to have two players on the first Horn part dividing duties. The principal will take solos and important lead sections while the assistant first will handle a lot of the rest.

10. Measure 93, great Bass Clarinet line! The player will thank you for that one.

11. I would leave the Bass Clarinet out of mm. 101-104. That gives the player a breather after the solo line and gives you a cleaner sound with just bassoons and horns. At 105, when the trombone comes in, it makes sense to add bass clarinet to thicken the texture.

12. At D, is the 6/4 grouped as three half notes or two dotted half notes? With all the syncopation in the accompaniment, it's going to be hard for the group to establish time. If it's grouped as half notes, use a 3/2. Also, for the players with the 8th note accompaniment, beam those by the half note beat so it's really easy to see.  If it's grouped as dotted half notes, I'd recommend using a 3/4 so the players have more frequent barlines.

13. Also at D, the bass drum part should be: quarter note, 8th rest, 8th note, quarter rest, 8th rest, 8th note, half rest (or two quarters). This allows the player to see the beats better.

14. The high Cb in Horn 1 at m. 137 is in the extreme upper range of the instrument. If you know that you'll have a good horn player to do this, it's OK. Anything above top of the staff G is really risky to write for anything other than a professional group.

15. The key change from Cb to C feels unnecessary to me. It's a two-bar trip through the key. Probably better handled with accidentals. Likewise the three bars of E following. Also, the double bar feels misplaced. The trumpet fanfare is the end of the old section to my ear, not the beginning of the new section.

Personally, this feels like a good spot to go keyless. The tonality is shifting so often I think you'll get a better result from E to F is players were just reading accidentals.

16. The Flute 2 solo at F should be a Flute 1 solo. It's technically intricate enough you want your best player on it. Also, it would be clearer to have Flute 1 play the lead in with Flute 2 holding the B below. Also, in the opening triplets, the F double sharp should be a G.

17. Rehearsal F is in C major, so it should get a key signature of C major. That will make the alterations in your exotic scale much more obvious. By the way, nice scale choice here!

18. At G, again the Flute solo should be in Flute 1.

19. At m. 194, I think F# major might actually be a better key for this. Your exotic scale is created by adding flats to a major scale, meaning Gb major starts picking up a lot of double flats.

20. The "Change to Tubular Bells" marking is incorrect. Harpists are specialists who do not double elsewhere in the percussion section. By tradition, so are timpanists. You need a single Tubular Bells staff in the score.

21. What sort of bass are you envisioning for this? With the marking "Electric Bass", you're going to get a fretted rock band bass plugged into an amp. If you want a classical bass, this should be marked String Bass, with the abbreviation "Str. Bs." (Why not just Double Bass, as in the orchestra? The tradition of calling an orchestra bass a String Bass in the concert band comes from the days (say through about 1940 or so) when the tubas were referred to as "Basses".)

22. On the last page, Horns 3 and 4 should be in unison on the upper line, not octaves. As written, Horn 4 is wasted on a note that the bass trombone is going to be belting out anyway. Also, that way you can get rid of the 8vb marking.

23. In general, I think your score would benefit from slightly smaller staves with more space between them. Right now, everything feels a little cramped.

24. I don't know how much of the staff grouping you can control in MuseScore, but I've attached an example document showing an example layout for Concert Band based on my usual practices.

Regarding groupings, families of instruments (Flutes, Double Reeds, Clarinets, etc.) are grouped with winged brackets. Within families, staves with the same instrument (Oboe 1 and Oboe 2, for example) are further grouped with a hairline bracket. Curly braces are reserved for instruments where two staves are played by a single player, such as harp.

Barlines run vertically through instrument families only.

If you can, it's helpful to have a little extra space between instrument families.

25. Regarding staff sharing, no more than two parts can share a staff. My usual practice is to have the following share when possible:

Oboes 1 and 2

Bassoons 1 and 2

Clarinets 2 and 3 - Clarinet 1 is usually the most distinct clarinet part, so it gets its own staff.

Trumpets 2 and 3 - Same logic as clarinets.

Horns 1 and 2, Horns 3 and 4 - This puts the horns into high-low pairs.

Trombones 1 and 2 - This leaves trombone 3 or bass trombone (which should be called for if going lower than E natural below the bass clef) to be more independent or to double with the tuba.

Percussion 1 - Snare Drum and Bass Drum sharing a staff.

Percussion 2 - Other unpitched percussion sharing a staff.

If the parts end up having highly independent figures, they should get their own staves.

 

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Hi Adrian -- Thanks for the pointers! I appreciate you taking the time to review everything with such great detail, especially if you're busy. It'll probably take me a few days to go through all the points you've made and fix up the score (again), but there's one question I can answer right now. I marked it as an electric bass because that's what I was used to from my high school marching/concert/jazz bands, so I figured that's what most ensembles had available. We also had a "bass keyboard" in our orchestra pit, doubling all the bass parts. I'd rather have an acoustic bass than the electric one if it's standard! 

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Hi Noah,

Glad to. You've got a lot of good ideas and you're writing stuff that should get played.

Re: the bass, in high school it's generally go with what you've got. Professional groups will, of course, get exactly what you ask for. In the community band space, having a string bass is generally 50/50 between classical bass and no bass at all. Very few players will bring an electric bass into a community band unless the score asks for it (some pop arrangements do), and most are older and learned classical bass in the first place.

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