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Some composer (Think it was Strauss since it was from Berlioz's Treatises of Instrumentation edited version), once said that to write an orchestral piece, one must start by writing a string quartet. What are your opinions on that remark?

For those who write compositions that are more to the orchestra rather than the chamber side, where did the learning process start and what steps did you find were the most important on the way (e.g. getting critiques or getting your music played). 

Once again, the reason I'm posting these questions is to get people thinking about what they do and to share ideas + tips. This is why the forum was set up, no?

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This varies from person to person, but I think we composers start our journey by writing solo and small eqemble music before delving into large ensemble literature because it involves more parts.

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2 minutes ago, ilv said:

This varies from person to person, but I think we composers start our journey by writing solo and small eqemble music before delving into large ensemble literature because it involves more parts.

 

I find that the SATB form allows for much experimentation.

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Coming from a personal note, I started composing by writing for 1-2 instruments, expanded to writing mostly chamber music (3-6 players), and have recently become comfortable trying to write for larger ensembles.

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I began by writing a somewhat large piece (featuring 8 instruments) but upon realizing that it was impossible to grasp everything, I went down to solo works before working my way back up again.

 

 

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I understand Strauss’ point. A string quartet is a rather ambitious way to write in four parts, as everyone of the four individual players expects a somewhat interesting part. You don’t get away with writing an interesting melody and bass line and filling in the harmonies. You really have to consider all four voices, or no quartet will play your piece. However, if you have mastered writing interesting string quartets (which i cannot do), you can easily write orchestral pieces. Yes, they have more voices, but rarely more than four really independent ones. Ok, if you go for the full Romantic orchestra - but that is another step.

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I have found that writing string quartets hugely improved my compositional craft. This year I have written a large scale orchestral piece (which will be performed in Vienna in 3 weeks) and my workflow was increadibly fluid. I believe that writing for string quartets as well as for mixed ensembles helped me in attempting to write for larger forces. You can check out my most succesfull string quartet here: 

 

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Congratulations on your achievements, @Ferdi-B! Are you by chance referring to a Wien Modern concert on December 1? Because I am now pondering if I should attend the concert, and just now I realised that you could be the same person as the composer of The Idealist, the Jester and the Troll?

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Yes I am referring to that concert and The Idealist, the Jester and the Troll is my piece! I think the concert might be sold out though...

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On 11/3/2017 at 5:13 PM, Maximus said:

Some composer (Think it was Strauss since it was from Berlioz's Treatises of Instrumentation edited version), once said that to write an orchestral piece, one must start by writing a string quartet. What are your opinions on that remark?

As a computer engineer by day (and a musician by night :D), I prefer writing small parts and then, connecting them together. Like "modular programming". In my personal opinion, it doesn't matter where you start.

 

On 11/3/2017 at 5:13 PM, Maximus said:

For those who write compositions that are more to the orchestra rather than the chamber side, where did the learning process start and what steps did you find were the most important on the way (e.g. getting critiques or getting your music played).

When I started writing music for a group of instruments, I just started writing metal music. Metal is easy, specially when you don't know music theory, you only read tabs from great bands (i.e. Metallica) and then, start copying them. But when I learned music theory (the right way, of course) I wrote metal songs again, because now, I didn't need to copy metallica or any
ther famous band.

But why it's important? When you write a metal song, the most difficult parts are bass and guitars. When you wrote them, everything else is written by itself (I call this "Black metal logic"). Imagine the orchestra is your band. Which part is the most difficult for you?

On 11/3/2017 at 5:13 PM, Maximus said:

This is why the forum was set up, no?

Of course, it is!

So, the way I write orchestra is :

1. Writing for bass instruments
It helps a lot. specially when you have the ideology "one chord per bar". Even if you want to use more than one chord in a bar, it will help. But why? Because in every bass instrument, I add the root notes. sometimes in "double bass" section, I add the fifths.

2. Writing for Viola and Clarinet
The second part I start writing. I just add thirds of the chords. When I finish this part, I have idea about what chords I used. For example, I have "C" in Cello section , and "E" in Viola section, then I know I have a  C major chord there.

3. Writing for Other Instruments
I just write some melodic lines, which includes main notes of  the chords (depends on the chord type), for every other instrument, but melody isn't written yet.

4. Writing Melody
It depends on you, but I prefer trumpets or violins playing my melodies. Sometimes, I may even write this part for a solo guitar (Have you heard Yngwie Malmsteen's Concerto Suite?) and make my orchestra a concerto for solo guitar.

I hope I could help!

 

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