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Guillem82

Flowers by the Lake (for Flute, Harp & Strings)

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Posted (edited)

Here my new piece for Flute, Harp and Strings. 

In the repetitions of the main theme I did some orchestration variations:

Exposition

  • Melody: Flute
  • Countermelody: Violin II
  • Quavers accompaniment: Harp

Repetition

  • Melody: Cellos (1 octave down)
  • Contermelody: Flute
  • Semiquaver triplet accompaniment: Violin II

Reexposition after de contrasting section

  • Melody: Violin I 
  • Countermelody: Violin II
  • Semiquaver triplet accompaniment: Harp

Also in the repetition of the closing theme I did some similar arrangement variations. I particularly like how expressive cellos sound in the high register when playing the melody. The idea of the semiquaver triplet accompaniment come from Wagner,s Tannhäuser Overture (Violins play semiquaver triplets as accopaniment texture, while brass plays the melody). 

Any comments are wellcome.

Edited by Guillem82
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Thank you for sharing the different techniques and variations. And the subtle use of the harp is perfect for this. 

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I like your choice of instruments - I just thought the flute was a little too quiet throughout the piece - I couldn't hear it very well.  The strings tend to dominate especially in the loud sections.  Even when the flute is playing alone or with just harp it could stand to be louder by one dynamic.  Especially where the flute has trills above the strings it would be nice to hear that a little better.  I like your use of secondary diminished chords (like m. 81 as an example).  I didn't think this was a copy of either Wagner nor Mozart either (because of the famous concerto for flute and harp).  Overall I liked your rich harmonic language.  Nice job!

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Posted (edited)
2 hours ago, Esper said:

Thank you for sharing the different techniques and variations. And the subtle use of the harp is perfect for this. 

 

Thanks for your comments @Esper!

Edited by Guillem82

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Posted (edited)
1 hour ago, PaperComposer said:

I like your choice of instruments - I just thought the flute was a little too quiet throughout the piece - I couldn't hear it very well.  The strings tend to dominate especially in the loud sections.  Even when the flute is playing alone or with just harp it could stand to be louder by one dynamic.  Especially where the flute has trills above the strings it would be nice to hear that a little better.  I like your use of secondary diminished chords (like m. 81 as an example).  I didn't think this was a copy of either Wagner nor Mozart either (because of the famous concerto for flute and harp).  Overall I liked your rich harmonic language.  Nice job!

 

Thanks @PaperComposer!

You are right, I'm always unsure of how to ajust the volumes of the instruments, particularly woodwinds I find it very difficult, because in Vienna Instruments one single Oboe sounds louder than a full strings section of 40 players with the default presets, which is totally unrealistic. 

You are right flute is a bit to soft, I could ajust the volume, but I probably fake how it will sound like in a real performance. How can I know how loud or softy would sound a section against the other in a real performance? I always have the same thoughts anytime I write something...😅. When it's just strings, or winds it's not a big deal, but when different families are together I find it very difficult to know and balance it properly. Any tips for that? 

I know, horns are usually twice as loud as woodwinds and trumpets/trombones are twice as loud as horns, so lets say 4flutes = 1 trumpet. 

What about strings against woodwinds???

Captura.thumb.PNG.48fde6072d52511af717d0d79f544251.PNG

 

Edited by Guillem82

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Quote

When it's just strings, or winds it's not a big deal, but when different families are together I find it very difficult to know and balance it properly. Any tips for that? 

I know, horns are usually twice as loud as woodwinds and trumpets/trombones are twice as loud as horns, so lets say 4flutes = 1 trumpet. 

What about strings against woodwinds???

For this question I had to consult my orchestration book.  Well - first things first, the flute can play pretty loud most of the notes you have written for it in this piece.  As the flute gets nearer to it's lowest note it gets more and more quiet and requires more air.  But as long as you stay between C an octave above middle C and the C above the staff in treble clef, you're pretty well off.  Above that it can get shrill and tone production gets more difficult.  The other consideration is whether your flute is performing as a solo instrument at the front of the stage or the back.

As far as the strings are concerned, it depends on the number of players in each section (which was usually smaller than a modern orchestra during the classical period).  The strings have a wide dynamic range and can easily be asked to play below a solo instrument.  Even if you have a flute playing in its lowest register you can always mark the strings to play 'pianississimo' (ppp).  If the flute is above an octave above middle C it can for sure play loud enough as a solo instrument to cut through moderately loud strings.

I hope that helps!  😃

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The flute can play pretty loud throughout its range, easily enough to overpower strings, from about its lowest G to the top notes.

11 hours ago, Guillem82 said:

I know, horns are usually twice as loud as woodwinds and trumpets/trombones are twice as loud as horns, so lets say 4flutes = 1 trumpet. 

I like to think of this advice as being at the loudest volume possible on the instruments. All can more of less play the same level of quietness, with flute being slightly quieter than the brass.

 

There's one other quirk of the flute and strings combination. If the flute is doubling a string line (especially violins) an octave higher, the sound seems to completely disappear. As soon as the flute stops doubling at the octave, it reappears. It's a well-used trick in orchestration, and flute players are wise to it!

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Posted (edited)

Thanks a lot for you point of view @PaperComposer & @aMusicComposer that was helpful!

From what I understand strings have more dynamic range than a flute, so I think if both have the same dynamic on the score a flute can easyly be heard if both play piano, rather than both playing forte. Also the point of where the flute is placed on the stage is important. I increased the volume of the flute slightly, because you are right that strings can be asked play to play at a dynamic level so the flute to be heard clearly. And indeed there are plenty of exemples of woodwinds concerti, where the solo instrument can be perfectly heard, though all instruments have the same dynamics. 

I also pan harp and flute centered on the stage to create the feeling of both being in the middle in front of the strings. I hope now is better. 

Edited by Guillem82

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Nice piece!

The issue with the flute is evident in the very beginning where ONE flute is playing a counterpoint line against more than half string section. So that counterpoint voice is missed.

If everything is in "piano", you could try to give more strength to the flute. Or, I would experiment adding another wind instrument supporting the flute (clrainet?)

Anyway the result is lovely and good, I like it doesn't sound exactly as the classics.

 

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Posted (edited)

You mention Vienna Instruments. Can I ask what daw you're using? The screenshot doesn't look like the VI player, though. Looks more like Synchron. Isn't it possible to adjust the velocity curve and volume for each patch?

Edited by Quinn

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23 hours ago, Luis Hernández said:

Nice piece!

The issue with the flute is evident in the very beginning where ONE flute is playing a counterpoint line against more than half string section. So that counterpoint voice is missed.

If everything is in "piano", you could try to give more strength to the flute. Or, I would experiment adding another wind instrument supporting the flute (clrainet?)

Anyway the result is lovely and good, I like it doesn't sound exactly as the classics.

 

 

Thanks for you comments Luis I'm happy you like that!

I prefer to have just one Flute as a solo, rather than doubling it with a clarinet or oboe all time. 

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13 hours ago, Quinn said:

You mention Vienna Instruments. Can I ask what daw you're using? The screenshot doesn't look like the VI player, though. Looks more like Synchron. Isn't it possible to adjust the velocity curve and volume for each patch?

 

I'm using Notion 6 as a notation SW. The screenshot I sent is from Notion's Mixer. On Score Setup I linked each staff with Vienna Instruments and I defined some rules to activate each patch. For strings for exemple I defined some keyswitches for each note length:

  • Quarter notes: Sustain
  • Eighth notes: Detaché
  • Sixteenth notes: Short Detaché

Velocity is controlled through the dynamics on the score and I can additionally ajust the volume of each patch on VI. Notion 6 works pretty well and consistently with VI. Before I used Finale instead of Notion, but then I had to define each keyswitch on the score and was not able to define rules for the automatic keyswitching, and that was a lot of work and fine tuning.

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2 hours ago, Guillem82 said:

I'm using Notion 6 as a notation SW. The screenshot I sent is from Notion's Mixer. On Score Setup I linked each staff with Vienna Instruments and I defined some rules to activate each patch. For strings for exemple I defined some keyswitches for each note length:

  • Quarter notes: Sustain
  • Eighth notes: Detaché
  • Sixteenth notes: Short Detaché

Velocity is controlled through the dynamics on the score and I can additionally ajust the volume of each patch on VI. Notion 6 works pretty well and consistently with VI. Before I used Finale instead of Notion, but then I had to define each keyswitch on the score and was not able to define rules for the automatic keyswitching, and that was a lot of work and fine tuning.

 

Cheers. I use VI with the VI player which seems to be the most flexible and powerful on the market!  Hence surprise that balance was being commented on.

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Posted (edited)

Really nicely done! I really like the melodies you came up with, they are paced very well and reach their climaxes very effectively. The contrapuntal lines are all very interesting, and you use accidentals very well to add harmonic interest. I also like the way you orchestrated it and voiced the melody between the different iterations. 

One thing I noticed is in m. 14 you have the violins playing an F#, while the violas are playing an F natural an octave below, was this intentional? The minor 9th might be a little dissonant compared to the surroundings, maybe change the violas to an F# on the upbeat of beat 2? There are several spots were this melody returns and I think it's the same in all of them.

image.png.b033fb093db7a11686cc533fe2fcbd0a.png

(As an aside, I think it might sound cool if the cello and basses played an D# on the upbeat before the E on beat 3. Just a thought, feel free to ignore, I'm just biased because I'm a sucker for chromatic bass lines 😅)

 

On 8/1/2020 at 3:55 PM, Guillem82 said:

You are right flute is a bit to soft, I could ajust the volume, but I probably fake how it will sound like in a real performance. How can I know how loud or softy would sound a section against the other in a real performance? I always have the same thoughts anytime I write something...😅. When it's just strings, or winds it's not a big deal, but when different families are together I find it very difficult to know and balance it properly. Any tips for that? 

I always try to think of an example from a well known composer that is similar to what I'm trying to do. Off the top of my head, near the end of the second movement of Rimsky-Korsakov's Scheherezade there is a section with flute solo, harp, and strings, you might check it out and see if it helps. It's quite a different texture than what you have here, but it might help. Was there a composition similar to this that you had in mind when you composed this? If so, I would start there.

Out of curiosity how did you decide the instrumentation? If you're concerned about the flute getting lost you could possibly double with an oboe or clarinet, at least where appropriate.

Lastly, if you're using Vienna Instruments I might consider fine tuning the performance a bit. I've never used VI before, but I understand they are pretty high quality, and I would think you could get a more convincing performance out of them than you have here. Your audio is certainly not bad, but with those kinds of tools it could be a lot better.

I enjoyed listening, thanks for sharing!

Edited by gmm
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53 minutes ago, gmm said:

Really nicely done! I really like the melodies you came up with, they are paced very well and reach their climaxes very effectively. The contrapuntal lines are all very interesting, and you use accidentals very well to add harmonic interest. I also like the way you orchestrated it and voiced the melody between the different iterations. 

One thing I noticed is in m. 14 you have the violins playing an F#, while the violas are playing an F natural an octave below, was this intentional? The minor 9th might be a little dissonant compared to the surroundings, maybe change the violas to an F# on the upbeat of beat 2? There are several spots were this melody returns and I think it's the same in all of them.

image.png.b033fb093db7a11686cc533fe2fcbd0a.png

(As an aside, I think it might sound cool if the cello and basses played an D# on the upbeat before the E on beat 3. Just a thought, feel free to ignore, I'm just biased because I'm a sucker for chromatic bass lines 😅)

 

I always try to think of an example from a well known composer that is similar to what I'm trying to do. Off the top of my head, near the end of the second movement of Rimsky-Korsakov's Scheherezade there is a section with flute solo, harp, and strings, you might check it out and see if it helps. It's quite a different texture than what you have here, but it might help. Was there a composition similar to this that you had in mind when you composed this? If so, I would start there.

Out of curiosity how did you decide the instrumentation? If you're concerned about the flute getting lost you could possibly double with an oboe or clarinet, at least where appropriate.

Lastly, if you're using Vienna Instruments I might consider fine tuning the performance a bit. I've never used VI before, but I understand they are pretty high quality, and I would think you could get a more convincing performance out of them than you have here. Your audio is certainly not bad, but with those kinds of tools it could be a lot better.

I enjoyed listening, thanks for sharing!

 

Absolutely right about F# and Fnatural simultaneusly. That was my mistake. Viola was out of the place and violin II was not the best option. A-G on violin II is also much better to give a complete harmony of DM7 and also avoid voice crossing when violin I makes the octave leap G-G. Thanks for the observation 🙂

Captura.thumb.PNG.2f273cd2a756e9c7c121b92bb6512edb.PNG

About the orchestration first I wanted first I wrote it only for strings and harp, but I like I also like the mellow sound of the winds. Then I tryed doubling the 3 upper lines with 1 flute and 2 clarinet, because I find both fit very well with the harp, but there was too much doubling. Finally I kept just the flute without doublings.

I didn't have any composition with that arrangement as a reference, but good idea about Scheherezade, I will have a look at the second movement. Korsakov is a great orchestrator and maybe I can take some ideas from there. 

Thanks for your comments and tips @gmm it was very helpful!

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