dave2002

I have been listening to music - classical mostly - but some jazz - all of my life. I also played flute quite well - and over many years piano to a lower standard. In the last few years I have been playing recorders - playing with a small group.

Very interesting radio programme

This doesn't quite fit into the overall scheme of this site so far, but it is relevant to orchestration.

I'm not sure whether some or all of the members here can receive BBC - but this programme about first and second orchestral players is very interesting - The Listening Service - by Tom Service - https://www.bbc.co.uk/sounds/play/m000wslc 

Members in the UK should be able to get it, and I think most in the EU will be able to hear it too, but I'm not sure about the US and other parts of the world.

One thing I particularly noted was the comment about the superb opening of Schubert's 9th symphony, which is not just a single horn playing solo, but several horns playing very carefully to match their sounds.

Lessons to be learnt about writing for some instruments - no doubt. That's not the only discovery in that programme - though it's the one which struck me most.

Reworkings ...

I'm reworking some of my attempts at the Bach (BWV846) "inspired" piece. I decided to go through the whole piece and work out which notes there are in each bar. There are 34 bars altogether.

I marked up the notes in each bar in a chart - then checked the chords.
To confirm some of the chords I used this web site - chord finder - https://www.scales-chords.com/chordid.php

The piece I'm trying to create or modify is currently for flute and violin. I wrote elsewhere how I'm using the Bach piece as scaffolding, which I can take down. I can test this using the Mixer to silence the keyboard part, leaving the duet.

Earlier I just allowed the top line to "do its own thing", but now I'm trying to be less free - which does restrict the "melody" in the flute part somewhat. Instead of having at least a bunch of possible notes, imposing the restriction that the notes must work precisely within the harmonies - not even passing dissonances allowed - does present a challenge. However, it is an interesting exercise, and even if it forced me to consider all the chords in the piece it has been worthwhile.

So far - maybe I'm about a third of the way through this reworking - I think the duet is more harmonious than previously - though perhaps less exciting, and the melodies are a bit dull - but it might be possible to tweak this further.

Have others tried to work on this framework - the Bach Prelude in C?
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HI. I'm dave - getting more and more A&D - ancient and decrepit - but I have played flute to a decent standard in the past, and piano to a somewhat lower standard. Recently I've been playing recorders in a small recorder group - though rather oddly the bass recorder is actually a cello!

Music was never my profession - which was spent mostly in computing, mathematics, science, computer science, AI and in academia. Currently I live in the frozen north - not quite the outermost reaches of Scotland, but rather north in the mainland, though I have lived further north in Sweden where the sun hardly ever set, and for a hotter climate I lived for a while in California.

Besides notation software I have also used DAWs, and played around slightly with software synthesisers, so there are also traces of my doodlings on soundcloud, including some previous apologies to JSB.
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Duets, models and drones

I'm barely keeping up - partly because of holidays and other things, and also - well - I'm slow and fairly new to this kind of thing.

Observation 1:   Re the duet challenge, I started with a flute duet - I probably already mentioned it. Marc made the comment that two instruments like flutes could be tricky because there's no real bass part.
One version of that duet - called Butterflies - is here - https://musescore.com/user/31393815/scores/6788061 and yes - it isn't a duet in that version, and it does have chords in the flute parts, but hopefully that is explained in the text. I haven't made any more progress with that version in the last couple of weeks. It may get fixed later on.

Recently, for no very good reason, I started thinking about drones, and I'd already started another duet piece - initially for flute and violin. I added a cello part - a drone - to give that piece some deeper weight. A second flute can replace the violin. By using the Mixer it is possible to experiment and see the effect of the bass/cello/drone part. That really highlights the problem with having two relatively high pitched instruments, which is made worse by having two very similar instruments - for example two flutes. Flute and violin for example, or flute and oboe would at least give timbral contrast.

This shows that writing trios might actually be easier, because at least one instrument can provide the deeper foundation. Now I'm trying to see if I can write three parts which work, with the intention of removing the lower part - leaving a flute duet - which was my original plan.  The lack of a solid bass is perhaps going to continue to be a problem, but maybe one which can either be minimised, or become irrelevant for other reasons.

Observation 2: Using the Bach model - for example based on the C major prelude. Here I am trying something just to see if it works. I downloaded a copy of the Bach prelude, and added in two other parts. Today those are flute and violin. Then I took the first few bars of a different WIP, and copied them into the top two lines, keeping the rhythm, but adjusted the pitches to fit with Bach's harmony below. Bach's piece has 32 bars. The idea here is to construct a piece which has the duet above, and then when completed remove the piano part leaving the duet. During the process this can be tested again using the Mixer - just knock out the piano part to see how the duet sounds.

I don't really know if this is a good technique to use, or even if it is an efficient or effective one. So far I've fixed about 6 bars. I wonder if other people round here use similar techniques.

I should probably also compare with Gounod's Ave Maria.

One comment about Musescore though - when using the Mixer - there is sometimes considerable distortion - not sure why - it's not the same each time.
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Follow up to yesterday's Live session, 20 May-21

Yesterday's session has jerked me out of a rut - though I was doing other things which were taking a lot of time. I wasn't going to try to write a flute duo, but now I've started and things are under way. I'll probably share some ideas about that later on.

In the meantime some thoughts on writing duets - particularly for melodic instruments.

1. Writing for two identical instruments or very similar instruments poses slightly different problems from two different instruments, even in the same family. However duos for two can be fun, and often players will have buddies who play the same instruments., and of course teachers and pupils can play duos together for practice purposes. 
 
2. It is different writing for a low and a high instrument - for example flute and bassoon, or oboe and bassoon, as the lower instrument might be able to fulfil the role of a bass instrument. 
 
3. Even if instruments have roughly the same range - for example flute and clarinet, or oboe and clarinet, the timbral differences will show up and give a different textural effect. 
 
4. Some instruments are much more agile than others - though often professional players can be quite virtuosic on some otherwise unlikely instruments. Flutes and piccolos are very agile, oboes and clarinets also quite agile, though with care needed over some parts of their ranges. 
 
5. Going across "Section" boundaries can sometimes work - for example violin and flute, or even viola and flute - mixing string and winds. I suspect that brass instruments don't normally mix too much with other instruments, though I'm perfectly willing to be challenged on that. 
 
6. I'm not sure about combinations like flute or oboe with cello, but that kind of combination could effectively extend the overall pitch range. 

Whether it's worth doing in a duet I'm not sure, but I can think of examples in orchestral compositions - such as Brahms' Double Concerto where at times the composer treats the two instruments together as one very large string instrument, rather than two distinct instruments playing in different ranges. The match of violin to cello is probably a better match for that kind of writing than any wind combination - though maybe brass instruments might be able to use that effect. 
 
7. There are some odd combinations one hears in orchestral music, but they probably won't work in duos. One is trumpet and flute - there are passages in Tippett's piano concerto where the flute and trumpet appear to have very similar timbres. I doubt that the combination would work as a chamber duo because of the relative power of the trumpet compared with the flute. 
 
8. Finally, there are other combinations which are more complex - but which have been used by several composers. Almost any instrument + piano - but that's rather different as the piano can "do" harmony, but other combinations which might work tonally and have been used include flute and harp (Mozart, Debussy) and flute and guitar (Schubert and others). Perhaps discussion yesterday was only to what are generally only considered to be "singe note" instruments. Many players of wind and brass instruments would have little knowledge of how to write for guitar or harp - that might be an interesting challenge for the future. 
 
9. The last paragraph has made me wonder whether something like flute + percussion (e.g marimba) might work - and indeed I think I wrote a piece recently which features those instruments, but it wasn't a duo. 
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