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Arranging horn sections: guitarist needs help!

Discussion in 'Playing and Technique' started by beautiful liar, May 20, 2011.

  1. beautiful liar

    beautiful liar Member

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    Anyone ever done this? Practical tips or advice welcome for this novice. thanks!
     
  2. chronowarp

    chronowarp Member

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    Remember that horns have a variety of technical limitations concerning their range. Know what the ensemble you're writing for is capable of.
     
  3. Bryan T

    Bryan T guitar owner Silver Supporting Member

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    Parsimonious voice leading
     
  4. beautiful liar

    beautiful liar Member

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    Thanks this helps. We're actually doing the arranging on a midi file and the software can transpose it to "horn clefs" (or whatever they're properly called). so at least at this point i only have to work with a language i'm familiar with.

    the song incidentally is in E.
     
  5. Phoenix59

    Phoenix59 Member

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    Remember that each horn plays in a different key than you do (assuming you're on guitar or keyboards).
     
  6. dsw67

    dsw67 Supporting Member

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  7. beautiful liar

    beautiful liar Member

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    well, we could try convincing the bass player to bump it up to F...
     
  8. medrawt

    medrawt Member

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    Drop-2 harmonizing is a hoary cliche with horn sections.

    Drop-2 harmonizing is a hoary cliche with horn sections for a reason.
     
  9. Motterpaul

    Motterpaul Tone is in the Ears

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    My experience is...

    Don't make the parts too complicated, but do seek out nice harmonies. Use lots of "punches" where they hit one chord.

    Remember you cab use upper chord voicings such as 5 - b7 9 on certain chords (spread be wteen trombone sax & trumpet, for example),

    Remember horns have much more loudness and percussive power in their upper ranges - but that can also do cool pads in lower ranges, depending on what you want.

    Remember that valve "horns" (bones, flugel, trumpet,) are more percussive in their attack that saxes. They make the best punches, but saxes make for the best melodic lines.

    Remember certain tricks certain horns can do. - low pedal tones in a tenor sax, slides on trombones, very rich close harmonies in trumpet upper ranges.

    If you are doing this recording, I would recommend recording as an ensemble and then double tracking everything, split left & right. If the parts are very tight (not individual soloing) you can put them all on one mic and blend it "live" according to their placements in the room.
     
  10. beautiful liar

    beautiful liar Member

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    Lots of great stuff here- thanks and keep it coming:)
     
  11. Bryan T

    Bryan T guitar owner Silver Supporting Member

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    Don't forget about dynamics and swells.
     
  12. dewey decibel

    dewey decibel Supporting Member

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    Really depends on the genre. Along with what Cruisemates said, I'll add that it's important to think of the horns as part of the arrangement, not the arrangement. What I mean is, don't think of each line on it's own but as part of the song. It's fine to have a main melody line but make sure the other lines don't stick out too much- less is often more. Most of my favorite horn lines don't make much sense out of context from the tune.
     
  13. beautiful liar

    beautiful liar Member

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    So I'll try to summarize a bit of what i've been learning. (some from this thread and some from other sources) Bear in mind though, this is all theoretical research and I haven't had the chance yet to get into the studio and let my ears test it out. When I do, I'll update.

    I'll try to put this as simply as possible...Hope it may be helpful to some and those in the know please correct me when and where I'm misguided.

    2 Horns #1:

    Move in parallel an octave apart, e.g.tenor sax plays the root note and the trumpet plays the root note one octave higher. This is called "unison octave." So the sax plays a C and the trumpet plays the C an octave above.

    2 Horns #2:

    Move in parallel thirds, the third played below the root.(Does it have to be the root? could you imply the chord by playing the third and the fifth?)Anyway, for the root e.g. for a C chord the sax plays an E not and the trumpet plays the C above it. This technique is called "drop 2" or "drop 2 harmonizing." (Without checking I think this might be the technique used by two trumpets in "Ring of Fire")

    I know moving in parallel is undesirable from a classical point of view, but apparently is acceptable in modern pop/rock/soul etc. These two techniques can be alternated, for example verse in unison octave and chorus in drop 2. Or maybe even from line to line. Again I have to test drive this stuff in the studio.

    3 Horns:

    Here's where it starts to get complicated.

    Let's say we're using a trombone, sax and trumpet (in order of ascending register) and working with a C chord. The notes are C-E-G. We use the drop 2 technique to change the voicing to E-C-G, spreading the chord out which gives it some power. Then each note is assigned an instrument. Thus, the trombone plays the E, the sax the C, and trumpet G.

    So far so good, but you might also start with an inversion of the chord, say E-G-C with the root high. Using the drop two technique this gives you Trombone G Sax E, trumpet C.

    Or the inversion G-E-C, which yields Trombone E, sax G, trumpet C.

    These three voicings of the chord can be alternated, avoiding parallel movement, or left in parallel if that's the effect you want.

    These harmonies of course only deal with the basic triad- haven't thought about 6ths or 7ths yet. Nor have I yet come to four horn arrangements, which would use drop2 drop4 technique.

    other things to be mindful of: upper registers are more percussive and lower registers "pads." Trumepts and trombones work better for single punches and saxes for melodic lines. Trumpets work well at close harmonies in the upper ranges.

    For recording, a useful technique is to double track and hard pan left and right.

    Well, there's the first installment. Again this is all theory I've gathered and/or implied and haven't tried it yet. I think it's a pretty good theoretical start but if you can correct my mistake before I've made it, speak up.
     
  14. MartinPiana

    MartinPiana Supporting Member

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    besides the aforementioned dynamics and swells (and decrescendos), remember there are slurs (and staccatos). i play trumpet, so i know about the glissandos (ascending tend to crescendo, descending tend to fade) and trills and half valving and alternative valving, about mutes, for that instrument. all the horns can do glissandos, although the effect is a little different between valve, slide and reed instrument. all instruments can do trills. brass can get a wah-wah effect with either plunger mutes, harmon mutes, bowler hats, or hand....

    i don't think i've seen it mentioned that horn players have to breath regularly. obvious, but make sure you remember when you're writing long phrases and long held notes! fortisimo sections need shorter phrases and than piano sections....
     
  15. rogwerks

    rogwerks Member

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    listen 2 horn bands, OR bands that use sampled horns...

    learn the horn "stab", (historically on the "and" of 2 etc...), remember, horns CAN and will add, depth, color, melody...

    Listen...

    melody man, meldoy...
     

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