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  • Writing/Arranging for Horns

    I'm working on some R&B/Soul arrangements for a small horn section (trumpet, tenor sax, baritone sax) and I'm wondering if anyone else has experience with this. Sadly, I don't have any actual players yet so I have to work it out using (not great sounding) midi samples.

    Thoughts? Ideas? Best Practices?
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  • #2
    That is a HUGE question. Can you get more specific? I have arranged for 20+ member big bands before.

    One thing is that (like all the saxes) some notes overlap from horn to horn. Tha is to say a b flat on a bari and a bflat on a tenor might be the same pitch but they are very different notes in terms of energy or intensity.

    I'm sure you are aware of ranges of your saxes if not get that down.

    Playing in unison really swings. Playing in intervals 'slows the music down'.

    Be careful when comping behind a soloist...some stabs can clash with what the soloist is doing...especially if the soloist is playing chord melodies.

    In general trumpets love to show off the high notes. Saxes love to show tight ensemble playing and melodic agility.

    Thats all I have off the top of my head...
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    • #3
      Listen to a bunch of dixieland and try and get a feel for what's going on.
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      • #4
        Responded in the SW forum, but I'll add to what honkridge said. The guys I play with have a tendency to avoid unison playing, but sometimes it sounds good and you got to make them do it.
        ...

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        • #5
          Do some studying on different instrument ranges. Know what the comfortable areas are for the different horns.

          Be aware of transposing instruments. Tenor Sax is a Bb instrument, and alto is an Eb. So their charts will have to be transposed.... Unless they can all read C well

          Look up closed voicings and open voicings. Very different textures.

          Voice lead your inner parts!
          Originally Posted by rickenvox


          we're just at the beginning of the Bon Iver revolution

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          • #6
            Whats your major concern harmony arrangement or writing the charts appropriately for each instruments key and register?

            Also, what software are you using? I might ba able to send you some full arrangements you can reference.
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            • #7
              Be aware of transposing instruments. Tenor Sax is a Bb instrument, and alto is an Eb. So their charts will have to be transposed.... Unless they can all read C well

              Look up closed voicings and open voicings. Very different textures.

              Voice lead your inner parts!
              Trumpets are Bb as well.
              Let that boy boogie woogie. It in him, an' it got to come out.

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              • #8
                Whats your major concern harmony arrangement or writing the charts appropriately for each instruments key and register?

                Also, what software are you using? I might ba able to send you some full arrangements you can reference.


                Harmony arrangement. I'm just assuming that if I have everything in midi I can generate an appropriate chart/score. I have Band-In-A-Box, which I've used to generate lead sheets (in C), but at this point I'm more worried about getting a good arrangement than I am about generating a chart (in whatever key).
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                • #9
                  Do some studying on different instrument ranges. Know what the comfortable areas are for the different horns.

                  Be aware of transposing instruments. Tenor Sax is a Bb instrument, and alto is an Eb. So their charts will have to be transposed.... Unless they can all read C well

                  Look up closed voicings and open voicings. Very different textures.

                  Voice lead your inner parts!


                  If you tell them this is in "concert (whatever key the song is in)" and they can usually do the transposition on the fly.
                  ...

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                  • #10
                    Voice lead, as in, if you have four horn parts, the high instrument usually plays the melody. The supporting horns play other notes in the chord.

                    If you are harmonizing a chord, the inner horns should move mostly just in half steps and whole steps. You want to make the least movement on your inner parts.
                    Originally Posted by rickenvox


                    we're just at the beginning of the Bon Iver revolution

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                    • #11
                      Voice lead, as in, if you have four horn parts, the high instrument usually plays the melody. The supporting horns play other notes in the chord.

                      If you are harmonizing a chord, the inner horns should move mostly just in half steps and whole steps. You want to make the least movement on your inner parts.


                      That helps.
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                      • #12
                        How good is your understanding of Harmony?
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                        Hint for online instructors...play the example in it's entirety, THEN talk about it for 5 minutes.

                        The only good liberal is a...well, we're still trying to figure out the answer to that one.

                        Uma is a motorik.

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                        • #13
                          How good is your understanding of Harmony?


                          Pretty good for a rock guy.


                          I've played piano for many years. I understand how to construct and extend chords and some techniques for choosing chord voicings. Overall, probably beyond rudimentary but definitely less than it should be.
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