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Author Topic: I need help arrangimg  (Read 1918 times)
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PillowTrooper2
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« on: Sep 15, 2016, 12:39PM »

Can someone please help me? I have been tasked with taking Christian songs such as Amazing Grace, and adding swing to them in a full jazz score with multiple instruments including alto sax, tenor sax , bari sax, trumpet, guitar, bass guitar, and, obviously, trombone. The problem is I know nothing of music theory and I have never composed anything in my life. I also have to compose for treble clef, which I don't know how to read. Does anyone know a place I can learn these things? Thanks!
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Matt K

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« Reply #1 on: Sep 15, 2016, 12:56PM »

This might be a bit more than you can chew depending on who is going to be using this. What you're actually doing is arranging, not composing. An arrangement is when you take an existing melody and modify it to suit some other needs.  You are then going to orchestrate it for 5 winds + rhythm section.

If you're going to use software, there are several okay free music applications such as Lilypond that others use here.  Many who do this sort of thing invest in Finale or Sibelius, but those are >$100 just for the software. Although it makes engraving, which is the act of putting music into written form a lot easier.

Between arranging, orchestrating, and engraving... its initially a daunting task and the reason why music is as expensive as it is. Don't be too disappointment if you don't succeed at first.

A fantastic book on the subject was done by Mike Tomaro. He actually does exactly what you're doing to a Christian melody and as the book progresses, turns it into a full big band arrangement.  Perhaps you could ask whoever asked you to do this task for the book as payment. That'd be a heck of a bargain from their perspective, even paying a music student to do this would cost $$$.

If you'd like, I've actually done melodic paraphrases (when you turn a tune into a different style) of some hymns for a resort I worked at already.  I don't remember what I have, but if you send me an e-mail asking, I could try to dig up the pdfs and you could feel free to use them as a starting point. I may even have a few arrangements in your formatting but I honestly don't remember because I haven't looked at them in a few years now.

« Last Edit: Sep 15, 2016, 05:30PM by Matt K » Logged

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Exzaclee

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« Reply #2 on: Sep 15, 2016, 04:49PM »

You need to get lessons with an arranger/composer ASAP. I could start writing now and not finish for weeks just trying to answer the basics of your question.

I recommend Henry Mancini's "Sounds and Scores" for beginning arranging students, it gets right into the nitty gritty of the basics and isn't too expensive. Sammy Nestico's "The Complete Arranger" is a good one as well for the beginner.

For theory, start with the wikipedia article on music theory and follow the rabbit hole. Find someone to study with. This isn't a simple case of "read this over the weekend and get started" - it doesn't work like that, unless you're a genius with a 160 IQ. Which you may be... but I'd still expect there to be a learning curve.
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Graham Martin
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« Reply #3 on: Sep 15, 2016, 05:10PM »

I certainly endorse the use of "Instrumental Jazz Arranging" by Mike Tomaro and John Wilson. I have many arranging books and this one, published only in 2009, comprehensively catches all of the basic needs, particularly for a beginning arranger. Actually the authors say this was the reason for the publication.

http://www.halleonard.com/product/viewproduct.action?itemid=842263&

http://tromboneforum.org/index.php?topic=52303.0

The other thing you could do is join an arranging class, maybe on the internet. I have done one of these courses with Jim Martin and can definitely recommend it for the experience you gain and the feedback of other participants:

http://jazzarrangingclass.com/

You will probably need arranging software and this is very expensive, much more than $100:

Finale = $600
Sibelius 7.5 = approx. $800 or monthly subscription

Frankly, at these prices they are getting out of range for the amateur arranger and it might be better to go back to pen and manuscript paper. Yeah, RIGHT.

A tip is that Band-in-a-Box produces quite good arrangements and does the harmonizing for you. But you still have the printing of parts problem because it is not really an arranging program. And even it costs $569 for a first time purchase of the Everything Pack:

http://www.pgmusic.com/bbwin.htm

http://www.pgmusic.com/bbwin.packages.htm
« Last Edit: Sep 16, 2016, 04:55PM by Graham Martin » Logged

Grah

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« Reply #4 on: Sep 15, 2016, 05:51PM »

Musescore is a free notation program, many of my students who don't want to shell out $350 (educational discount) for Finale use it. It's not bad for a cheap score writer. You can turn the files into midi files as you can with Finale, Sibelius, pretty much all score writers The MIDI files can then be transferred into Finale or your program of choice relatively easy if you decide to get the more expensive programs later.

I love the Tomaro book. In my experience it's best when used with students who have at least had a couple of semesters of theory. There is so much great information in it that it is easy to get lost in or overwhelmed. I have no doubt that Matt and Graham could handle the book easily. In my own teaching studio, I recommend that book for my second semester arranging students and I may make it the required text in the future for all the arranging classes. For my beginners, we cover theory first if they haven't had much (using the Mark Levine Jazz Theory and Dan Haerle The Jazz language texts ) and then analyze some scores, written parts and transcriptions. I have them get the Mancini book because I can take them from never having written a thing to writing a working arrangement in a fairly short amount of time. Once they get over that hump, they can use the Tomaro book very effectively.

I just wish whoever borrowed mine would return it.

[Edit: 09152016  - full disclosure: I use Finale, not a Sibelius guy yet.]
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Matt K

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« Reply #5 on: Sep 15, 2016, 06:03PM »

I might pick up that Mancini book don't know how I haven't heard of that yet. That' sounds like it might be a better recommendation in this setting.
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« Reply #6 on: Sep 15, 2016, 08:32PM »

I second the recommendation of MuseScore for your notation needs. It is fully capable for these sort of endeavors. It even has a "swing" mode to preview your uneven eighth note rhythms. 


Can someone please help me? I have been tasked with taking Christian songs such as Amazing Grace, and adding swing to them in a full jazz score with multiple instruments including alto sax, tenor sax , bari sax, trumpet, guitar, bass guitar, and, obviously, trombone.

Well, they're not asking much, are they?  Yeah, RIGHT.

I hope it's not something they are expecting anytime soon.  The amount you will need to know before you even start writing is substantial.
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« Reply #7 on: Sep 16, 2016, 06:35AM »

Could the OP tell us what city he's near, maybe we can recommend a teacher?
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PillowTrooper2
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« Reply #8 on: Sep 16, 2016, 10:03AM »

Could the OP tell us what city he's near, maybe we can recommend a teacher?

I am near Akron Ohio
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Exzaclee

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« Reply #9 on: Sep 16, 2016, 10:48AM »

Call the University of Akron music department:

http://www.uakron.edu/music/faculty/

Ralph Turek used to teach arranging there but I don't see him on the list. You could contact one of the Jazz Piano teachers and see who they would recommend for beginning theory and jazz arranging/composition. They should be able to put you in touch with a student who can give you some lessons.
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« Reply #10 on: Sep 16, 2016, 11:32AM »

Thanks everyone! I really appreciate it!
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Matt K

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« Reply #11 on: Sep 16, 2016, 04:43PM »

Forgot to mention! There is a Hymnal Real Book that has a TON of tunes in it that are already fairly decently harmonized.  Certainly better than I was capable of before I knew much about theory... or after several years of academic study of classical theory even for that matter.  I think I got mine on Amazon. For this project, it would also likewise be a good addition.  For that matter, it would be reasonable for your group to perform from it in lieu of arrangements for some applications, depending on the skill of the performers.
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cozzagiorgi
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« Reply #12 on: Sep 17, 2016, 12:15AM »

Great links?

Where should one begin if hes a pretty good musician, but doesnt know a lot about music theory? Would these books still be ok or are they to advanced?
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« Reply #13 on: Sep 17, 2016, 12:28AM »

I have tried to arrange a lot both for school bands and other ensembles. I read all books I get my hands on. What learned me most is just to jump in to it and try it out in real ensembles. After a while I got a little insight in what works and what does not work. Its like the trombone, a never ending story.

Have to use our fantasy and not make it not to hard to play. Often its simple things or factors that makes it great.

Just jump into it!

Leif
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Matt K

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« Reply #14 on: Sep 17, 2016, 04:20AM »

Great links?

Where should one begin if hes a pretty good musician, but doesnt know a lot about music theory? Would these books still be ok or are they to advanced?

When I was getting into it, I used Tomaro's book so I know that will work. I can't speak to the effectiveness of the others mentioned because I haven't used them but I would defer to Exzaclee's expertise on pedagogy since that's what he does. I'm just an amateur now!
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« Reply #15 on: Sep 17, 2016, 04:32AM »

It's a shame you're not located close to Exaclee.  I took one of his classes last spring.  Man was that great!  (And humbling...  :/  :D)

Just like with anything else where you'd like to excel and want to do it in a reasonable fashion.  Plan to spend quality time doing this.  And find a good teacher to help you understand what's going on.

--Andy in OKC
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« Reply #16 on: Sep 17, 2016, 05:12AM »

I second the recommendation for Mark Levine's Jazz Theory book. The Professional Arranger Composer by Russell Garcia is the best book I've seen about this stuff.

Musescore is fine for music notation work. It has a few annoying little things in it BUT IT'S FREE  Good! It's a perfectly usable tool, up to and including professional arranging.

I agree with Leif that the best way to learn is to jump in and try. You will quickly find out what doesn't sound good, and find other personal preferences that sound effective. In my first big band arrangement, I doubled all the saxes with the corresponding trumpet parts. That meant they were far too high. Having said that, don't skip learning the theory. There is nothing as practical as good theory.
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« Reply #17 on: Sep 17, 2016, 06:31AM »

If you're going to use software, there are several okay free music applications such as Lilypond that others use here. 

Lilypond isn't really that friendly for someone who is trying to figure out how to arrange. It's meant more for engraving once someone already knows what they want, and the interface is a programming language, not a graphical interface like a lot of other notation programs. I suggest waiting on trying to use that one and go with Finale Notepad or Musescore, as recommend by others here.
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Andrew Meronek

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« Reply #18 on: Sep 17, 2016, 06:43AM »

I also have to compose for treble clef, which I don't know how to read. Does anyone know a place I can learn these things?

Clefs and transpositions are probably two of the least important things to figure out when arranging. I recommend you figure out melody, harmony, voicings, and forms before even worrying about that stuff. You can re-write parts with correct transpositions and clefs as the last step.

I also highly, highly recommend you talk to people who play the instruments you're writing for and ask them what they want to see. You'll have to create a part for them to read to give feedback, of course.
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« Reply #19 on: Sep 17, 2016, 06:46AM »

Lilypond isn't really that friendly for someone who is trying to figure out how to arrange. It's meant more for engraving once someone already knows what they want, and the interface is a programming language, not a graphical interface like a lot of other notation programs. I suggest waiting on trying to use that one and go with Finale Notepad or Musescore, as recommend by others here.

Makes sense. I've only used either for a very small amount of time when I was frustrated with Sibelius licensing.  Decided the convenience was worth getting it figured out since I'd already purchased Sibelius. But it is occasionally really frustrating to get running. I defragmented my HDD (the machine I run SIbelius on still has a disk drive, not an SSD) and that apparently moved the file in such a way that Sibelius thought I was trying to pirate it. I got it a number of years ago on discount because I was a student, and at that price tag has been worth it for me. I don't think I could justify the $800 price tag if I weren't a serious professional composer or arranger...
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« Reply #20 on: Sep 17, 2016, 08:59AM »

Purely out of curiosity... what is the timeline on this project?

When are you supposed to have this ready?
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« Reply #21 on: Sep 17, 2016, 09:18AM »

In a previous century I used NoteWorthy Composer to put together books of fiddle tunes for an amateur group. It's a WYSIWYG score editor with what I consider to be a friendly intuitive user interface.

The free trial version is fully functional, with a few inoffensive blivets to encourage you to spend the fifty bucks to register your copy. The "encouragement" doesn't get in the way of doing real work with it. I mostly used it for 32-bar tunes in lead-sheet form, four lines of four measures each, occupying half a letter-sized page. It also did just fine for what amounted to SATB four-part arrangements of those same tunes to get the kids with violas and cellos involved.

Lilypond is what I use for similar books these days, mostly because I can't be bothered to light up a Windows emulator on my linux box. It did take a while to learn how to write working "source code" for it. It is possible for lilypond to compile a multi-page PDF book in a single pass.

Whichever engraving software I use, I am in the habit of writing straight eighths, and expecting the players to apply appropriate swing, with guidance from the director/concertmaster (with the exception of strathspeys, where writing out the Scot snaps helps.) I have no idea about how brass ensembles deal with that issue.
 
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