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Author Topic: Flugel in place of french horn  (Read 6171 times)
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davdud101
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« on: Nov 19, 2016, 01:13PM »

I recently invested in a flugelhorn (it's laying at home right now, in USA so I'll finally get to mess with it in about a months time),
so I've been writing a good number of arrangements for upcoming recording projects lately with a sort of virtual orchestra.

However, the idea with the flugel is that it can serve as a rich, mellow voice under the trumpets and over the trombones. Easier for me since I don't have access to mellophone and can't play french horn so well.
Could it be worthwhile to invest a little cash in one or another french horn mouthpiece and adapter? Would it be a big enough difference in tone quality?
I know I'm shooting in the dark here a bit, but I wanna hear you guys' thoughts on how this might go - maybe I'll try to borrow a mouthpiece to see what I get.
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« Reply #1 on: Nov 19, 2016, 01:55PM »

Why "in place of French horn"? 
Why not flugelhorn for its own voice?
Except its useful range is limiting, not the same range as horn at all.
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« Reply #2 on: Nov 21, 2016, 03:04AM »

Why "in place of French horn"? 
Why not flugelhorn for its own voice?
Except its useful range is limiting, not the same range as horn at all.

Really good points, Doug. Actually that's so straightforward that it's *almost* enough to make me rethink laying a bit of money down for THE instruments I'd need to make the actual sounds I'm looking for.

Any thoughts on instead investing in a Bb-single horn? Some of the hornists I've talked to advise against that, but I haven't been convinced by any reason to NOT go for it, since I can read Bb proficiently enough to play double horn on the Bb side, and the sound characteristics remain similar enough to F-horn for what I need. Right NOW I have access to a (double) horn that I could use to improve my tone, technique and performing skills, and I'm actually living with a horn student/teacher.

I have NOT looked into the *prices* involved in the used *or* new market, but I certainly am not going to make a purchase without having tested instrument personally.

Like I said- it's shooting in the dark here, because I only want it for projects and home and in church, and it's sound that would make a big difference in what I'm able to do, but I'm not sure I have the time/energy to devote to learning YET another instrument when trombone and trumpet have so much to offer already.

What would you guys do?
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« Reply #3 on: Nov 21, 2016, 03:56AM »

I'd go for a single F or Eb horn (you may find the Eb easier to learn than the F).  Or a Mellophone (the curved one that looks like a miniature French Horn).  If you are looking for a conical sound, consider a Baritone (either an English small bore or a Euphonium).
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« Reply #4 on: Nov 21, 2016, 08:33AM »

The option that would have the easiest learning curve would be a British-style baritone horn. If you're already playing trumpet and trombone, it would just be a matter of merging the two skill sets and getting used to the mouthpiece (I would suggest something with a fairly small diameter rim with a deep v cup - maybe a Schilke 44E4). I've seen a baritone used in place of a French horn in a brass quintet and it worked quite well.

A mellophone or alto (tenor in the UK) horn would be more effort to learn than a baritone, but not as difficult as a French horn. Might not quite be the tone you're looking for, though. Also has a limited lower register unless you spring for a compensating instrument.

As for the French horn option? For your purposes, a Bb single horn would probably be perfectly adequate. Even with a Bb, you're looking at a fairly steep learning curve.
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« Reply #5 on: Nov 21, 2016, 09:23AM »

I think a flugelhorn has a beautiful voice and could be worked in nicely. For me much easier than playing an F-horn, but maybe not as much fun. A used single F-horn can be found reasonably enough. Some friends of mine played a few cool arrangements for four "trumpets" where the fourth was voiced more like what I would imagine an alto trombone would do. It was played on flugel and he added some nicely done pedal notes in the chords.
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« Reply #6 on: Nov 21, 2016, 09:38AM »


Any thoughts on instead investing in a Bb-single horn? Some of the hornists I've talked to advise against that, but I haven't been convinced by any reason to NOT go for it, since I can read Bb proficiently enough to play double horn on the Bb side...

But the music is still written in F, isn't it?
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« Reply #7 on: Nov 21, 2016, 09:59AM »

But the music is still written in F, isn't it?
It's for his own use.  He can write the parts in Bb Treble like the trumpet parts.

And if he were to assign them to a horn player he could label them "Horn in Bb" and any good French Hornist will be able to play them.
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« Reply #8 on: Nov 21, 2016, 10:36AM »

A single B-flat horn should be OK for his intended use, particularly if he's not a regular horn player. It will provide better physical separation of the notes in the upper range, with the downside being intonation issues and less velvety timbre in the range below the second-space A. Used single B-flat horns are less frequently seen for sale than F horns, but tend to sell for less since music educators prefer to start students on F horns. And, they are substantially cheaper and lighter to carry than the double horns. If I had to stick to a single horn, I'd prefer the single B-flat one.
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« Reply #9 on: Nov 21, 2016, 01:03PM »

A double horn is basically exactly the same as a trombone with F attachment.  As long as you don't have to read standard horn parts you should be comfortable playing it.  If that's the sound you're after, get one and just think it in concert pitch.
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« Reply #10 on: Nov 21, 2016, 02:31PM »

I saw a faculty brass quintet from UNC Greensboro a few year ago and they were using a flugel in place of horn. I asked the guy about it and it seems they were just between horn players at the time, but it sounded OK.
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« Reply #11 on: Nov 21, 2016, 02:52PM »

I have played French horn parts on an Eb alto horn and that worked pretty well. I don't think you'll be able to play low enough on a Flugle to cover most French horn parts. 
 
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« Reply #12 on: Nov 21, 2016, 04:45PM »

Fluegelhorn is a very common supplement to the alto horn section in British style brass bands. Not a French Horn, but somewhat close. IMHO just go for it and see what happens.

Here's a little sample, the alto horn section (plus fluegelhorn) is nicely cameraed at 3:40.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sPwd0k3Pjp0
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« Reply #13 on: Nov 23, 2016, 11:45PM »

That's what I was going to poke at - I have no plans to be a "good" horn player beyond what I need to be able to do for my own projects, so I'll generally be playing my own arrangements by default. I certainly won't be enlisting in any concert bands or anything with that as my main axe.  :D

These sound like really good recommendations so far! The alto horn never struck me as something I would have went for, so I will have to do a bit more research on it in terms of finding out how it's sound fits into the ensemble. It may be a bit too "spread" for what I'm looking for though- too mellow/rich, not quite enough core.
I have access to a (3-valve) euphonium as well, but I'm having trouble figuring out what/how to write for it because its range crosses so much with trombone. I write rather dynamic, energetic pieces and I'm not sure that a SO mellow, conical sound like that WOULD fit very well in my pieces anyway. I'd have to get my hands on an alto horn and test it extenstively to see how it'd fit i with my sound concept. At the same time, given that I'm still contemplating using the conical flugel as my main stand-in, alto horn might be just what I'm looking for.

I suppose that in a way, little can replicate THAT sound that an actual experienced double-horn player achieves on a proper double horn. On another note, being to really get *that* sound that a horn has might be what I want, but I suppose the best way to find out is by trying out as many horns as I can.

Thanks for the tips, guys! I guess this leaves open some other questions... like, what kind of instrumentations work well?
Right now i'm primarily writing for 3 trumpets, 3 alto voices, 2 tenors and a bass trombone as my brass ensemble, plus generally "virtual" percussion, strings, bass (tuba or bass guitar), piano, and usually a bit of ornamentation from some woodwinds (which will eventually be performed and recorded by high-level players rather than synthesized). I have a liiiittle bit of knowledge on the common orchestra, but I'm not any sort of *trained* composer, more of a somewhat experienced experimenter.
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« Reply #14 on: Nov 24, 2016, 09:08AM »

The typical Saxhorn ensemble of the mid 19Th Century would consist of Eb Sopranino (like an Eb trumpet), 2 Bb soprano (basically trumpets), 2 Eb Altos, 2 Bb Tenors, 1 Bb Bass, 1 or 2 Eb Tubas.

If you can swing it, either an alto trombone or an alto horn in Eb would probably fit your ensemble perfectly. 

Your complaint about the Euphonium conflicting with the trombone would apply as well to the Flugel against the trumpet.
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« Reply #15 on: Nov 24, 2016, 01:24PM »

If the horn sound is what you want, I'd think a Bb horn would be far closer to that than something that is not a horn.
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« Reply #16 on: Nov 24, 2016, 03:37PM »

My thoughts:

1) I play in a big band that frequently has a French horn part. Since I'm tied up playing bass trombone, I can't bring my double horn and play the horn part, so we use the 5th trumpet player on flugel or a trombonist. It works pretty well, but of course nothing is a substitute for an actual horn. So, moving on to the alternatives:

2) Double horns are expensive. They don't get as cheap as trumpets and trombones do, even in trashed used condition, so getting a single will be MUCH lighter on your wallet. However, there is a reason the double is the standard. It can do everything, whereas a single cannot. I need a double because I gig on it, but for someone just looking to add "the French horn sound" to your recordings and don't have a good chunk of change to throw around, a single should do just fine. You can get an old single (either key) for around $100 if you're diligent and patient.

3) With that in mind, let me be the first to suggest as a horn player that you're going to buy a single horn, you should get a single B flat, and only a single B flat. The single B flat is a far more useful instrument than a single F, and it will be easier to learn for someone coming from B flat fingerings. The 3-valve single B flat has the same basic fingerings (sounding pitch) as a 3-valve euphonium. If you find a single B flat with a fourth valve, not only is there a good chance that you have a professional instrument instead of a student one (they don't really make professional single Fs, Vienna horns excluded), but you can also get an extension built for the thumb valve so that it becomes a low F extension, giving it the same functionality as a four valve non-compensating euphonium (or a trombone with an F attachment). This means that you'll be able to play anything you want to except a written F# (concert B) at the bottom of the F bass clef (two ledgers below the C bass clef). And as a hobbyist horn player, you won't have much need for that note anyway. Even with three valves I doubt you'll be wanting to write horn parts below the straight tenor trombone's lowest note (false and pedal tones excluded), so you'll essentially be able to write any note you would write for a straight tenor (again excluding false and pedal tones) and the single B flat will be able to play it with security up into the descant register. The F horn runs out of security at around F4, and when you get much above that you're essentially playing a natural horn. Does it sound better in the mid-low register? Of course, but to get both the fat low horn sound and the high note security you'll need a double.

4)
A double horn is basically exactly the same as a trombone with F attachment.

Sorry, but this is not correct. A four valve non-compensating euphonium is basically the same as a trombone with F-attachment. A double horn has completely different fingerings and is fundamentally a different routing of the airstream through the tubing. If the F attachment in a trombone redirected the airstream into a second handslide at the correct (much longer) length for a trombone in F, they would be the same. Both sides of a double horn are completely chromatic and don't require adjustments in fingering/slide position to compensate for the other three valves/length of the slide no longer being long enough to drop the pitch enough on their own. A compensating euphonium is closer to a double horn, but still not the same. In addition, the F side of a double horn is used across the range of the instrument interchangeably with the B flat depending on the passage, not just to fill in the notes the B flat horn can't play.

4) There isn't really a substitute for horn. Flugel, alto horn, mellophone, etc. are all mellow alto voice brass instruments, but they don't sound anything like horn (and do much better at substituting for each other). That said, I would suggest that the best substitute if you can't/don't want to take the plunge on horn is a section of mellophones (traditional or marching) or mellophoniums. They doesn't sound like horns, but a large section (6 is my preferred number) still sounds great doing the a lot of the same things (soaring countermelodies, mellow pads, etc.). Flugel could very easily play in unison with this section to bolster the sound (and this combination works extremely well), but flugels alone won't give you the beefiness of an instrument with more tubing and a large flare. 3 Eb tenor/alto horns and a flugel are the alto section of a British brass band, so if you wanted that sort of sound you could go with that. Although baritone and euphonium are also great mellow sounds, they are also very different from horn (and fundamentally excel in a different voice type register).

5) As for instrumentation, you can add as many different instruments as you like and find places for them. I have used flugelhorns, mellophoniums, frumpets, alto trombones, and horns together (as well as trombones, euphoniums, cornets, and trumpets) in arrangements, and each has their own role, even if they are scored as sections (rather than just one of each). You could add alto trumpet, tenor horn and British baritone and still be able to carve out individual roles for each of them. I personally love having a large euphonium section (up to 8 or even 10) at the bottom of my arrangements to play surrogate tuba parts below the trombones as well as lush 8-part pads and traditional euphonium melodies and countermelodies. Essentially you just have to experiment with different things and find what works for you. My recordings have a "sound" because even when I have a full horn section and flugelhorns, the mellophoniums and euphoniums remain a centerpiece of sorts.
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« Reply #17 on: Nov 24, 2016, 04:48PM »

Just one correction and a couple of comments:

There was a Sansone horn that was a Bb instrument with a 4th valve that added tubing to the other three to create a horn in F.  It's sort of like a Compensating Euphonium.  They didn't make a big splash for probably obvious reasons.  This could be the type of instrument David might find useful.

A horn is a conical instrument.  So is a Flugel Horn (which is actually more like a bugle).  The tonal quality of either is VERY different from cylindrical trumpets and trombones.

A Double French Horn has the same length overall as a trombone in F ("Bass" Trombone) with a second "half" that is exactly the same length as a tenor trombone.  But the parts are generally written much higher.  This is possible because the instrument has a very small bore and a much smaller mouthpiece than is used on a trombone.

Mellophones and Mellophoniums are smaller than a trombone; generally the same length as an Alto Trombone in Eb or Alto Horn.  They are not as conical as a French Horn, but are more conical than a trombone or Eb Alto Horn.

The question David has to wrestle with is whether he wants a homogenous cylindrical ensemble (trumpets and trombones), a conical ensemble (Flugelhorns, French Horns), or a mixture of both.  Then he can go forward learning the instrument that fills his needs best.
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« Reply #18 on: Nov 25, 2016, 01:27AM »

The question David has to wrestle with is whether he wants a homogenous cylindrical ensemble (trumpets and trombones), a conical ensemble (Flugelhorns, French Horns), or a mixture of both.  Then he can go forward learning the instrument that fills his needs best.

This is a good question, Bruce. I think what really picks at me though is that I'm nervous about writing TOO much. Since I don't compose for a "pure" brass band (British, or just generally) - I use additional virtual instruments to create a sort of "epic movie soundtrack" sound - I get a little jittery when it comes to writing large amounts of parts that aren't, for example, doubling in octaves, or generally might be in danger of over-cluttering the mix or arrangement or doing something that might reduce the clarity of the voices as individuals or groups.
But I was listening to one of Driving Park's multitracks and DIDN'T get the feel that it was ever 'overly swamped' in sound or anything, even though he used a far bigger instrumentation (by 3 to 4 times) than what I currently have or have used in the past.

I also thought to experiment with a single, fast setup where I open the template in Sibelius and write and arrange for the same group every time, then open the template in Cakewalk and record/mix with the same group in mind. I figured it'd be a cool way to move towards sculpting a certain 'sound'.

When looking at the case as a whole again, I DO need to have both rich, mellow tones like euphonium, flugel and other conical instruments. I suppose I absolutely don't want to limit myself to only big bright stuff, but I can say for certain that *only* mellow/conical sounds isn't where the compass is pointing. So I suppose what I could use most is examples on both how the different types of horns sound in and out of context, as well as good references for how they can be arranged to get the greatest benefit out of their sound and possibilities.

I'd actually love to hear more elaborations (and more importantly - see/hear examples) on how different types/groups of instruments and different instrumentations can best be put to use. Reading how it can be done is making it much easier for my ears to HEAR how it's done when listening to brass band arrangements and stuff.

Thanks for the good feedback, by the way everyone! This is a rich topic that can directly assist me in creating my arrangements!
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« Reply #19 on: Nov 25, 2016, 10:03AM »

Just one correction and a couple of comments:

There was a Sansone horn that was a Bb instrument with a 4th valve that added tubing to the other three to create a horn in F.  It's sort of like a Compensating Euphonium.  They didn't make a big splash for probably obvious reasons.  This could be the type of instrument David might find useful.

That Sansone single B flat was cool because it had 5 valves - the 4th valve lowering the pitch by a fourth like an F attachment or euphonium 4th valve (it wasn't compensating though), AND a 5th valve used for hand stopping so you didn't have to transpose (but open it could also function sort of like a tuba 5th valve to bring the 4th valve fingerings closer to tune). Because of the extra two valves and their weight and functionality, some orchestral hornists used them instead of double horns. A few other manufacturers have done 5-valve single B flats, and they're the pinnacle of what a single horn can do.
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« Reply #20 on: Nov 25, 2016, 04:58PM »

Not sure  if Sansone ever offered one, but there are compenating double horns  where the F "side" routes through the valves twice. Lighter than a "full" double, but with the same range.
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« Reply #21 on: Nov 30, 2016, 12:00AM »

I am now on the hunt. I have a little bit of funding that I can put directly towards my project studio and instrument collection (for the time being). So what's really important to me is finding out which brands/instruments are the best in their class, best for their price etc. I'm of course looking for something reasonable for myself- given that this instrument will be mostly just for studio work, and won't have many applications outside of that.

I've seen many lists of good brands, and of course, the majority of them happen to best American, "name-brand" companies- Yamaha, Conn, King, etc.
I'm seeing a LOT of Olds Mellophones with worn-off lacquer and generally in need of small repairs for leaks and stuff that makes them unplayable. How are the Olds Mellos?
What are some reputable manufacturers and models of alto/tenor horns, 'french' horns, mellophones and things? What are the thoughts and tendencies around getting a single Bb, F, double, or compensating double horn? These are the only type of instrument I haven't delved into- possibly because these 'middle-range' instruments fall into so many categories that you can't really find a singular, online source that talks about ALL of them, like you can with trombones, trumpets, tuba and stuff.


On another note, being a guy who LOVES playing and trying all types of instruments, I'm always seeing these guys who snag **unrighteously crazy** deals on really cool, exotic instruments on eBay and the likes. Tips on how to sharpen the bargain-hunting skills? Pant I'm going to be purchasing instruments to have for kids at my church in the future as well, so this'd be very useful in other areas besides just improving my project studio.
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« Reply #22 on: Dec 29, 2016, 04:10AM »

An Alto Horn or a Mellowphone might be an easier quick learn.
ou could also try combinations. I like somewhat different combinations of horns to get unique sounds.
Flugel-Horn & Alto Trombone or Alto Horn & Bass Trumpet or Flugel & Alto Trombone
Just an idea
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« Reply #23 on: Dec 29, 2016, 05:11AM »

Anton Possegger made a threaded bell flugelhorn that could take a french horn bell.

http://www.musik-possegger.at/.cm4all/iproc.php/20161029-_DSC0108-HDR3.jpg/scale_800_600%3Bdonotenlarge/

That would be an expensive and not so practical solution.

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« Reply #24 on: Dec 29, 2016, 10:19AM »

I'm seeing a LOT of Olds Mellophones with worn-off lacquer and generally in need of small repairs for leaks and stuff that makes them unplayable. How are the Olds Mellos?

They're ok. There's a review on the Middle Horn Leader of the Blessing M-100, which is a similar older style mello to the Olds. That should at least give you a rough idea what to expect.

Quote
What are some reputable manufacturers and models of alto/tenor horns, 'french' horns, mellophones and things?

British Tenor Horns: the only bad one I've played was an old Besson with the top loop above the valves (like on a euph) rather than below it. Intonation was miserable. I've play tested a few John Packers and some of them (the cheaper models, interestingly) played awesome. You probably won't find many from that side of the pond for a cheap budget.

American Alto Horns: (basically the same instrument, just usually wrapped differently) I haven't played too many. I know Boston is good. Most of them probably play fine.

Marching Mellophones: Yamaha's YMP-20x line (especially the current 204) is awesome and an old 201 or 202 would be the first thing I would look for.

Traditional (Circular) Mellophones: basically anything, really. If you can find a Distin "altophone" those supposedly play wonderfully. Conn 14E is like the 16E mellophonium but without a straightened bell.

Quote
What are the thoughts and tendencies around getting a single Bb, F, double, or compensating double horn?

Don't get a single F, they're basically useless (except for Vienna horns).

Single Bb (no matter if it's 3 or 5 valves), double, or compensating double will all be fine. Doubles are the most versatile but the most different to other brass instruments fingering wise. A 5v single Bb can do almost everything a double can while staying in Bb fingerings.

Avoid: Getzen compensating double and other stencils of the same horn. It has a distinctive look and an English horn bell-style bulbous 1st valve slide so it shouldn't be too hard to find them.

No matter what type of (French) horn you get, get a mouthpiece that fits your face. If you have full lips, a Holton Farkas MDC probably isn't ideal (ask me how I know). There are mouthpiece size charts on the web that you can use to figure out what is small or large.

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On another note, being a guy who LOVES playing and trying all types of instruments, I'm always seeing these guys who snag **unrighteously crazy** deals on really cool, exotic instruments on eBay and the likes. Tips on how to sharpen the bargain-hunting skills? Pant

This is what I do:

1. Set up your eBay feed to show new listings of things you want. I have pretty much every brass instrument as one of the saved searches that shows up both in my feed and my E-mail every time there's a new listing.

2. Check your feed at least once a day. Put anything you like and can afford at the current auction price in your Watch List.

3. Just like eBay E-mail alerts, do the same for Craigslist via Google Alerts if you have Gmail. Save the Google searches as "site:craigslist.org [instrument]" - this will search every Craigslist in the country rather than just your local area.

4. Check Craigslist manually fairly regularly in addition to the E-mail alerts - check both your local area and nationwide using a "site:craigslist.org" Google search.

5. Check the Classifieds here every day.

6. Don't count out other websites like Shop Goodwill, Reverb, the used section at Dillon Music, Baltimore Brass, etc. Check them occasionally. There's also the Facebook Marketplace (mobile app only), Facebook Trombone Marketplace, and Facebook Brass Exchange. If your area has a local online yard sale Facebook page, join that.

7. Garage/yard sales, estate sales, pawn shops, and thrift stores. I need to do this more often, but this requires a lot more time than quickly going through some new listings online so I don't usually have the chance to. But if you have time, you might score at one of these too. I think there are some websites that let you know about garage/yard sales near you, but I haven't used them.

8. Now that you have set all this up, the most important thing to do now is wait and be patient. It can take years for the deal you're looking for to show up, but in all likelihood it will eventually show up. You will forget to check on stupid cheap eBay auctions that expire with zero bids. It happens. You will also think you have a listing in the bag as the only bidder but then get sniped with seconds to go. But eventually you'll get it right.
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« Reply #25 on: Dec 29, 2016, 10:36AM »


Any thoughts on instead investing in a Bb-single horn? Some of the hornists I've talked to advise against that, but I haven't been convinced by any reason to NOT go for it, since I can read Bb proficiently enough to play double horn on the Bb side, and the sound characteristics remain similar enough to F-horn for what I need. Right NOW I have access to a (double) horn that I could use to improve my tone, technique and performing skills, and I'm actually living with a horn student/teacher.

I'm not sure why the reading is an issue, if you're playing your own arrangements. You can transpose the parts to any key that matches the fingerings you know, even if it's not standard practice.
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« Reply #26 on: Dec 29, 2016, 11:00PM »

I've certainly been confronting this situation a bit lately in trying to record demo charts and trying to keep the cost down.
Have a listen to this one that I recorded of Silent Night for Brass 5. It uses 2 players, and includes flugel horn. Considering it was a bit rushed and i'm not a sound engineer, I think you'll agree it's a lot better demo than using a sibelius version.

http://pigletmusic.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/12/silent-night-brass-sample.mp3

Rob

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« Reply #27 on: Dec 30, 2016, 10:34AM »

I've certainly been confronting this situation a bit lately in trying to record demo charts and trying to keep the cost down.
Have a listen to this one that I recorded of Silent Night for Brass 5. It uses 2 players, and includes flugel horn. Considering it was a bit rushed and i'm not a sound engineer, I think you'll agree it's a lot better demo than using a sibelius version.
http://pigletmusic.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/12/silent-night-brass-sample.mp3
Rob

Nice chart! Did you write that?
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« Reply #28 on: Dec 30, 2016, 04:51PM »

I wish i could say yes pianoman. Roger Downton came up with that. Arranged it so that almost any group of 5-50 instruments can play it. I just provided demos for some smaller combos. His bio is here

http://pigletmusic.com/composers/

Rob
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« Reply #29 on: Dec 30, 2016, 08:08PM »

I'd advise steering clear of the Olds upright alto horn. My wife had one for a little while. Blech! IMHO, if you want a nice alto, you're best off with one intended for brass band use (as opposed to one designed for marching band).
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« Reply #30 on: Dec 31, 2016, 07:13AM »

I'm not sure why the reading is an issue, if you're playing your own arrangements. You can transpose the parts to any key that matches the fingerings you know, even if it's not standard practice.

Big deal here is that I'm not very "certain" about how it'll work with transpositions. I don't know if it'd be best for me to read in Bb or in Bass clef, but I suppose that's something I'll figure out. I'll need practice to get a good sound anyway, and that'll come along with finding out a reading system.

I've certainly been confronting this situation a bit lately in trying to record demo charts and trying to keep the cost down.
Have a listen to this one that I recorded of Silent Night for Brass 5. It uses 2 players, and includes flugel horn. Considering it was a bit rushed and i'm not a sound engineer, I think you'll agree it's a lot better demo than using a sibelius version.
Hey Rob, nice demo. What exactly is the instrumentation here? I hear a tuba down there but it's hard to tell. In fact, it's a bit difficult for me to pick out the individual parts at all, but that might be owed to the low range of the arrangement as a whole


What is it with the traditional circular mellophones, anyway? Many people say they're really good, and they sound pretty darned good to me, but why are they some of the only horns that DON'T get even *some* bad reviews?
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« Reply #31 on: Dec 31, 2016, 11:16AM »

Big deal here is that I'm not very "certain" about how it'll work with transpositions. I don't know if it'd be best for me to read in Bb or in Bass clef, but I suppose that's something I'll figure out. I'll need practice to get a good sound anyway, and that'll come along with finding out a reading system.

My point was that the reading problem will be easily solved, so I wouldn't decide on the instrument on that basis.

Transposition isn't really an essential part of music--it's an accommodation for the exact issue you're trying to solve--playing similar instruments in different keys without learning new fingerings. If you're writing for other people, you need to use the standard transpositions so the parts are what they're used to seeing, but writing for yourself you can do anything you darned well please.

I don't know anything about F horns because I've mostly written for jazz band, but I'm assuming that on the same fingerings and same partial, the horn will play a fourth lower than the same thing on a valve trombone or baritone. IIRC, F horn parts are written in concert key (someone please correct me if I'm wrong).

So if you read the F horn part as if it's Bb, all the notes will come out a fourth too low. You could copy the horn part off the score, paste it into a single-staff score, then transpose that up a fourth to create a 'just-for-you' horn part for recording. When you read it as a Bb chart, it will come out a fourth lower and comprise the correct pitches. You could also choose a different clef if it suited you (you might end up with a lot of ledger lines in bass clef).

Again, please correct me if I have the facts wrong, but in principle this will work and would be a better solution than selecting the horn based on the key that you're used to reading in.
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« Reply #32 on: Jan 02, 2017, 04:07AM »

Again, please correct me if I have the facts wrong, but in principle this will work and would be a better solution than selecting the horn based on the key that you're used to reading in.

Nope, you've got it 100% correct! I'd need to just put the music in the transposition I'd be using, and then transpose it all to fit the pitch of the instrument. I suppose the last few entries were just to see what might be the best option for reading, as well as the change in fingerings, since it seems I'll end up using many ledger lines if I read in Bass OR Bb, and all the scales/fingerings would be completely different ones on an F instrument. But you're right, it'd just be a matter of tailor-making my music for myself so that it is transposed properly for me to read in Bb or Bass clef- not dependent on the pitch of the instrument I buy. f I build up proper technique, then playing in "different keys" on somewhat similar instruments won't be an problem. And using a differently-pithced horn would give me good practice in scales that I might not necessarily be so practiced in on trumpet.
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« Reply #33 on: Jan 02, 2017, 07:03AM »

I wish i could say yes pianoman. Roger Downton came up with that. Arranged it so that almost any group of 5-50 instruments can play it. I just provided demos for some smaller combos. His bio is here

http://pigletmusic.com/composers/

Rob

Wow, listening to the demo one more time with more proper headphones changes it completely!! The demo sounds really good, there are some really nice chords in there. Is the lowest voice MIDI actually?
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« Reply #34 on: Jan 02, 2017, 09:00AM »

For a french horn voice in Bb, I've always like the King 1122. Same length and fingerings as a valve trombone, but with a small bore and a widely tapered bell.

If I didn't already own one, I'd buy this one on Ebay:

http://www.ebay.com/itm/King-Marching-French-Horn-582013-/172465068795

The silver plate looks good, although it needs a good polishing.
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« Reply #35 on: Jan 02, 2017, 02:02PM »

Wow, listening to the demo one more time with more proper headphones changes it completely!! The demo sounds really good, there are some really nice chords in there. Is the lowest voice MIDI actually?

Thanks. I was a bit heavy on the wash in hindsight. Trumpeter playing tpt 1, 2 and flug (fr hn part), bone, and yes midi tuba. Does the job I think.

Rob
http://pigletmusic.com
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« Reply #36 on: Jan 05, 2017, 05:19PM »

What is it with the traditional circular mellophones, anyway? Many people say they're really good, and they sound pretty darned good to me, but why are they some of the only horns that DON'T get even *some* bad reviews?

Because nobody plays them. Seriously.

These days I feel like more people play even mellophonium than circular mellophone, because at least the mellophonium has a tiny sliver of use when playing certain Kenton charts. Plus since it's bell front it's much better for playing jazz, and since it was originally intended as a marching instrument there are a lot more old ones floating around that the schools don't need anymore so there's plenty to pick up for cheap. Finally, since the mellophonium is so unique people who like weird instruments are naturally drawn to it.

Circular mellophone, on the other hand, is totally obsolete. There's no reason to ever play one, unless you want to pass off as a horn player without having to learn horn.
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« Reply #37 on: Jan 06, 2017, 04:59AM »

I have one of the older Circular Mellophones that I use every once & a while. Mostly for improvisation in more of a "Free" Improvisational setting. I had a Tech friend of mine expand the lead pipe to accomidate a trombone mouthpiece. I use a Pardube on it and it took the key of the horn from Eb to D. I use it more for color and texture and it works beautifully. I wanted that style rather than the Kenton/Marching band style because of the sound is more "French Horn like" with the bell going back rather than in the front witch to me tend to sound a little blatty
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« Reply #38 on: Jan 14, 2017, 02:46PM »

Probably worth my while coming back to this topic (as I have been oh-so-often). I'm finally back home and have had an opportunity to start preliminary recording on a piece I wrote (solely for beefing up my portfolio).
I only ran through really basic recordings to see what options I had for micing and mixing for my brass (as perhaps stated- 3 trumpets, 3 flugels, 2 tenors and a bass tbn, but with the tenors substituted for slightly EQ'd flugels)

At the moment I'm primarily having trouble with 'detail' and presence in the parts that need it. It could be a fault of my orchestration choices - I've got a strong flugel lead back by close trombone harmonies, that is later overtaken by a trumpet part (with the flugel melody continuing on). All of this is over a drum kit/percussion, piano, choir and strings functioning as a pad. WITH reverb.

Any tips on orchestration for this kind of setup? I seriously want to go even bigger (just to test my limits), but I'm certain my arranging skills will make me overdo, or improperly use, most of the parts.
I guess another way to ask it is, what can do what? Instruments can maybe be grouped by being cylindrical and conical, but a low range euph will serve a completely different purpose than a flugel, as with trumpet and trombone. And similarly, flugel and trumpet can't quite do the same stuff, even being in the same range.
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« Reply #39 on: Jan 16, 2017, 11:45AM »

It's hard to critique (in a good way) a piece that we haven't heard, but I can make some general suggestions. Is this roughly like a jazz band or stage band piece? You don't mention bass, but I generally don't write for drum kit without it. It's sometimes easier to write for a full band than for a smaller one, because each section is complete and easier to arrange.

First, write by ear! If you approach arranging as a part-writing problem, you'll end up frustrated because you're following all the rules but you don't like the sound. That's not to say you shouldn't master part-writing, but it should be used to work the bugs out of a piece after you've created it from a strong aural concept, rather than as a starting point.

Instead, close your eyes, think of each grouping, and imagine what you want each group to do. Think of it as 'figure' and 'ground', as in painting. What's going to separate the 'detail' and 'presence' from the pad? If you draw a very elaborate and detailed painting of a clown on a black or white background, the picture will pop. Paint the same picture on plaid or floral wallpaper, not so much.

Imagine what the grouping of trombone parts sounds like, what range they're in (in your head!), then imagine what texture will sound good against them. In general, if you voice dissimilar instruments, they sound better in unison. Also, when you have several dissimilar sections playing at once (like choir, low brass, and high brass) you can voice them all in one big tutti section, but if they're playing different parts it might turn to mud if you try to harmonize each individual section. Also, use some sections as rhythmic rather than harmonic content, playing little 'pops' rather than sustatained notes.

Most aspiring arrangers don't give themselves enough choices. For instance, unisons are a great tool that people sometimes underuse. As an example, a typical jazz band swing arrangement might have saxes playing the head in unison or octaves, the trombones playing the 'comping' part, with accented sustained chords, and maybe muted trumpets playing little stabs on the second time through. You're not trying to make each section do the same thing. Unison vocals sound good, too. A unison sound (choir, or trombones, or whatever) just playing a quiet 'guide tone' is a very nice and unobtrusive color.

In general, the faster the passage, the less harmony it will sustain. If you listen to the arrangements James Pankow did for Chicago, he's constantly changing those textures from unison to octaves to harmonies, right on the fly. Sometimes you can have everybody play the same thing, then fan out into harmonies.  That approach was also heavily used in hard bop horn arrangements, and it is one of the things that gives the Thad and Mel band an agility that sounds simultaneously 'big-band' and 'small-band'. You hear the same technique in small classical ensembles.

In other words, don't forget your unisons.

Pay attention to note spacing. In general, the lower the notes, the farther apart they should be. I would typically voice notes at least a fourth apart below F in the bass clef staff. Higher up, you can jam things together. For instance, a full trombone section could play an Eb7 chord with a G (above the BC staff) on top, with the Eb and Db notes next to each other, and it would sound great, but if you put that down an octave it's going to sound very muddy even though all of the parts are in the normal range of the instrument.

So:
'Hear' the parts in your head! Pay attention to texture and color! Pay attention to note spacing (the lower the pitch, the wider)! Don't forget your unisons! 

I hope at least one of these helped you. Not sure where you're at on this road, so I might be telling you a bunch of stuff that seems painfully obvious. I guess the best advice is to start with silence, then try to improve upon it.

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« Reply #40 on: Jan 17, 2017, 01:23PM »

Thanks for the reply, Piano man!
I'll admit, I've come quite a long way since I made it a point to worry about interval limits in the low range. I try to avoid writing much down there beyond fourths / fifths and octaves, particularly below a D in the bass clef staff.
The piece I'm working on is actually a sort of short, epic orchestral piece. I think when I was writing it, I was aiming more for a good-quality flugelhorn part, so that would play into why it's not working out super-well in terms of the mix. I can say for certain that the sound of unison flugels in the staff is SUPER nice, to my ears somewhere between trumpet, horn and saxophone.

I absolutely do NOT make a big enough deal about the use of texture, that I can say for certain. I'll take heed to that!
Most importantly, I can't say I sort of "pre-envisioned" the piece so much as "sat down and hacked it out", as I'm trying to build up a portfolio of this stuff so I want complete 4 recordings of them a month. I'll be tough, but with some pushing, I'll finish roughly 100 arrangements, mixes, and rack up countless hours of performance practice/experience in the studio, by the end of this year!

Any more tips?
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« Reply #41 on: Jan 17, 2017, 03:09PM »

Thanks davdud, I was sort of throwing a lot of stuff at the wall and hoping that some stuck. Some of it was well below your pay grade, and that's a good thing.

With respect to envisioning music: You have tools that weren't available (or even imaginable, really) when I started (but I use them now). On the good side, we have the ability to 'pound away' at arrangements until they sound good, and potentially those tools could be a faster way to learn what works, compared to the old way, which was writing something, having it performed, learning that it sucked, and trying something different. It's faster. On the bad side, reliance on that resource can atrophy our imaginative and aural muscles. There's no substitute for closing your eyes, imagining musicians filing into a silent auditorium, listening in your head to what they play, and transcribing it.

I still arrange that way. I'll occasionally use Sibelius playback as a lazy, quick-and-nasty shortcut to find part-writing errors if I'm trying to get something out the door in a hurry, but usually I don't even turn the sound on--I write without any direct aural feedback and without any instrument other than a pitch pipe for keys. My piano's in the other room. The most powerful way to learn arranging is to hear something great someone else did, and ask yourself, "Why don't I ever do THAT?" Then figure out exactly what they did. It's never quite what you thought, once you start digging in. Each time, you add to your vocabulary.

I can think of so many examples--hearing a funny little unison muted trumpet part as an accompaniment, or guide tones played by flugel or trombone paired with alto flute, or a bunch of sax players standing up and playing for a minute or so, and liking the sound, and figuring out how it worked.

When you develop your aural skills, you're getting an arranging lesson every time you hear music.
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« Reply #42 on: Jan 18, 2017, 06:28AM »

You may also find that you naturally gravitate towards certain textures. I would say to embrace that, especially if you're writing things for yourself to record. Even though you're just recording for fun/for yourself, you may discover that your arrangements/compositions begin to have a signature sound because of it.
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« Reply #43 on: Jan 18, 2017, 04:55PM »

Beautiful tips! Quite often I tend to run in full-speed without a concept of how the arrangement is going to sound, trying to go in for a technical approach rather than thinking about the sound impression I'm looking to get out of the arrangement... I think it will help me a LOT to begin just thinking in sounds rather than thinking exactly what chords and voicings I'll be using. I'm going to start doing that!

On another note, my copy of "Arranging for Large Jazz Ensemble" came in today. Incredibly rich in information! That's $30 well-spent. How much of this information can be considered to carry over to different styles of music outside of jazz? Or, if I wanted to dip my toe into more serious classical arranging, what books should I be looking at (an equivalent to this one, I'm thinking)?
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« Reply #44 on: Jan 18, 2017, 05:58PM »

Beautiful tips! Quite often I tend to run in full-speed without a concept of how the arrangement is going to sound, trying to go in for a technical approach rather than thinking about the sound impression I'm looking to get out of the arrangement... I think it will help me a LOT to begin just thinking in sounds rather than thinking exactly what chords and voicings I'll be using. I'm going to start doing that!

Start with an idea, and a mental sound! Building a song from a 'technical', music-theory approach is like building a house with a wood file.

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On another note, my copy of "Arranging for Large Jazz Ensemble" came in today. Incredibly rich in information! That's $30 well-spent. How much of this information can be considered to carry over to different styles of music outside of jazz? Or, if I wanted to dip my toe into more serious classical arranging, what books should I be looking at (an equivalent to this one, I'm thinking)?

It all crosses over, and it all helps. My instinct is that if you're trying to write in a classical vein, you should learn to imitate the source material first (just as a jazz player might learn Charlie Parker before David Sanborn, but learn both). Figure out why Mahler is kicking your ass so bad, before you copy John Williams. Or do both at once.

It's about sounds and devices. Reading books is great, and so it listening to something that kills you and saying, "Why don't my arrangements sound like that?"  Same way jazz players use to learn to improvise.

I would suggest listening to music in a similar style that you're trying to write, and each time picking out ONE device you would have never thought of using (flutes used like a string section, or some odd unison color, or a rhythm device, or a melodic accompaniment or whatever) and figuring it out and adding it to your repertoire.  It applies to everything in life--if you learn ONE valuable thing, it was worth the price of admission.

The more you listen, and the more you learn, the more of those devices you have at your disposal. As Driving Park wisely said, after a while you'll have a signature sound--ideally by the accident of good taste.

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« Reply #45 on: Jan 20, 2017, 05:05PM »

To make a fast jump back to the very origins of this topic- Check out this short clip I put together. (I'll be redoing the mix on it to bring the brass out a bit more later.

https://soundcloud.com/davewesleyrecordings/a-heroic-comeback

In the last moment, my three flugels (plus 1 trombone) play full-blast (almost ff), and I noticed it gets this big, rich-but-mellow tone very much like horn does at a mf-f. I'd have to overdrive and little and see if I can get the same bite and brassiness without getting overly trumpety.
In this recording, I've abandoned my initially proposed BIG setup for a slightly altered group - still three flugels, but with four trombones instead of three, and only one trumpet rather than 3. I had little use for the additional trumpets as the lead should theorhetically sit on top as the melody and I didn't want anything else to be in the way of that. (As said, i'll be redoing the mix and bit to get a little more brass and a little less strings.)

I'm still set on getting my hands on a marching french horn, but this horn gives such a nice sounds for this stuff at the moment. We'll see what ends up happening
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« Reply #46 on: Jan 21, 2017, 11:03AM »

That sounds nice! You're selling yourself a little short. It would work well as theme music (I intend that as a compliment). It came across well on my mediocre computer speakers, which is a good sign (it's amazing how easy it is to mix something on headphones or studio monitors and then have it disappear when played on a car stereo or computer).

My taste (and that's all it is) would be to lighten up the texture on the lead and make it more pointed, leaving room to bring out the rhythmic trombone figures a little. What if you made it a solo for more impact? Just an idea.

Anyway, nice job!
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« Reply #47 on: Jan 21, 2017, 07:30PM »

I have a memory from somewhere learning about orchestration and Aaron Copland taking lessons from Nadia Boulanger. The gist was that horns just don't have the pointed attack of a trumpet, and the reference was the intro to Daphnis and Chloe by Maurive Ravel, who was one of the great orchestrators of all time. That example had something like harps hitting a short note on all the horn notes to help bring emphasis to the attacks.

You're already doing something similar to that with the piano in there, which also has a nice, crisp attack, although the piano notes are still long. Of course, performance can compensate a lot for the natural shortcomings of an instrument: really exaggerating the type of attack on different notes - when they differ - can really make a recording sparkle, in addition to specific orchestration effects.

Food for thought.
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« Reply #48 on: Jan 24, 2017, 06:47PM »

Thanks for the tips, guys! I have messed with the tune a bit since then, but it's been a pretty short window so I probably won't be uploading a new version so soon. In any case, I wrote an older tune a while and ago worked on the arrangement in the last couple days, eventually coming to recording this track:

https://soundcloud.com/davewesleyrecordings/the-adventures-of-mr-marvelous

Here I focused a lot more on soli-type material. You can probably see that it's overall quite a bit more fleshed out than the last track.

Experimentation is showing me the possibilities (and limits) of the flugel, but actually it makes a SURPRISINGLY nice stand-in, and also has a whole lot of its own character. It fits perfectly as an upper extension of the trombones with a little more bite, OR a lower end for the trumpets that can bite just as much if necessary.

This is exciting!!  :D
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« Reply #49 on: Jan 24, 2017, 08:24PM »

Great job! Lots of fun stuff, and I like the little flurry right before the ending. Keep it up, man.
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