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Author Topic: Arranging Some Familiar Tunes  (Read 2696 times)
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Geezerhorn

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« on: Dec 22, 2016, 06:08AM »

I started a thread on "licks" on another board, but thought this would be the place to show/tell/discuss my efforts at arranging some familiar tunes.

My project this winter is to arrange some doo-wop and other classic, familiar and fun tunes. Here is an effort that is a work-in-progress on a favorite song often done in doo-wop, Blue Moon:





I use Fidelity Song Writer to open up a lead sheet. Then I make each line with two staves. The bottom is for the original melody and chords to use as a reference. The top is for my own melodic enhancement.

Notice that I am keeping it simple. I found out the hard way that I can write something very difficult for myself that becomes problematic to perform in a series with other difficult things. So I'll leave the difficult stuff for practice and keep the performance stuff a lot easier.

I use a BiaB accompaniment I get from the BiaB Yahoo Group and either use it as is or modify it to suit. Naturally, I mute out the melody and/or soloist and oftentimes I'll modify the chords as well.

I like to run through the chorus twice and then out. That gives about a 2-minute performance, which I think is plenty of time to say what I want to say.

The above arrangement is played with a bucket mute through the first pass. I haven't worked out the second pass yet.

I think this exercise is good for developing an ear and learning. My notation isn't the best, so I use the composition I came up with as a guide.

Feel free to offer suggestions, etc and/or to share your own creations.

When I play through this, I get a feeling of laid-back jazz and I kinda like some of the melody tweaks I came up with. Perhaps as I go along with this project, I'll get some nice licks that I could use elsewhere.

OBTW: I use straight lines going into and out of notes to indicate slide pushes. I'll use a "V" in-between notes to indicate a 1/2 tone dip. The classic "turn" symbol is used to indicate a jazz turn; which might actually be called a "doit".

...Geezer
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« Reply #1 on: Dec 25, 2016, 09:13AM »

Lol. No responses. Pros - if they are worth their honk - are probably too busy. Amateur bass trombone players probably find the arrangement above way too high, while amateur tenor trombone players probably find the arrangement above way too much in their awkward zone. I played it this morning with my Christmas present - a 1990's Conn 88H tenor/bass on a Bach 5G mpc and it went very well.

As I go along, I keep in mind a couple things:

1) I'm building a rep I can perform for friends and family, should the opportunity arise

2) I don't want to try blowing my brains out on every arrangement at the very, very top of my ability. So the goal is to keep all couple dozen tunes well within myself and playable one-after-the-other; in concert fashion, if you will.

Undeterred, I arranged a very popular song by Carole King, "You've Got A Friend" - with a modified BiaB arrangement I picked from the Yahoo BiaB Group. Here it is:







You might notice that I snuck in a few bars of "Don't Worry Be Happy" before the end. It could easily be played up an octave.

All of the arrangements I have done and will do could easily be re-written in terms of complexity and range in the year(s) to come.

It's a great winter project. You ought to try it! Really, there is no excuse not to, what with basic BiaB arrangements out there to start with. One caveat on that, though. Verify the melody line you see in BiaB arrangements. The arrangers very often have modified it. I like to start with the pristine original, as much as possible.

...Geezer
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Graham Martin
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« Reply #2 on: Dec 25, 2016, 03:08PM »

The reason for little response is probably because yesterday was a very quiet day for the forum. Or it may be that most of us have not gone to the extent of writing down our own interpretations of tunes. I think the word is 'interpretations' and not 'arrangements'.

As you know, I use Band-in-a-Box lead sheets for playing out (trombone and a rhythm section, or even for my Dixieland group) and for the first stages of creating a big band arrangements. However, when I am playing the melody as the only front-line instrument, I just use the straight lead sheet more or less as published and I add my own interpretations/enhancements and whole-chorus improvisations as I go along. I always give the same straight lead sheet to the rhythm section (in treble clef) and they make up their own parts. I usually play a number of choruses, with an enhanced melody to start and end and improvised choruses between.

Using straight lead sheets is the way that everyone I know plays in jazz groups and always has - unless we have a proper arranged and harmonised arrangement. If I am the one doing this kind of arrangement, I use the Band-in-the-Box harmonies because it is so much faster than working out the harmonies from first principles. Band-in-a-Box harmonies are very comprehensive and very good. I would then drop the Band-in-a-Box file into Sibelius or Overture 4 to make it possible to print out all the parts properly. Band-in-a-Box notation is not good enough for this process.

Another good fun way I use Band-in-a-Box is for two-trombone groups (Kai & JJ style) and I put the second part on the Soloist track. Great for practicing and these parts can be used for playing out with just a few added handwritten notations. I have quite a few of these.

Now, can I lean on your expertise and ask you exactly how you are posting your music sheets on this forum? Since the Gallery stopped accepting new PDFs, photos etc., I have not worked out a satisfactory method of doing this. Or perhaps you can point to a topic where this has been explained. Thanks.
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Grah

"May God bless and keep you always
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And let others do for you
May you build a ladder to the stars
And climb on every rung
May you stay......forever young."
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« Reply #3 on: Dec 25, 2016, 04:55PM »

The reason for little response is probably because yesterday was a very quiet day for the forum. Or it may be that most of us have not gone to the extent of writing down our own interpretations of tunes. I think the word is 'interpretations' and not 'arrangements'.

As you know, I use Band-in-a-Box lead sheets for playing out (trombone and a rhythm section, or even for my Dixieland group) and for the first stages of creating a big band arrangements. However, when I am playing the melody as the only front-line instrument, I just use the straight lead sheet more or less as published and I add my own interpretations/enhancements and whole-chorus improvisations as I go along. I always give the same straight lead sheet to the rhythm section (in treble clef) and they make up their own parts. I usually play a number of choruses, with an enhanced melody to start and end and improvised choruses between.

Using straight lead sheets is the way that everyone I know plays in jazz groups and always has - unless we have a proper arranged and harmonised arrangement. If I am the one doing this kind of arrangement, I use the Band-in-the-Box harmonies because it is so much faster than working out the harmonies from first principles. Band-in-a-Box harmonies are very comprehensive and very good. I would then drop the Band-in-a-Box file into Sibelius or Overture 4 to make it possible to print out all the parts properly. Band-in-a-Box notation is not good enough for this process.

Another good fun way I use Band-in-a-Box is for two-trombone groups (Kai & JJ style) and I put the second part on the Soloist track. Great for practicing and these parts can be used for playing out with just a few added handwritten notations. I have quite a few of these.

Now, can I lean on your expertise and ask you exactly how you are posting your music sheets on this forum? Since the Gallery stopped accepting new PDFs, photos etc., I have not worked out a satisfactory method of doing this. Or perhaps you can point to a topic where this has been explained. Thanks.

Thanks Grah!

As you know, I am new to this sort of thing. "Interpretation" it is, then.

I can do a bit of basic improv. But what I am attempting to do here is what I label "compositional jazz". Compositional because it is written down. Jazz because it deviates from playing the melody line straight, articulation embellishments not with-standing.

Towards that end, I like making a 2-staff line. I can see the pristine melody on the bottom staff that I can use as a reference and for tracking to make sure I am staying on target with the accompaniment. I got the idea from the play-along song books I have. That's how some of them do it. If I was to actually play this with a live group, then I would either memorize my part or delete the bottom staff and print out my personal lead sheet.

Thank you - as always - for your tips on using BiaB! I'm going to copy/paste your ideas into a Word doc to keep on my desk top, so it's visually handy to look at as a reference.

OK. I obviously print out my lead sheet(s). Then I scan them and save them on my hard drive. I upload them to Photobucket. Any photo-hosting web-site should work. I copy the image address and paste it into the post and then click on the "image" icon so that TTF site knows it's an image. I preview my post to make sure it all works and away I go.

I wish there was a more populated sub-set of us BiaB users on this Forum. It really is quite a nice tool. You may use it for practice, but for me - it's that AND it's my own little combo. Some of us also like the more advanced play-along books available, with their full orchestration. That's terrific. But I get a real kick out of knowing that if I perform a tune for a friend or family - it is MY product - whether it's called an arrangement or an interpretation.

How cool is it to perform your own work! I guess the next step would be original composition.

OBTW: sometimes when I want to learn how someone else does a particular post, I click on "quote" and look at their original posting. If you were to do that with one of my posts above, you could see that I used Photobucket and the "image" icon. Just a tip. Hope it helps.

Thanks again...

...Geezer
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« Reply #4 on: Dec 26, 2016, 06:16AM »

After I've slept on it, I have to argue a point, Graham. You state that I am not making "arrangements", but rather "interpretations". Thing is, I often find BiaB accompaniments that have been worked out by someone else to be not exactly what I need.

I often times have to make changes in the chord progressions because they have been changed from the original composition. I also sometimes need BiaB to devise a suitable intro.

I usually also don't like the format of the accompaniment I pick up. I don't like repeat signs. They don't work for what I want to do. So I usually end up taking them out and then copy/paste chord progressions back into the format I want.

I always kill the melody line and almost always kill the soloist line.

I've done about a dozen of these "things" so far and on one, I got BiaB to change the key signature about 2/3 of the way through. Instead of just slamming into a new key, I worked out - by ear - a plausible chord change to more gracefully go into the key change.

I also tend to change around the ending of the song from the accompaniment I get.

And I very often change the tempo, key signature and style.

All of those things - added up - make me use the term "arrangement" for what I do because I am, well - arranging things. Or maybe what I do is a "re-arrangement". lol

I also think there is another reason why younger members of this Forum have not contributed to this thread. They can't. So I want to share a little secret on how I enhance a melody line. I could deviate a LOT from the melody if I wanted to but I don't want to because I detest when performers do that. What I do, is step away from my horn and imagine the melody line in my head how I would want it to sound. Then I go back to my horn and work it out. I do that process phrase by phrase through the song.

Some talented guys can do it on-the-fly as they play. I can't - yet. In fact, I find the imagination part of it to be so difficult that there are many times I simply can't get the right side of my brain working that way. Sometimes I have to leave my music studio and go do something physically mundane, like vacuuming the carpet to get my head in the right place. And when it is, no matter what I am doing - cooking dinner or something - I stop and go write it down. Even if I don't get the notes quite right, I try to get the essence of the rhythm pattern correct.

I believe many people look at a blank sheet of paper and go equally blank. But for me, that's not how it's done - just staring at a blank page won't get me any ideas. I have to hear the melody variations in my head first, out shopping, napping, whatever. Even after I set my ideas down using Fidelity - the re-writes start because often what I thought would be nice is just plain awful. lol But as with anything, repetition makes for mental shortcuts. So I view this whole process as a giant baby step towards doing improv on-the-fly. Giant baby step? lol

Oh, and there's that BiaB thing that is a deal-breaker for many, many guys. Too much work involved for them in understanding how it operates. I know of at least one fairly good player on this Forum who has resigned himself to the play-along books because he can't wrap his head around BiaB and doesn't want to try. Yeah. That's a thing, alright. I had it for a solid year before I finally decided to have at it in earnest because it was that daunting to me. Now it's indispensable!

There is a discussion specifically on BiaB on this Forum here:

BiaB Discussion On TTF

...Geezer
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Graham Martin
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« Reply #5 on: Dec 26, 2016, 03:20PM »

Don't get me wrong. You should do whatever works for you. Your method seems a good way to work towards being able to express the melody in your own way and then ultimately to fully improvised choruses.

From my point of view, it is easier to use the straight melody as a lead sheet. But you have to remember that I started my playing with small jazz groups and I knew how to read chords right from the beginning.  Also, I would memorise the melodies rather than read them. In fact, in the old days of playing jazz, we all used to memorise even the chords, but we all had chord books to refer to if necessary.



This is that same trumpet player in recent years and you can see he is still playing the lead without music. But that is probably a chord book, or maybe a list of tunes, on the floor:




These days, when memories are not so good Yeah, RIGHT. and there is need to have a large repertoire, the Band-in-a-Box lead sheets are necessary. I make them up into band folders (the yellow ones) for each member of the band. Our own Fake Books in fact. However, that trumpet player, coming from the same jazz background, knows most of the melodies by ear:



I realise it is difficult for people who come from a conventional music reading background to operate in this way but it is the norm, certainly for Traditional Jazz bands. And the ultimate is to dispense with the music stands altogether because it really does look so much better if you don't have them stuck in your face coming between you and the audience.


BTW, regarding chord books, you can get these on the internet, rather than having to collect them over the years:

http://www.jazzpilgrims.co.uk/Jazz%20Pilgrims%20page%20twelve.htm

One other thing I should mention is that Band-in-a-Box will do a certain amount of enhancing the melody for you when you use the 'Melody Embellisher'. The things it does are a useful tip on some ways you can do it manually:

Humanize
Adjust Octave
Anticipations
Less Anticipations
Grace Notes
Doubled Notes
Extra Notes
Note Turns
(The above can be adjusted by percentage)
Vibrato
"Laid Back" feeling to melody
You can also adjust the Dynamic Range and Legato Setting.

It is a good feature if you want to listen to Band-in-a-Box playing the melody rather than just being an accompaniment.
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Grah

"May God bless and keep you always
May your wishes all come true
May you always do for others
And let others do for you
May you build a ladder to the stars
And climb on every rung
May you stay......forever young."
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« Reply #6 on: Dec 26, 2016, 06:07PM »

Off-topic, but I love your drummer's kit in the middle picture.  Looks so very 1940s.  Does he have a light inside the bass drum as well?
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Graham Martin
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« Reply #7 on: Dec 26, 2016, 07:27PM »

Just continuing off topic - Yeah, a great drum kit! I would guess 36" diameter and would almost certainly have a light inside to go with the painted landscape. I am a bit of an expert because, as I have previously mentioned, I started out in the music business as a drummer and I had a drum kit just like that one. Good!

However, I should point out that he is not 'my' drummer and I do not know him. The trumpet player in the pictures is Derek Winters, who I used to play with and who is now quite famous in the UK and Europe for playing New Orleans style jazz - hence the vintage drum kit. The second photo is one of his bands of the present day. I have not seen Derek since he and his 'now' wife waved goodbye to us when we caught the plane to Australia in 1966. We do keep in touch and are determined to play together again before we check out. I just got some correspondence from him over Christmas and he is planning to visit New Orleans for a couple of weeks in April. He thinks the days of hearing a Band like Bunk Johnson's (his hero, along with Ken Colyer) are long past but finds that the music is still so vibrant there he cannot keep away. He has played with some of the musicians from New Orleans and elsewhere in the US when they toured Europe.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CvJQDL2HTCI

Later in the year he will return to the US to visit The Grand Canyon with his wife for their 50th Wedding Anniversary. They were not even married when I left England. Time passes quickly when your having fun. :-P

Okay, back to Band-in-a-Box............. 
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Grah

"May God bless and keep you always
May your wishes all come true
May you always do for others
And let others do for you
May you build a ladder to the stars
And climb on every rung
May you stay......forever young."
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« Reply #8 on: Dec 26, 2016, 08:17PM »

Depending on your intent, you may want to pay more attention to the lyrics of the song you're altering - specifically to how strong and weak spoken syllables align with strong and weak beats in the musical meter. This turns out to be pretty useful, not just to keep your melody grounded in the original, but also to keep harmonically strong notes on strong rhythmic beats. Like all rules, that one can be broken, but is a pretty good one to start with.

There are a couple of notational quirks I noticed too: obscuring beat three when a dotted quarter note starts on the and of 2; beaming eighth notes across a beat but not inclusive of a beat (You've Got A Friend bar 2).

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Graham Martin
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« Reply #9 on: Dec 26, 2016, 08:43PM »

Just a reminder to Band-in-a-Box users, and potential users, that the special Christmas Package offers will end on 31st December. Although the time limit always seem like a bit of an arm twister to me. However, they are Substantial savings on the regular prices:

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

And do not forget to check the updates page and download them because there have already been two for the 2017 version:

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

Andrew, you might like the 2017 version because it has a new GUI and I know you have been complaining about this for years.

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Grah

"May God bless and keep you always
May your wishes all come true
May you always do for others
And let others do for you
May you build a ladder to the stars
And climb on every rung
May you stay......forever young."
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« Reply #10 on: Dec 27, 2016, 05:49AM »

Don't get me wrong. You should do whatever works for you. Your method seems a good way to work towards being able to express the melody in your own way and then ultimately to fully improvised choruses.

From my point of view, it is easier to use the straight melody as a lead sheet. But you have to remember that I started my playing with small jazz groups and I knew how to read chords right from the beginning.  Also, I would memorise the melodies rather than read them. In fact, in the old days of playing jazz, we all used to memorise even the chords, but we all had chord books to refer to if necessary.

This is that same trumpet player in recent years and you can see he is still playing the lead without music. But that is probably a chord book, or maybe a list of tunes, on the floor:

These days, when memories are not so good Yeah, RIGHT. and there is need to have a large repertoire, the Band-in-a-Box lead sheets are necessary. I make them up into band folders (the yellow ones) for each member of the band. Our own Fake Books in fact. However, that trumpet player, coming from the same jazz background, knows most of the melodies by ear:

I realise it is difficult for people who come from a conventional music reading background to operate in this way but it is the norm, certainly for Traditional Jazz bands. And the ultimate is to dispense with the music stands altogether because it really does look so much better if you don't have them stuck in your face coming between you and the audience.


BTW, regarding chord books, you can get these on the internet, rather than having to collect them over the years:

http://www.jazzpilgrims.co.uk/Jazz%20Pilgrims%20page%20twelve.htm

One other thing I should mention is that Band-in-a-Box will do a certain amount of enhancing the melody for you when you use the 'Melody Embellisher'. The things it does are a useful tip on some ways you can do it manually:

Humanize
Adjust Octave
Anticipations
Less Anticipations
Grace Notes
Doubled Notes
Extra Notes
Note Turns
(The above can be adjusted by percentage)
Vibrato
"Laid Back" feeling to melody
You can also adjust the Dynamic Range and Legato Setting.

It is a good feature if you want to listen to Band-in-a-Box playing the melody rather than just being an accompaniment.

Not having music in front is THE highest standard! But as an amateur, playing occasionally in a band with well over 100 selections is just too daunting - especially a band where every note has to be played exactly as it was written, unless it is a solo.

That's a lot of info on chord books! Thanks for sharing!

I don't mind at all if this thread gets tossed around along any number of tangents. And if it turns into a BiaB thread, that's fine as well. It's all good info.

I may play with those BiaB melody settings for fun, but any creativity towards completion of my winter project has to come exclusively from within me.

Depending on your intent, you may want to pay more attention to the lyrics of the song you're altering - specifically to how strong and weak spoken syllables align with strong and weak beats in the musical meter. This turns out to be pretty useful, not just to keep your melody grounded in the original, but also to keep harmonically strong notes on strong rhythmic beats. Like all rules, that one can be broken, but is a pretty good one to start with.

There are a couple of notational quirks I noticed too: obscuring beat three when a dotted quarter note starts on the and of 2; beaming eighth notes across a beat but not inclusive of a beat (You've Got A Friend bar 2).


Thank you. You can tell at a glance that I am home-grown. lol Bar two does work, but unless one is familiar with my chart, it's easy to stub a toe on it because it just isn't done. Easy for me to "correct" by making the two 1/8th notes that follow into one 1/4 note.

Paying attention to the words of a song is a great tip. Yes, there can be a deviation from the vocal strong beat - but it should be that, a deviation - instead of a norm for the song variation - so I'll have to look at that.

Just a reminder to Band-in-a-Box users, and potential users, that the special Christmas Package offers will end on 31st December. Although the time limit always seem like a bit of an arm twister to me. However, they are Substantial savings on the regular prices:

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

And do not forget to check the updates page and download them because there have already been two for the 2017 version:

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

Andrew, you might like the 2017 version because it has a new GUI and I know you have been complaining about this for years.


Thanks for setting a fire under me. I use BiaB a lot and I intend to keep doing so. Therefore I really ought to pony up for the yearly changes and since I'm making that commitment, why not take advantage of their sale price!

Good stuff, guys!

...Geezer
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« Reply #11 on: Dec 27, 2016, 09:44AM »

BiaB 2017 downloaded!

OBTW: henceforth, I think I shall call what I am doing "renditions".

...Geezer
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« Reply #12 on: Dec 27, 2016, 10:02AM »

BiaB 2017 downloaded!

OBTW: henceforth, I think I shall call what I am doing "renditions".

...Geezer

You mean you are taking them to secret prisons? :-P
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« Reply #13 on: Dec 27, 2016, 10:19AM »

You mean you are taking them to secret prisons? :-P

...for execution!

...Geezer
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« Reply #14 on: Dec 27, 2016, 02:54PM »

...............

Thanks for setting a fire under me. I use BiaB a lot and I intend to keep doing so. Therefore I really ought to pony up for the yearly changes and since I'm making that commitment, why not take advantage of their sale price!

Good stuff, guys!

...Geezer

Maybe too late, since you have now downloaded but I should also mention that they now have a monthly payment option, which eases the "pony up", especially at this expensive time of the year. Yeah, RIGHT. I took advantage of this option when I placed my order this morning. I'll take the pain in easy hits, thanks very much. :D
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Grah

"May God bless and keep you always
May your wishes all come true
May you always do for others
And let others do for you
May you build a ladder to the stars
And climb on every rung
May you stay......forever young."
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« Reply #15 on: Dec 27, 2016, 03:22PM »

Maybe too late, since you have now downloaded but I should also mention that they now have a monthly payment option, which eases the "pony up", especially at this expensive time of the year. Yeah, RIGHT. I took advantage of this option when I placed my order this morning. I'll take the pain in easy hits, thanks very much. :D

No problem. I have BiaB on three CPU's, so I need to take them one-at-a-time. I also ordered the disc, in case I lose the downloads somehow.

...Geezer
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« Reply #16 on: Dec 27, 2016, 04:22PM »

No problem. I have BiaB on three CPU's, so I need to take them one-at-a-time. I also ordered the disc, in case I lose the downloads somehow.

...Geezer

I know what you mean. I have tried to download the upgrade in previous years but it is almost impossible from Australia with our slow internet speeds. But then I switched to Audiophile and I now just wait for the external drive to arrive. Also you can swap the external drive between computers if you want to.
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Grah

"May God bless and keep you always
May your wishes all come true
May you always do for others
And let others do for you
May you build a ladder to the stars
And climb on every rung
May you stay......forever young."
Geezerhorn

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« Reply #17 on: Dec 28, 2016, 08:37AM »

So here's my "rendition" of "Under The Boardwalk", performed on my vintage King 3B/F, recorded with an EV RE20 mic & Audacity; using Band-in-a-Box as my accompaniment.

 Under The Boardwalk

I can hear that I rush some phrases a wee bit. Certainly can't fault BiaB for it's splendid accompaniment, though!

Pretty happy with this rendition at present, so it's time to finalize it in Fidelity and move on.

...Geezer
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Arrowhead99
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« Reply #18 on: Dec 28, 2016, 02:26PM »

I love arranging so I appreciate the fact that you've posted these. While I can't listen to them, just by looking at them I see some potential problem areas. For Blue Moon you've got a couple of areas where the 2 lines are playing some of the same pitches almost simultaneously, then suddenly, are playing an octave apart. One thing to be avoided is harmonizing small intervals down "in the staff" (measures 7-9 for example).
A common arranging technique is just to write a 3rd or 6th below the main melody. If the melody dips down into the stsff, take the melody up so that a harmonization doesn't sound muddy.
On second look, it looks like you wrote a solo based on the melody Blue Moon, and just posted it in the top staff. That's fine, but you could actually arrange the top staff by writing a 3rd under it, and just get rid of the original melody altogether-sort of like a harmonized solo written as a duet.
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Geezerhorn

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« Reply #19 on: Dec 28, 2016, 02:42PM »

I love arranging so I appreciate the fact that you've posted these. While I can't listen to them, just by looking at them I see some potential problem areas. For Blue Moon you've got a couple of areas where the 2 lines are playing some of the same pitches almost simultaneously, then suddenly, are playing an octave apart. One thing to be avoided is harmonizing small intervals down "in the staff" (measures 7-9 for example).
A common arranging technique is just to write a 3rd or 6th below the main melody. If the melody dips down into the stsff, take the melody up so that a harmonization doesn't sound muddy.
On second look, it looks like you wrote a solo based on the melody Blue Moon, and just posted it in the top staff. That's fine, but you could actually arrange the top staff by writing a 3rd under it, and just get rid of the original melody altogether-sort of like a harmonized solo written as a duet.

Hi,

Unless I misunderstand you, you've misunderstood me. lol The second line isn't a harmony part. It's the original melody line that I use for reference when enhancing the melody in the top line. The second line doesn't get played by anyone. I could simply strip it off when I'm done, but I choose to leave it in case I want to revise my work some day. Some play-along song books are also constructed this way.

Good luck with your arranging!

...Geezer
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