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The Trombone ForumTeaching & LearningComposition, Arranging and Theory(Moderator: zemry) Which 4-part group is more versatile?
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davdud101
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« on: Apr 05, 2017, 07:14PM »

Heyhey, trombrethren :)
This is gonna sound a bit like a ridiculous question - but I'm arranging one tune for a funk group that could potentially be either two trumpets, alto and tenor sax, OR it could be one trumpet, alto and tenor, and a trombone.
What do you guys think could be more versatile, sound-wise? I suppose having that trombone sound could add some bottom to the group and replace the bari sax part at some points, but it seems like one can achieve a brighter/more densely-arranged sound using the two trumpets on top.

Not sure... just tossing ideas around!
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« Reply #1 on: Apr 05, 2017, 07:18PM »

Earth, Wind & Fire used 2 trumpets, tenor and bone, which is what I like. Standard 3 horn section plus an extra trumpet. I'd only add an alto if I already had the other four.

Having been the only trumpet in a funk band before, I much much MUCH prefer having two.
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« Reply #2 on: Apr 05, 2017, 09:38PM »

Earth, Wind & Fire used 2 trumpets, tenor and bone, which is what I like. Standard 3 horn section plus an extra trumpet. I'd only add an alto if I already had the other four.

Having been the only trumpet in a funk band before, I much much MUCH prefer having two.

Interesting thoughts, DP.
That's understandable- seems to me that the lead guy can get a little more support from a second trumpet than from an alto, at least from my experience. It's probably worth noting that the guy who WOULD be playing lead if I played trombone isn't so great of a rhythm-guy - something that'd make it difficult for the rest of us playing under him since he's leading the section.
In this case, looks like, I'll be playing lead instead. I feel like the sound I want lies more in having two trumpets than in having a trombone.


(P.S. - I'm going with 2tpt/alt/ten by default. Just want this as a sounding board. It's always interesting to hear what others have had success with. No telling what other instrumentations I'll have to be working with later!)
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« Reply #3 on: Apr 06, 2017, 05:31AM »

Earth, Wind & Fire used 2 trumpets, tenor and bone, which is what I like. Standard 3 horn section plus an extra trumpet. I'd only add an alto if I already had the other four.

Having been the only trumpet in a funk band before, I much much MUCH prefer having two.

I agree.
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« Reply #4 on: Apr 06, 2017, 06:24AM »

Tpt, alto, tenor, bone is more versatile from a writing perspective. This is always what I prefer. Here's why:

look at the ranges.

most trumpets are pretty useless in the bottom of their register, so having two limits your writing in the middle register. Okay, useless is too strong a word - many lack the ability to project with a good sound in the bottom of their register. Yeah, it'd be nice to have Ryan Sharp in every horn section, but that's not going to happen. 9X our of 10 you've got guys that spent most of their life just working on their high range at the expense of their low range. Obviously really strong players make this less of an issue, but still - I see more benefit from having 2 brass and 2 reeds than from having 3 brass and 1 reed in this instance. If Phil Lassiter and Nicholas Payton are your guys, write all the low stuff you want. It'll sound great.

alto is plenty high enough to cover 2nd tumpet lines (when does 2nd trumpet in a 4 horn lineup really ever need to be above top space concert G  ?) I'm used to playing with Alto players who are more than strong enough to support a trumpet. The only drawback is your trumpet doesn't have another trumpet to take over on lead parts. Sounds like that's not an issue here.

Tenor - most good tenor players are good soloists as well. tenor range is huge, blends well with trombone and trumpet, more color in the ensemble...

When we do 5 horn lineups around here we almost always go with tpt, tbn, alt, tnr, bari for much the same reasons outlined above: we have more options. two trumpets just isn't necessary. it's nice to have, but trumpet/alto gives me more options and there is little you can do with two trps you can't do with tpt/alt. If you don't have a strong alto this of course can be a problem.

This is just me, though, I know plenty of writers and bandleaders who prefer two trumpets (I write for a few) instead. Nothing wrong with it, I just feel I have more options with Tpt/alt/tnr/tbn. At the end of the day, it's about what you prefer and what you have to work with.
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« Reply #5 on: Apr 06, 2017, 06:55AM »

Zac, your comments are very good but you missed one small (maybe not so small) part of David's post.

His sole trumpet is not that strong.  If he goes with two trumpets he will have to play trumpet and be the lead.

Given his trumpet player is not that strong and the alto may sound a little odd taking the lead, maybe his choice of 2 trumpets, alto, tenor may be the better choice.  Since this is probably a Church group and all volunteer I suspect his ability to switch instruments around may be a bit limited.

My thought is that the strongest voice should be on lead.  I like the ability of many woodwinds to play "fiddly" parts and descant above the lead (this is from my Dixieland days) but that may not be appropriate here.

David, how difficult would it be for you to double in the choir?  Make some arrangements for Tpt/Alto/Tenor/Bone and some for Tpt/Tpt/Alto/Tenor.  You could just switch as necessary.

You may want to read Doug Yeo's blogs about Warren Rodeheaver who was a preacher who played trombone for his congregations.  He also mentions a trombonist who assisted Billy Graham (with pictures of the very young Billy Graham!).
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« Reply #6 on: Apr 06, 2017, 08:39AM »

alto is plenty high enough to cover 2nd tumpet lines (when does 2nd trumpet in a 4 horn lineup really ever need to be above top space concert G  ?) I'm used to playing with Alto players who are more than strong enough to support a trumpet. The only drawback is your trumpet doesn't have another trumpet to take over on lead parts. Sounds like that's not an issue here.

Lots of the stuff I've played regardless of whether I was the only trumpet, lead trumpet, or 2nd trumpet had plenty of stuff even up to 8va concert pitch in the 2nd part - including in harmony! And I also just prefer the sound of two trumpets on top. An isolated example would be "This Will Be (An Everlasting Love)" by Natalie Cole (which most people unfortunately know as the eHarmony song). At the end of the first horn lick, the lead trumpet plays a C above the staff while the 2nd plays an A below that. Perfectly doable on alto and I've performed it that way, but I like the sound a lot better with two trumpets. Like you said though, that's just personal preference. Jerry Hey's 4-horn writing is always for 2 trumpets, tenor and bone as far as I know, so that's the sound concept I naturally go to. But regardless, I have played plenty of 2nd trumpet parts in 4-horn sections that were too high for alto to play without using altissimo, often never going below C in the staff (so the low register issues you described weren't an issue).

All that said...in a current funk section I play with we have 2 altos and a tenor as well as another trumpet, so when I write the horn parts I more often than not put myself on bone or French horn rather than 2nd trumpet. I guess it just depends what you're playing.
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« Reply #7 on: Apr 06, 2017, 08:53AM »

Zac, your comments are very good but you missed one small (maybe not so small) part of David's post.

His sole trumpet is not that strong.  If he goes with two trumpets he will have to play trumpet and be the lead.

Given his trumpet player is not that strong and the alto may sound a little odd taking the lead, maybe his choice of 2 trumpets, alto, tenor may be the better choice.  Since this is probably a Church group and all volunteer I suspect his ability to switch instruments around may be a bit limited.

//

David, how difficult would it be for you to double in the choir?  Make some arrangements for Tpt/Alto/Tenor/Bone and some for Tpt/Tpt/Alto/Tenor.  You could just switch as necessary.

You may want to read Doug Yeo's blogs about Warren Rodeheaver who was a preacher who played trombone for his congregations.  He also mentions a trombonist who assisted Billy Graham (with pictures of the very young Billy Graham!).

Thanks for mentioning that, Bruce - although, like I said, it's nice to hear what other arrangers have had success with. It IS indeed a church group, which means mostly that I'll never know what kind of instrumentation I'll end up with, so it's always nice to see other points of view too.
I'll look him up! I've only ever doubled once, and it was on a rather easy tune, but there was a point where I could effortlessly switch between trumpet and trombone and have great tone and range on each. I guess I should get on reclaiming that.



Lots of the stuff I've played regardless of whether I was the only trumpet, lead trumpet, or 2nd trumpet had plenty of stuff even up to 8va concert pitch in the 2nd part - including in harmony! And I also just prefer the sound of two trumpets on top.

//

All that said...in a current funk section I play with we have 2 altos and a tenor as well as another trumpet, so when I write the horn parts I more often than not put myself on bone or French horn rather than 2nd trumpet. I guess it just depends what you're playing.

French horn in funk? What sort of horn do you pull out? (Never heard that kind of instrumentation - wouldn't it lie in the same register as alto sax?)
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« Reply #8 on: Apr 06, 2017, 09:01AM »

I wonder if a standard French Horn would work well in a Funk idiom, but instruments in that range that face forward might fill the bill: Mellophonium, Marching French Horn.
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« Reply #9 on: Apr 06, 2017, 09:22AM »

most trumpets are pretty useless in the bottom of their register, so having two limits your writing in the middle register. Okay, useless is too strong a word - many lack the ability to project with a good sound in the bottom of their register. ...

Is this more a limitation of the instrument or the player?  In orchestra, trumpet players seem to whine whenever their part goes below  , but the instrument should be able to handle those next few notes.
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« Reply #10 on: Apr 06, 2017, 09:28AM »

Personally, I would put one trumpet on lead even if you have to keep the range moderate, write two 2nd parts for BOTH trumpet and alto so that part can be done either way, and use tenor and trombone to fill out the low end.
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« Reply #11 on: Apr 06, 2017, 09:49AM »

Personally, I would put one trumpet on lead even if you have to keep the range moderate, write two 2nd parts for BOTH trumpet and alto so that part can be done either way, and use tenor and trombone to fill out the low end.

YOu're suggesting, with the potential of dropping the alto sax altogether and instead settling on tenor sax/trombone at the bottom with EITHER two trumpets OR trumpet and alto?
That was actually my initial thought, and it's a great suggestion to my ears. I'll probably use that setup in the future.
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« Reply #12 on: Apr 06, 2017, 10:17AM »

Since you double, can you have it both ways, depending on the tune? Two trumpets and two saxes, or trumpet, bone, and two saxes.
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« Reply #13 on: Apr 06, 2017, 10:30AM »

French horn in funk? What sort of horn do you pull out? (Never heard that kind of instrumentation - wouldn't it lie in the same register as alto sax?)

I wonder if a standard French Horn would work well in a Funk idiom, but instruments in that range that face forward might fill the bill: Mellophonium, Marching French Horn.

I use my double horn all the time in funk bands. A lot of soul ballads had French horn(s) on the record...sometimes exclusively so (Natural Woman by Aretha Franklin for example), and funk bands routinely play them. Horn is perfect to cover this little synth line that happens once in Boogie Wonderland. Additionally, when there's a mellower tune (a Jill Scott song for example) without a horn section on the record I often write for horn and it works really well. I definitely don't play it for uptempo funk or anything like that, but it sounds great on the slower stuff. It is a little obnoxious to have to turn 90 degrees to the left and use a Mahler schalltrichter auf bell angle to play into the mic, but it's worth it.

I have used my mellophonium as well on all kinds of things including the uptempo stuff, both in and separate from the rest of the horn section. It's great at covering mellow synth lines in songs with a ton of keyboard tracks and not enough keyboard players to cover everything. On one gig I played trumpet, flugel, trombone, bass trombone, alto trombone, mellophonium, and French horn, often switching in the middle of a song.
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« Reply #14 on: Apr 06, 2017, 08:54PM »

How about trumpet, flugel, tenor sax and trombone.

Trumpets sound kind of like tin coffee cans rattling down a rocky slope when they play low.  Flugel horns can manage the 'alto' range with much better manners.

You're getting to be quite the arranger.  Kool! Good!

However, don't leave the trombone out.  It is probably the most versatile brass instrument there is. Bad dog.  No Biscuits.

Put the right trombone in the hands of the right trombone player and he'll play higher than 90% of trumpet players and lower than 90% of tuba players.  (slight exaggeration, but you get the point)
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« Reply #15 on: Apr 06, 2017, 11:40PM »

How about trumpet, flugel, tenor sax and trombone.

Trumpets sound kind of like tin coffee cans rattling down a rocky slope when they play low.  Flugel horns can manage the 'alto' range with much better manners.

You're getting to be quite the arranger.  Kool! Good!

However, don't leave the trombone out.  It is probably the most versatile brass instrument there is. Bad dog.  No Biscuits.

Put the right trombone in the hands of the right trombone player and he'll play higher than 90% of trumpet players and lower than 90% of tuba players.  (slight exaggeration, but you get the point)

I've been thinking about a group like this CONSTANTLY, even since before I got my flugel, for home recording. Haven't tried it out for myself yet, but I'm definitely going to see how that sounds. I'm going to try trumpet/flugel/trombone, with possibly a second trombone or flugel as well.

What if I did this current arrangement for trumpet, flugel, alto, tenor sax, and trombone? Then the flugel could be voiced with either brasses or the winds, and it'd be a nice voice that can be mellow and rich/flute-like OR bright and penetrating when pushed. I'm not sure I have the trombone player at hand, but it's probably worth looking for one. Fact is, we really don't have any well-rounded trumpets at all, but I *just might* have a trombonist who could hold the part down if I'm on tpt.

But when it comes to arranging - couldn't it be somewhat agreed upon that tenor and trombone have quite similar ranges in the meat of their playing space? Tenor plays down to about -flat, and I wouldn't feel good about writing much below -flat except for certain cases. While the trombone sound is versatile, its role in particular could be covered pretty well by the tenor anyway, right?
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« Reply #16 on: Apr 09, 2017, 07:41AM »

But when it comes to arranging - couldn't it be somewhat agreed upon that tenor and trombone have quite similar ranges in the meat of their playing space? Tenor plays down to about -flat, and I wouldn't feel good about writing much below -flat except for certain cases. While the trombone sound is versatile, its role in particular could be covered pretty well by the tenor anyway, right?

As we've seen, you can work with whatever instruments you need to.  If you want some punch down low, tenor saxophone and trombone are not interchangeable.  Those notes below tenor sax range are still very strong trombone notes.  Filling out harmonies, tenor sax is great.  Holding down the bottom, trombone can do it much better.
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« Reply #17 on: Apr 09, 2017, 11:11AM »

Davdud, I think you're overestimating the disadvantage of instruments with similar ranges. A lot of horn section writing would fall in the natural vocal range of of male and female pop singers. Trombone and tenor can cover that entire range. Alto and trumpet go higher to put the 'shine' on top. If you're writing four-part, you'll want the horns fairly close most of the time anyway, with the exception of high trumpet parts and bass notes.

Also, tenor and trombone are a very attractive unison sound, like the Crusaders.

Maybe you should start not with instrumentation, but by deciding what arranging devices you're going to use. This isn't like part-writing class where you always write four voices then assign them to instruments. I haven't written a lot for funk horn sections, but when I was a kid I noticed that Pankow's charts for Chicago changed textures very quickly and often. He tended to voice fast moving passages in unison or octaves, then fan out into parts for slower or more rhythmic parts. Kind of like how you'd write a sax soli section in a big band arrangement.

Deciding how you're going to write might bring you closer to deciding on instruments.

If you want to sound like Tower of Power, you'll need a bari. Those charts where the bari plays much lower than the rest of the ensemble, then adds rhythmic fills between the figures, wouldn't necessarily be duplicated by trombone even though the range is right.

I wonder how much flexibility you have on doubling?. You can double trumpet and trombone, so that gives you one extra look for that EWF sound. It seems good to have a tenor, because it's a solid solo instrument in this idiom. If the tenor or alto player would double on bari and flute, You could create a whole lot of horn section sounds.
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« Reply #18 on: Apr 11, 2017, 08:51AM »

As we've seen, you can work with whatever instruments you need to.  If you want some punch down low, tenor saxophone and trombone are not interchangeable.  Those notes below tenor sax range are still very strong trombone notes.  Filling out harmonies, tenor sax is great.  Holding down the bottom, trombone can do it much better.

Really good point, Steve. Trombone does certainly have a certain sound and can get power down there that tenor simply can't. I'll keep that one in mind. Either way though, you're right - roughly any and all wind instruments work well when well-written; you guys ever heard of Albie Donnelly's Supercharge? I saw them live in Stuttgart this part winter, they have an AMAZING funk sound and they're a bari, tenor, and a trombone!

Deciding how you're going to write might bring you closer to deciding on instruments.

Now THAT is a straightforward method of thinking! Generally the stuff I've written thus far (for this arrangement) is exactly what you'd think - sometimes 2- or 3-octave'd unisons, sometimes open and sometimes close voicings. However, what I've experienced from trial-running my parts is that the only way a trombone will fit in my close voicings is if it's doubling the lead trumpet an octave down, or is written using perhaps a drop-2 voicing. To my ears, that has a bit less power and punch than what I want. Tenor has an easier time playing much higher than trombone can.

In any case, loks like I'm going to also have to start binging on funk a bit to get a feel for the different types of arranging the voices.
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« Reply #19 on: Apr 11, 2017, 12:55PM »

In any case, loks like I'm going to also have to start binging on funk a bit to get a feel for the different types of arranging the voices.

That's a great idea. Listen very subjectively to the effect and sound that's created, pick out ones that you like and can imagine in your own band, then pick them apart afterward and see what you need for instrumentation and arranging devices.

I've asked a couple of times about doubling. Couldn't you have more than one setup, with you doubling, and maybe one or both of the reed players?
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