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Topic: Writing for Brass

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  1. #1
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Apr 2004
    Location
    Decatur Illinois
    Posts
    901

    Writing for Brass

    Could anyone give me some basic rules of thumb for writing for brass. I have an ok idea with strings. With strings, I usually write monophonically for each section and sometimes use two or three of each section depending on how thick I want it to sound. Such as (and I know this is really basic) , Bass plays C, Cellos play E, Violas Play G, Violins 1 play C, Violins 2 Play E or G, and so forth. Is this how brass works also with Tuba Trombone and trumpets? And where does the French Horn come in to that mix? The french Horn is my fav and I love to put it in with strings. So are brass sections monophonic too? And I\'d love to know how to make some of the brass effects. This is hard to describe but; sometimes I hear a brass swell that sounds like one or more of the instruments is detuned and then comes into harmony and it sounds great. Kinda like notes grinding against each other. Ok, enough for one post huh? Any help would be much appreciated. By the way, I just changed my login. It used to be eaglehvac but I recently changed jobs so its not really appropriate now.

    Eric W

  2. #2

    Re: Writing for Brass

    [ QUOTE ]
    Could anyone give me some basic rules of thumb for writing for brass.

    [/ QUOTE ]

    RULE 1: Brass players have to breathe. The lower the instrument, the more difficult it is to sustain.
    RULE 2: Learn the ranges--what horn for what sound...what registers on each instrument are inherently loud, soft, sharp, cover the violas, unsuitable for certain articulations, unplayable for long stretches, etc.
    RULE 3: Rest is good, especially in lead trumpet playing after a screech passage.
    RULE 4: Tubas and euphoniums are a lot cooler than people realize

    [ QUOTE ]
    I have an ok idea with strings. With strings, I usually write monophonically for each section and sometimes use two or three of each section depending on how thick I want it to sound. Such as (and I know this is really basic) , Bass plays C, Cellos play E, Violas Play G, Violins 1 play C, Violins 2 Play E or G, and so forth. Is this how brass works also with Tuba Trombone and trumpets?

    [/ QUOTE ]

    Depends very much on what you\'re writing for. Multiple brass live gets real loud real quick & can cover WW or strings if the writer is not careful. Typical for a church setting, for ex., would be a quartet of 2 trumpets and two trombones, or brass quintet--2 trumpets, horn, trombone, tuba--even so, care is needed not to cover up a choir. For pop music, I often go out with 3 horns--trumpet, flugel, euphonium--and rhythm. 3-part brass can sound surprisingly full. Closed and open voicings can be used here to vary texture.

    Generally speaking, polychord writing for brass is best if two sections have a complete chord each.

    As strings do, brass gets muddy if thirds are written too low in the bass staff. Closed-position voicing is ok if the range is compact. I don\'t want to generalize beyond that since I don\'t know what style you write in.



    [ QUOTE ]
    And where does the French Horn come in to that mix? The french Horn is my fav and I love to put it in with strings. So are brass sections monophonic too? And I\'d love to know how to make some of the brass effects. This is hard to describe but; sometimes I hear a brass swell that sounds like one or more of the instruments is detuned and then comes into harmony and it sounds great. Kinda like notes grinding against each other. Ok, enough for one post huh? Any help would be much appreciated. By the way, I just changed my login. It used to be eaglehvac but I recently changed jobs so its not really appropriate now.

    Eric W

    [/ QUOTE ]

    The horn is a \"hybrid\" (that\'s the polite word). It can blend well with WW and strings (but watch the balance). Four- and five-part horn writing can be exquisite. When I do brass choir stuff, I think of the flugelhorn, the horns, the euphonium, and the tuba as a \"conical choir\" and often pit it against the \"cylindrical choir\" of trumpets & trombones.

    So--are \"brass sections\" monophonic?--sometimes, if the sound you want is four trumpets or trombones in unison. That has its place, but so does a chord in each section. Just depends on the sound you want!

    As to effects, pitchbend and trombone slide portamento are easy on GPO. Random pitch variation is possible on GPO as well. Swells are easy using CC1.

    That\'s all for now!!
    Jim

  3. #3
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Apr 2004
    Location
    Decatur Illinois
    Posts
    901

    Re: Writing for Brass

    Wow, hard to believe that a person can ask all these questions and then have them answered by an expert in the field of the subject at hand. Thanks so much. You definitly have given me some ideas on what I can get away with and still be writing accurately for brass. So let me push my luck with another couple of questions. Please forgive my ignorance of this subject but I\'ll pick up fast I promise. What ia a euphonium? What is \"WW\" as you mention it? Also, what is a flugel horn? And lastly, which brass instruments can bend or slide pitch and how much? What is a likely example that I might look for on Napster to download and listen to. Thanks so much. Your time and knowledge is very appreciated.

    Eric W

  4. #4

    Re: Writing for Brass

    Eric, the effect you are describing sounds like cluster swells. You hear it in horror films all the time.

  5. #5

    Re: Writing for Brass

    [ QUOTE ]
    What is \"WW\"

    [/ QUOTE ]

    Hey, I know this one -- it\'s \"woodwinds\".

    But I\'m glad you made this original post, as the answer was very informative to me as well. It\'s great that everyone is sharing.

  6. #6

    Re: Writing for Brass

    Snorlax

    You sound very knowlegeable. Could you recommend a book on writing for brass instruments?

    I don\'t own any books devoted to writing for specific sections of the orchestra (closest I have is Adler\'s text).

    Thanks

    - <font color=\"green\"> jUNK </font>

  7. #7

    Re: Writing for Brass

    not to do with writing parts for horns, but here\'s an online class[?] for writing parts for strings...

    http://www.alexuniv.com/music/stringwriting/index.shtml

    Looks interesting and Im considering doing it myself.

    -jamie

  8. #8

    Re: Writing for Brass

    [ QUOTE ]
    here\'s an online class[?] for writing parts for strings...
    http://www.alexuniv.com/music/stringwriting/index.shtml
    Looks interesting and Im considering doing it myself.

    [/ QUOTE ]
    If you do, please let us know what it\'s like!

    Thanks,
    Gwydi

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