GARRITAN INTERACTIVE
PRINCIPLES OF ORCHESTRATION
by Nikolay Rimsky-Korsakov



Chapter II
MELODY

Part 3 - Melody in the Brass



Lesson Notes: In this lesson we will discuss unisons and octaves as they pertain to melody in the brass. We will also discuss brass in unison, in octaves, and in thirds and sixths. Rimsky-Korsakov seemed to use brass mostly as a texture and for color, and rarely for melodic content. Rimsky-Korsakov says of the brass that is has "not a wide range of expression". However, since the rise of Jazz, film music and popular music, brass has taken a far more prominent role.



The natural scale, the only one which brass instruments had at their disposal prior to the invention of valves was:
giving, in two part harmony:


With the help of rhythm, these component parts have given rise to a whole series of themes and phrases named fanfares, trumpet calls or flourishes, best adapted to the character of brass instruments.

Professor Belkin Comments: It is worth mentioning that even now, when brass are used in short rhythmic figures built around a few notes, they always sound clear and vigorous. Such figures are often rhythmically doubled by percussion. In general, rhythmic motives sound well in brass, due to their crisp attack. (The horn in the lower register is an exception.

In modern music, thanks to the introduction of valves, this scale is now possible in all keys for every chromatic brass instrument, without it being necessary to change the key, and the addition of a few notes foreign to the natural scale has enriched the possibilities of these flourishes and fanfares, and endowed them with greater variety of expression.

These phrases, either as solos, or in two or three parts, fall specially to the lot of the trumpets and horns, but they may also be given to the trombones. The full, clear, ringing notes of the middle and upper register of horns and trumpets are best suited to figures of this description.

Professor Belkin Comments: The trombone appears somewhat more rarely alone as a solo instrument; trombones tend to be “herd animals”. A calm melody, doubled at the unison with 3 or 4 trombones, can have a very noble character.



Score References & Musical Examples Using GPO:


No. 70. March for the Nutcracker, Petr Tchaikovsky

3 Trumpets 4 Horns




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[Note: This replaces Legend of Kitesh, Section 68 from the original text.]
Other References:
Servilia, Section 20 - Trumpets.
The Christmas Night, Section 82 - Horn, Trumpets.
Verra Scheloga, beginning of Overture, and after Section 85 - Horn, Trumpets.
Ivan the Terrible, Act III. Section 3 - Cornet.
Snegourotchka, Section 155 - Trumpets.
Pan Voyevoda, Section 191 - 2 Trombones, Trumpet.
• * The Golden Cockerel, Section 20 - 2 Horns and Trumpets in unison, with horns playing an octave below (cf. further on).
After fanfare figures, those melodies best suited to the brass quality are those of an unmodulated diatonic character, rousing and triumphant in the major key, dark and gloomy in the minor.

Professor Belkin Comments: Again, the legacy of the natural brass instruments. Such writing still has its uses.

Score References & Musical Examples Using GPO:

No. 71. Sadko, Section 342 - Trumpet



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No. 72. Snegourotchka, Section 71 - Trumpet



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Other References:
• cf. Example 44: Spanish Capriccio, Section E - Alternative use in the horn of open and stopped notes
• Sadko, before Section 181 - Trombones.
Russian Easter Fete, Section M - Trombone.
Ivan the Terrible, Act II, before Section 17 - Bass trumpet and 3 Horns a little further on;
Mlada, Act II, Section 33 - Bass trumpet (cf.Example 46).
The genial and poetic tone of the horn in the piano passages affords greater scope in the choice of may be entrusted to this instrument.

Professor Belkin Comments: An important point: The horn’s main melodic role is as an alto/tenor instrument, NOT as a soprano or a bass (very common beginner’s mistakes).



Score References & Musical Examples Using GPO:


No. 73. Antar, Section 40 - Horn (piano)

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Other References:
• The May Night, Overture, Section 13.
The Christmas Night, Section 1.
Snegourotchka, Section 86.
Melodies involving chromatic or enharmonic writing are much less suitable to the character of brass instruments. Nevertheless such melodies may sometimes be allotted to the brass, as in the music of Wagner, and the modern Italian realists, who however, carry the proceeding to extremes. Vigonrous phrases in the form of a fanfare, although introducing chromatic notes sound singularly beautiful on the brass.

Professor Belkin Comments: Although brass are now used very commonly in chromatic melodies, what DOES remain awkward for them is chromatic melody with large leaps. (Occasional leaps of an octave or a fifth are somewhat easier.) The brass is BY FAR the worst section for such leaping lines. If the players are not excellent, the notes will crack or not sound. Note also that brass have a particularly hard time starting a melody from an unprepared high note.

Score References & Musical Examples Using GPO:


No. 74. Sheherazade, 2nd movement, Section D.


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As a general rule, brass instruments lack the capacity to express passion or geniality. Phrases charged with these sentiments be-come sickly and insipid when confided to the brass. Energetic power, free or restrained, simplicity and eloquence constitute the valuable qualities of this group.

Professor Belkin Comments: Numerous passages in Wagner, Mahler, etc. contradict this.



Brass in unison, in octaves, thirds and sixths.

As, from its very nature, the brass is not called upon to realise a wide range of expression, kindred instruments of one group may be employed solo, as well as in unison. The combination of 3 trombones or 4 horns in unison is frequently met with, and produces extreme power and resonance of tone.

Score References & Musical Examples Using GPO:


No. 75. Sadko, Section 305 - 3 Trombones


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Note: The composer has amended the score in the following manner: from the fifth to the ninth bar after Section 305, and also from the fifth to the ninth bar after Section 306, the three clarinets play in unison, the trumpet being marked forte instead of fortissimo; in the example, the first of these passages is corrected according to the composer's alteration. (Editor's note.)



No. 76. The May Night, beginning of Act III - 1, 2, 3, 4 Horns

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No. 77. Mlada, Act II, Lithuanian dance - Horns in Unison.


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[Editor's Note: This is from cf. No. 61 and substitutes No. 77 from the original text].
Other References:
• cf. No. 15: Snegourotchka, Section 5 - 4 Horns.
• cf. No. 70: Legend of Kitesh, end of Act I - 4 Horns.
cf. No. 77. Sheherazade, 4h movement, Section. 204 - 3 Trombones
Snegourotchka, Section 199 - 4 Horns and 2 Trumpets.
Sadko, Section 175 - 1, 2, 3 Trumpets.

Owing to the resonant power of the entire group, the equality and even gradation of tone between the dark colour of the deep compass and the bright quality of the upper register, the use of brass instruments of the same kind in octaves, thirds or sixths invariably leads to satisfactory results. For the same reason the employment of brass instruments of different kinds, arranged according to normal order of register:




is likewise successful whether the instruments are doubled or not. Another possible method, though not so reliable, is to combine horns (above) with trombones, exclusively in octaves:

Professor Belkin Comments: As RK notes, brass do not suffer from the blend problems common to woodwinds. The main risk in brass writing is: heaviness. A little goes a long way!




Score References & Musical Examples

Other References:
• cf. Example 38: Ivan the Terrible, Act III. Section 10 - A Trombone and Trumpet playing an octave above 2 Trombones.• cf. Example 95: Snegourotchka, Section 325-326 - Trumpet and Trombone playing an octave apart.
• Sadko, before Section 120 - Trumpets in octaves.
• Sadko, Section 5 - 2 trumpets playing an octave above 4 horns.
Snegourotchka, Section 222 - 2 Trombones playing a octave below a Trombone and Tuba. The Golden Cockerel, Section 125 - Trumpet and Trombone playing an octave apart.


Melody in the Brass: Three and Four Octave Displacement Exercise


1. Click and refer to the background score.
2. Load the background track MP3 in your MP3 player or sequencer. For the MP3 click here.
For a dry version MP3, if you want a more intimate sound click here.
2. Load the Three or Four Octave MIDI file into a sequencer or notation program supporting GPO and assign instruments accordingly. For the MIDI file click here.
3. Use your previous melody from strings and winds 3 to 4 octave displacement but this time use brass instruments. A good reference if needed would be example 79 Mlada.

In the MIDI, it is optional to use the harp/strings/piccolo in the backing as heard in the test. They are not notated since a conflict may arise with your melody. However, if you do decide to use them and there is no conflict, a good GPO technique for emulating fast chromatic strings is to use a trill half-step patch. In this case full strings trill half was used to conserve on loading. If there is a conflict simply delete the tracks or mute them.

Note: Here is but one possible example using various stringed instruments. For the test example click here.




GPO Exercise - Melody in the Brass: Thirds & Sixths Exercise


1. Refer to the background score and the melody score. For the background score click here. For the melody score click here.
2. Load the background track MP3 in your MP3 player or sequencer. For the background track MP3 click here.
For a dry version if you want a more intimate sound, click here.
3. Load the given MIDI file either into a sequencer or notation program supporting GPO and assign instruments accordingly. For the MIDI file click here.
4. Once again, use the melody given as a basis. In this case, feel free to extend beyond thirds and sixths. Experiment with different intervals such as tritones, fourths, and/or fifths playing the same rhythmic figure as the melody, but below it. Try to use thirds and sixths, as they tend to sound more natural or "sweet". Rimsky-Korsakov does not go into great detail with brass in this area so there are not really many references to cite. In this case, F horns would probably produce a sweeter sonority; more so than other brass instruments. Feel free to experiment.




SUMMARY EXERCISES:


Melody in the Brass Instruments - Summary Exercise 1


In this exercise we will focus on the most common groups or solos of Trumpets, Trombones, and Horns.

1. Click and refer to the background score. For the background score click here.
2. Load the background track MP3 in your MP3 player or sequencer. For the MP3 click here.
This is an ambient version and if you want a dry more intimate version click here.
3. Load the given MIDI file into your sequencer or notation program. For the MIDI file click here.
4. Load the respective instruments into GPO.
5. Select a solo brass instrument from GPO and play your melody from previous excercises; once again, over the top of the backing. Feel free to add vibrato or ornaments if desired to spice up the solo. Try the same with groupings in unison, but be carefull of the dynamics, as the backing suggests a more intimite setting. Summary 2 is recommended for larger brass groupings.
Note: Here are some possible examples using various wood-wind instruments: Horn; Trombone; Trumpet; Unison Horns.

Try doing your own as you try the different brass instruments.


Melody in the Brass Instruments - Summary Exercise 2


In this exercise we will focus on the most common groupings of Trumpets, Trombones, and Horns.

1. Click and refer to the background score. For the background score click here.
2. Load the background track MP3 in your MP3 player or sequencer. For the MP3 click here.
This is an ambient version and if you want a dry more intimate version click here.
3. Load the given MIDI file into your sequencer or notation program. For the MIDI file click here.
4. Load the respective instruments into GPO.
5. Create a unison line with your melody using 4 horns, 2 or 3 trumpets, or 3 trombones independently. Note that GPO horn overlays can be used to give the sections a bit more power. After trying unisons for each group, try octave displacements. Feel free to change how your melody is played. For instance, you can have a flowing melody, or one with a more marcato feel. Secondly, feel free to experiment with doubling and combining different groups at unison or the octave.


(Note: The MIDI are optimized for sequencers, however balance issues may vary from system to system.)


Next Lesson: Lesson 9 - MELODY - Different Groups of Instruments Combined