|Remember this picture from my last post?|
He has this assignment to do that involves him writing a piece of music. He can use recorded sounds but he must include some live instruments. He thought of me and included 8 violin parts and 4 double bass parts. He asked me to record these 12 parts. He didn't know what key his piece was in when he started writing it - he used his very good ears. He 'wrote' 12 string parts that go from very low on the double bass (what they call 'Drop D' on bass guitar) to way up high on the violin (high on the bass too). This is not an easy task - we recorded 3 of the 4 double bass parts yesterday and it took just under 3 hours. He used some virtual string instruments to find the notes he wanted. I think these are like pictures of the instruments and you touch it in different places to find notes. He was talking of lines that contained notes like D#, Bb, C#, G and F.
Remember this picture?
|Whoever wrote this part knew a lot about the double bass.|
Whoever wrote this part knew where to find the high harmonics on a double bass. That first harmonc in bar 113, for instance, will sound as B an octave higher when the G string is touched lightly in the right place in the second octave. The next harmonic (E) will have to be played high up on the A string. I have a suspicion that whoever wrote these notes was showing off his knowledge of the instrument because they don't seem very important in the context of the part. Good on him though for making the part fun!
My ex student didn't have a clue how to write for string instruments. If you take all the notes he used in his parts and arrange them into a key, they come out as Eb, Bb, Db, G & F (plus a few others). His piece is actually in Bb minor. This is easy to tell because the last chord is full of Bb notes.
Playing Bb minor parts all over the neck of the double bass was not easy but I did it because I have done a lot of practice in the past. Getting the parts in tune was a real test. Only 13 parts to go now.
As he packed up his recording gear I gave this young chap some advice:
- Learn how to write for instruments properly (he'd written all the bass parts an octave too low and had used lots of enharmonic notes - eg. C# instead of Db. This does not make the part easy to read).
- Why use Bb minor when there was really no need? Why not more string instrument friendly keys like A minor or G minor or D minor?
- Write easier parts and you get better results.
- Learn a bit about how the instruments you are writing for are played and what is hard to play on them. Think about the poor guy who has to play them.
I wondered why the guys at his university don't teach basic orchestration / instrumentation.
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Yesterday I enthusiastically showed another musician friend the Ab minor key signature. She didn't seem interested but told one of those parallel stories (as people do) about how her daughter had learnt all her key signatures for grade 8 (a music exam). That reminded me of Robert and his playing in a show comment on my last post.