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Thread: Orchestrating a piano piece

  1. #1
    Midshipman, Forte AndreasvanHaren's Avatar
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    Orchestrating a piano piece

    Hi,
    I want to dive more into better orchestration and orchestrated one of my piano pieces. I would love to hear comments on it from people who did orchestration work them selfs.

    Here are the links to the score and mp3. in the score, I included the piano version as well, so it's easy to see what I did with it.

    pdf score: http://www.box.net/shared/ob6d4no4cw
    mp3: http://www.box.net/shared/vwki84xcs4

    Best wishes,
    André

  2. #2
    Admiral of Fugues Contratrombone64's Avatar
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    Hi - that's one of my specialties, or rather, one of the things I get commissioned to do quite often. Usually, from piano score to orchestra, sometimes from opera vocal score to orchestra. You know what ... I learned orchestration by reading hundreds of mini scores and really looking at how composers handled this topic. Then, was commissioned to provide orchestrations (from piano scores) of light music for the Sydney Opera House Trust and one of their "Last Night of the Proms" series of concerts.

    I've just finished a mini-orchestration of The Elixire of Love (Donizetti) which was used during Rockdale Opera's season. Their problem being they have a very small orchestra, just hiring the full score and parts doesn't work ... as you always get holes in the texture. For that orchestra I had 2 flutes 1 oboe 2 clarinets 1 bassoon 2 horns 1 trumpet 1 trombone (bass) 1 perucssionist and strings. I'd liked to have had 1 more each of trumpet and trombone (tenor) but they couldn't stretch the budget.

    I must say, I do have my own special way, and you do develop your own style eventually. I also read and devoured Rimsky-Korsakov's wonderful "Principles of Orchestration" as he really has the gift for it (so did Tchaikovsky, though I think Rimsky was better (kinder?) at scoring for strings).

    Also - I play the viola, clarinet, organ. So that helped with understanding string technique and wind technique. Hope this helps?

    Your score

    The string writting is good, and not difficult. First violins (being prima donnas) like to play high ... maybe you can give them some "high stuff" ?

    The horn part is quite highly pitched when it first enters and soft, this may be difficult for amateurs to pull off. The clarinets are also written around the break a lot ... not the best part of their range chalemeau (how do you spell that??) (the lowest octave is nice and above the break).

    Just looked at your score ... is the original piano part (at the bottom) just to show how you got to your orchestration or is it part of the ensemble you scored for ... I avoid using a piano as the sound (in my humble opinion) can become quite homogenous. But that's just me.
    Last edited by Contratrombone64; Feb-20-2008 at 05:17.

  3. #3
    Midshipman, Forte AndreasvanHaren's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Contratrombone64 View Post
    Hi - that's one of my specialties, or rather, one of the things I get commissioned to do quite often. Usually, from piano score to orchestra, sometimes from opera vocal score to orchestra. You know what ... I learned orchestration by reading hundreds of mini scores and really looking at how composers handled this topic. Then, was commissioned to provide orchestrations (from piano scores) of light music for the Sydney Opera House Trust and one of their "Last Night of the Proms" series of concerts.

    I've just finished a mini-orchestration of The Elixire of Love (Donizetti) which was used during Rockdale Opera's season. Their problem being they have a very small orchestra, just hiring the full score and parts doesn't work ... as you always get holes in the texture. For that orchestra I had 2 flutes 1 oboe 2 clarinets 1 bassoon 2 horns 1 trumpet 1 trombone (bass) 1 perucssionist and strings. I'd liked to have had 1 more each of trumpet and trombone (tenor) but they couldn't stretch the budget.

    I must say, I do have my own special way, and you do develop your own style eventually. I also read and devoured Rimsky-Korsakov's wonderful "Principles of Orchestration" as he really has the gift for it (so did Tchaikovsky, though I think Rimsky was better (kinder?) at scoring for strings).

    Also - I play the viola, clarinet, organ. So that helped with understanding string technique and wind technique. Hope this helps?

    Your score

    The string writing is good, and not difficult. First violins (being prima donnas) like to play high ... maybe you can give them some "high stuff" ?

    The horn part is quite highly pitched when it first enters and soft, this may be difficult for amateurs to pull off. The clarinets are also written around the break a lot ... not the best part of their range chalemeau (how do you spell that??) (the lowest octave is nice and above the break).

    Just looked at your score ... is the original piano part (at the bottom) just to show how you got to your orchestration or is it part of the ensemble you scored for ... I avoid using a piano as the sound (in my humble opinion) can become quite homogeneous. But that's just me.
    Hi, thanks for your comment, I don't know all that much about the clarinet break, will have a look into that. I wrote the horn high because I want it to be intense emotional, (like high cello/bassoon) but didn't think about the difficulty with the dynamics. Would it be easier if the horn reached that high note coming from lower, like a scale or so? Or will it always be uncomfortable to play?

    The piano art is only their to show what I did, not to play along. Wouldn't mix very nice, I think.

    I will see if I can put the first vls higher, but it should still have a soft velvet blanket effect. Is the way I put it now to heavy/thick to function as that?

    I have Rimsky-Korsakov's "Principles of Orchestration", very good book with lot's of info. I read it long time ago but wasn't able to remember all, so much! I bought last year "The study of Orchestration" by Samual Adler, I read it and use it now for looking up things (I will have a look at the clarinet break...).

    Thanks for your input,
    André
    Last edited by AndreasvanHaren; Feb-20-2008 at 12:34.

  4. #4
    Vice Admiral of Notes, Dots & at times also Slurs corno's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by AndreasvanHaren View Post
    I have Rimsky-Korsakov's "Principles of Orchestration", very good book with lot's of info. I read it long time ago but wasn't able to remember all, so much!
    I bought last year "The study of Orchestration" by Samual Adler, I read it and use it now for looking up things
    Samuel Adler's book is a very good reference - so are the Rimsky-Korsakov and Berlioz/Strauss books, though their age do shine through.

    I wrote the horn high because I want it to be intense emotional, (like high cello/bassoon) but didn't think about the difficulty with the dynamics. Would it be easier if the horn reached that high note coming from lower, like a scale or so? Or will it always be uncomfortable to play?
    The horn part is in my opinoin just right - it's not too high. Though Contratrombone64 is right in that it's at the edge of what is considered "safe" for amateur players. But this part shouldn't be a problem for a decent amateur, nor should you, unless it's the whole point, aim for writing "too safe".

    I don't know all that much about the clarinet break, will have a look into that.
    The "break" isn't really that much of a problem in this orchestration.

    A general note on writing for the orchestra - which I actually do think you're adhearing to quite nicely. - Don't treat the orchestra-"instrument" as you would a piano. Each of the instruments in the orchestra has it's own "idiom"/life, both solowise as well as in tutti/accomp. parts.
    You'll have to be very "precise" in your way of thinking and writing for the orchestra not to let the piano-idiomatics shine through

    Some quick notes on your orchestration:

    The oboe, though nicely written, tends to be a little "harsh" in the lowest region where you've written your first theme - especially if played by amateurs.
    The strings: why aren't the notes (d and a) in v2 and vla at measure 1 not tied together with the 1st notes in measure 2? Generally your string writing is good! When writing for the strings you'll also later have to think about phrasing, with bowmarkings. When writing for strings in combination with other instruments, historically (classic period to the romantic period) the strings and the winds compliment eachother in that not all of them play the melody/rhythmic lines at the same time. The passages from measure 25 and 42 (with upbeat) seems to me to be less idiomatic in that you've "enhanced" and focues on the piano-idomatics rather than writing the music.
    The brass: m18-22 - very nice, though the doubling of the trombones strikes me a little odd. And why is the oboe doubling the trumpet here?

    The ending sounds (melodically) a little odd/empty to me.

    Keep on the good work!

  5. #5
    Midshipman, Forte AndreasvanHaren's Avatar
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    Hi Thomas,

    thanks for looking at my music and giving comments. After I posted this, I made already some changes. I transposed the whole piece up to D major, giving it more light in which the oboe is not so thick anymore. The horn is transposed down an octave after this and not so high in his part anymore. I also removed the doubling in the oboe with the trumpet. My reason for doing it first was to give the melody some extra color so it would stand out better, not to give the oboe a solo.

    I am rewriting the strings a little bit, giving them more variations instead of the same part repeating at the beginning. I will post it here when I finish it.

    Thanks again,
    André

  6. #6
    Admiral of Fugues Contratrombone64's Avatar
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    It all really boils down to trial and error, of course, and as much as anyone can make suggestions ... you're the judge of your own work, really. Once you hear the piece played by an orchestra (which is quite a thrill, at least for me when it happens). Then you can sit down with your score and think ... I know how to improve this by doing this, et cetera.

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