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HELP NEEDED! tips on how to write a big band piece?

Discussion in 'It's all in the Mind - Music Theory' started by wemeetagain, Jun 8, 2010.

  1. wemeetagain

    wemeetagain Member

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    My exams finish in two weeks and have decided to fill some of my free time by writing a big band piece. I've done a few transcriptions and lots of improvisation recently to prepare, but how do you go about actually writing a big band piece? Is it best to write a chord structure first or write a melody then write a chord structure that fits?
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  2. stefank

    stefank Member

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    I'd say whatever you think of first (not that I've actually written any big band pieces).

    For a first effort it may be a good idea to use a fairly generic form.
  3. Moz

    Moz Member

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    I have only done classical but for me it's have an idea or a theme, have a melody, write it down then embellish imagining the band playing it as it might have been done 50 years ago with sections of the band standing up when they had a flash bit to do. Imagine the rise and fall of volume and the forces ranks with their gals in the audience. Imagine the sax section swinging instruments from side to side in unison. What is the conductor doing with his hands, looking this way and that bringing up each section as befits the tune. Don't forget the percussion, sharp snare and a high hat t tssh t, t tssh t, t tssh t, t tssh t. Bah baaaa, bah, bah, bah, bah, bah, baaaah, ba ba. Lot's of syncopation. Wah waaaah wah t tsssh t tsssh tsh tsh tsh tsh.

    Sorry, it all seems so clear in my head, I may have to rush off and listen to some Glenn Miller.

    Cheers

    Mart
  4. 814jazzer

    814jazzer Member

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    Oy vey, where to begin?

    Two elements here:
    1. composing the music
    2. orchestrating for big band

    Your questions seem to ask about element #1, the actual compositonal process, so I'll address that here.

    In short, I'd suggest writing whatever comes to you first, be it a chord progression that you like, a good melody, a catchy rhythmic groove, a unique textural setting, or something else.

    The challenge I often find is rounding out the elements of a tune. So, if I start with a cool chord progression or vamp, I try extra hard to write a good melody to fit with the accompaniment — otherwise the melody is just a throw-away.

    Conversely, if I start out with a purely melody-driven work, I spend a good amount of time looking for "the right" harmonic or modal setting.

    *
    Orchestrating for big band, now, is a different set of discussions.
    *
    have you written any of your own "tunes" that you might play with a quartet, for instance?

    ~Rick
  5. wemeetagain

    wemeetagain Member

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    thanks for all your help, i think i will start off by getting a good melody then and then sharing parts between with a sort of call and response between the band maybe with saxes playing riff and brass fills? I find it hard to make the melody line 'flow' well, i end up having a good 4 bar phrase but always to struggle to get a whole phrase say 16 bars all fitting together.
  6. kevgermany

    kevgermany Landrover Nut Cafe Moderator

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  7. 814jazzer

    814jazzer Member

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    This is not uncommon. Have you tried sequencing the phrase from 1st 4 bars? This means, transposing the phrase to different pitches within the key, while keeping same or similar rhythm.

    Often, rhythmic similarity between phrases unites the melodic fragments of a tune. On a simplistic level, consider "Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star."

    ~Rick
  8. littleplum

    littleplum Member

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  9. 814jazzer

    814jazzer Member

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    --> This is a great resource. Jim Martin is an *excellent* jazz arranger, a total pro. And his advice is nuts-and-bolts, very practical, and presently in a clear, no-nonsense way.

    Definitely worth checking out.
    ~ Rick

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