Arranging for a Horn Section - Any Tips ?

rhysonsax

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Surrey, UK
#1
I am the only horn player in the covers band I play with and I write out a simplified horn part for the soul, R&B, blues and other numbers we play. Sometimes the keyboard player will also play horn parts with a "brass section" setting.

For an upcoming gig we have got a four piece horn section (bari, tenor, trombone and trumpet), so I am trying to arrange the horn parts to give an authentic section sound.

Have you get any tips for making the section writing sound great ?

Rhyw
 

dooce

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#2
I tend not to write too much down as in a gig you usually can't see it anyway, or it falls off the stand, and anyway no horn section ever looks cool with a battery of music stands in front of them. What numbers are you doing? I've usually found that listening very carefully to the original will give you some ideas, and you take it from there. Typically, trumpet picks up the top line, tenor follows an octave below, bari usually follows the bass rhythm, if not the actual bass line, and trombone - well ideally, as little as possible as they can easily dominate, especially if the player does a lot of slide notes.

If you listen to a lot of classic soul horn sections, there is nothing complicated about the arrangements - they mostly all play the same lines, but what is absolutely critical is the timing - hitting every entry crisply and together. I would work on that before you start doing anything fancy with scoring.

However, have a listen to Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings if you want to hear some great soul horn section arrangements - I did transcribe the horns to 100 Days, 100 Nights for my band - it was the only way, it's so bloody complicated!
 
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#3
I agree with dooce - transcribing is the best way. A lot of horn lines for soul tunes are in unison but its the line and the rhythm that make it. If there are harmonies they're used sparingly and tend to be simple intervals such as 2 lines a 5th apart or the main line might be unison and then just split the last note over the chord (1st, 3rd, 5th 7th).
 

rhysonsax

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#4
Thanks guys. I have heard of the Dap-Kings before, especially with Amy Winehouse, but that's great stuff with Sharon Jones.

The bari is classic, trumpet great and it's interesting what you say about trombone - that seems to be absent here and the section sound is perfect.

Rhys

PS Any chance of a copy of your transcription Dooce ?
 
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dooce

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#5
Yes, I reckon the Dap-kings are the perfect soul horn section - just trumpet/tenor/bari. PM me your email and I'll send the .pdf files of my transcript. It might need a bit of tweaking - we've only gigged it once and it sounded OK but we've never gone through it in fine detail.
 

J-Ryder

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#6
Man, i love Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings such a great sounding band.

One of the their recent bari players has been Ian Hendrickson Smith (http://www.ianhendricksonsmith.com) a great NY player at the moment. Has had a lot to do with Mark Ronson who (which has been already said) in turn worked with Amy Winehouse.

The dap kings played in Birmingham last year, was quite gutted to of missed it.

Oh and another great horn section to check out would be Eli "Paperboy" Reed, have a search on youtube for "Explosion" awesome track :)

Jamie.
 

B'dragon

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CT
#7
With that many horns (I have three in a band myself) I like to write out the horn parts. I workout the lines an usually write in very tight voicing since I'm using Tpt, AS and TS. But with four horns as stated above I would put the tpt on the lead line (oboviously) bari on the root in the cellar, and wor the other two horns on the most imporant chord notes that are left. But don't forget the power of unison lines specially on fast moving lines.

Best of luck!
 
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#9
Depends on what you'd like, i'd put the bari with rhythm, alto/trumpet solo lines switching to give contrast plus as they alternate put some counter melodies and parralel notes in depending on the key, tenor should be the middle not of the triad, with the bari nearly always root with upbeats into different keys which is then strengthen by the bass on the beat.
 
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#10
One thing I think you always have to keep in mind in this situation is that you're writing for rock, pop, soul and/or R&B, NOT jazz. And depending on the period and the genre, you'll find that a huge amount of what you write will be unisons with some (only) occasional voiced out things to add emphasis. On a ballad, voicing big lush extended chords behind the chorus or to set up the bridge can be really effective. But on an uptempo pop or r&b tune, voicing fast moving lines in close harmony sounds cheesy as hell and just sounds out of place. Of course it always depends on the situation and there is no real right or wrong way, just your personal taste.

Some of the most classic horn writing you'll hear is from James Brown, Ohio Players, The Commodores, Tower of Power, Earth Wind & Fire, the Brecker Brothers etc... the list goes on and on. (The Dap Kings are great too) Since you're playing someone else's music, and many of those horn lines are so familiar they've become part of the song, you may as well just transcribe them directly as originally played and score it out for the section.

As a guy who subs a lot in several different bands and on several different horns, I can firsthand say that if I show up on your gig and you have a book for me that's well arranged and organized I'm going to like you and the gig a lot more than if I'm just expected to wing it. Especially if you're doing esoteric or very intricate arrangements.

I have done several jobs recently, in major venues, where I've shown up to play Bari in a horn section behind what is supposedly an otherwise very professional organization only to be told "sorry, there's no Bari book, so you'll just have to transpose the second tenor or read the trombone parts." And my perennial favorite: "Oh, just make something up." And of course I've done it, BUT nothing tells me how indifferent you are to my presence on your gig like not showing me the same courtesy you show the other players by not having a book for me! Talk about being an afterthought!

There will be a large amount of the standard repertoire that any decent horn player should just know. But it's also one thing if you're playing with the same four guys five nights a week, and completely another if you've never seen these guys before and you have to make music with them tonight. Experience and professionalism go a long way, but preparation and getting everyone on the same page - literally - will serve you as well or better.

Just my $0.02 worth.

Peace,
John

--
John Isley
Saxophones, EWI, Composer, Arranger
www.johnisley.com

New York Horns - www.nyhorns.com
EWILogic: Where the EWI meets Logic - www.ewilogic.com
IsleyMusic LLC - www.IsleyMusic.com
 
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#11
Hi my name is Stephanie and i'm a 3rd year degree music student. I'm a singer and i'm performing my final year recital at the end of this month one of my songs i have chosen is 100 days, 100 nights - sharon jones & the dap-kings. I have been looking for the horn arrangement everywhere! My horn players are too busy to transcribe it for me as they are also in their final year and doing their own work, as well as helping me with mine. I saw that you have transcribed the horns and i was wondering if there was any chance of me being able to get a copy or to buy a copy of you? I'm sorry for asking but i really cant find it anywhere.
 

rhysonsax

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#12
Hi my name is Stephanie and i'm a 3rd year degree music student. I'm a singer and i'm performing my final year recital at the end of this month one of my songs i have chosen is 100 days, 100 nights - sharon jones & the dap-kings. I have been looking for the horn arrangement everywhere! My horn players are too busy to transcribe it for me as they are also in their final year and doing their own work, as well as helping me with mine. I saw that you have transcribed the horns and i was wondering if there was any chance of me being able to get a copy or to buy a copy of you? I'm sorry for asking but i really cant find it anywhere.
Hi Stephanie and welcome to Cafe Saxophone.

Drop me a PM with your email address and I will send the horn arrangement that I adapted from Dooce's transcription. I really like the tune but I couldn't persuade our band to do it.

Good luck with the recital.

Rhys
 
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Messages
91
Location
Switzerland
#13
I did some bluesy and funky arrangements in the past. I remember that what sounded best was, from top down: tp, ts, tb, bs. Try to have the bone on the 6th, 7th or 9th, those notes which give the chord it's juice.
Unisons are best on fast runs. Remember Chicago's "Skin Tight" ? A perfect example.
 

aldevis

Surrealist Contributor.
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#14
But don't forget the power of unison lines specially on fast moving lines.
Don't feel ashamed of unisons. They work great.
Tp on top, Tb octave lower, Ts can play some harmonies, Bar on the roots.

Tower of Power (but they often overdub their lines) are probably the best example of an advanced horn section.
In the stile you mention, Memphis Horns, any section for Stax or Motown is worth being transcribed.
 

moondog

New Member
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2
#15
Hi Stephanie and welcome to Cafe Saxophone.

Drop me a PM with your email address and I will send the horn arrangement that I adapted from Dooce's transcription. I really like the tune but I couldn't persuade our band to do it.

Good luck with the recital.

Rhys
Hi sorry to leech your music as well but I'm also new to the forum and would LOVE to get a copy of 100 days, 100 nights. [ADMIN EDIT: email removed] Sorry I wasn't sure how to PM. I would be greatly appreciate if this is possible. Many thanks...
 
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Colin the Bear

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#17
Hi sorry to leech your music as well but I'm also new to the forum and would LOVE to get a copy of 100 days, 100 nights. [ADMIN EDIT: email removed] Sorry I wasn't sure how to PM. I would be greatly appreciate if this is possible. Many thanks...
You also may not be aware that the offer was made four years ago. Check the date.
 
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#20
Hi Stephanie and welcome to Cafe Saxophone.

Drop me a PM with your email address and I will send the horn arrangement that I adapted from Dooce's transcription. I really like the tune but I couldn't persuade our band to do it.

Good luck with the recital.

Rhys
Hi Stephanie and welcome to Cafe Saxophone.

Drop me a PM with your email address and I will send the horn arrangement that I adapted from Dooce's transcription. I really like the tune but I couldn't persuade our band to do it.

Good luck with the recital.

Rhys
Would it be possible to get a copy of the horn parts for this as well? We have a group at college called Fusion and this song would fit very well for one of our singers.

Thanks for your consideration!
gary
 
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