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Horn Section Arrangement: How To?

Pete Effamy

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It's interesting to learn that I may well be hearing enharmonic notes more often than I thought credible in Motown numbers
Is this what you meant to say? If so, I don't follow. (An enharmonic is the same pitch but spelled differently - i.e. B flat and A sharp)
 
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Ivan

Ivan

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Is this what you meant to say? If so, I don't follow. (An enharmonic is the same pitch but spelled differently - i.e. B flat and A sharp)
Sorry, you are right. That isn't what I meant

Unison/8ave, was what I should've said

Likesay. I've had a cold
 
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Pete Effamy

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If you can persuade your cornet guy to return it to the brass band (;)) and get a trumpet you'll be properly set! A lot of what you are able to do depends on the keys player and his voicings, and the guitarist for that matter. Mostly playing unison lines might be best at first to keep you safe. Many Motown arrangements are really full too with strings, horns, BVox etc
 
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Ivan

Ivan

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If you can persuade your cornet guy to return it to the brass band (;)) and get a trumpet you'll be properly set!
The cornet sounds more like a trumpet when the player's had caffeine and alcohol*




* Half a bottle of Buckfast. Or Baileys. She doesn't seem too fussy
 

Dibbs

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Faced with a 4-note chord with the three voices, the 5th is the usual one to ignore. For meatier chords (you shouldn't see many in Motown though) the other would be the root.

My rule of thumb is to be sure to keep the 3rd and 7th and let voice leading dictate whether to lose the 5th or root. The hard bit is what to do with passing notes.
 

Dibbs

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The floodgates of useful, informed advice have opened, thanks one and all. There's plenty for me to think about and build on

Well this section is two saxes and a Bb cornet whose softer tones don't cut through like a trumpet but nevertheless the combo can sound OK.

Given the vagieries of amateur live performance and unpredictable sound engineering, I have been trying to make the horn section audible across the range. I've tried C/A/T, C/A/B, C/T/B, C/T/T. The bari is ace in some numbers: e.g. Harlem Shuffle, where there's space for it to be heard doing the
beetroot thing but it is lost in others

It's interesting to learn that I may well be hearing enharmonic notes more often than I thought credible in Motown numbers

Declaration of interests: I live near the Tweed

You can put the alto above the cornet for a different colour.
 

OldNotGrey

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It's a really interesting subject and I have a lot of learning to do myself. I seem to be the one that has to pull horn arrangements together for our soul & blues covers band (short straw time?) when new songs get suggested. If an existing arrangement isn't readily forthcoming then it is over to the drawing board to look at tenor, alto & trumpet parts. Unfortunately our trumpet player isn't particularly strong or confident, so the general approach is to give him unison/8ve parts and have either the tenor or alto take the 3rds or 7ths. I learned a useful lesson recently, where we needed a strong intro and I laid out a neat 3 part harmony (root, 3rd, 5th/7th) which sounded OK in Sibelius but wilted in reality, putting the trumpet back to unison with the tenor gave much bigger impact. I've a lot to learn but it's very satisfying when it hangs together and sounds good.
 

Pete Effamy

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Depending on how high you ask your trumpet player to play, they will want backup. Strong 8ves to boost are great . An alto player with a big brassy sound can imitate a 2nd trumpet a treat if needed. Which brings me to another point - if the section is trumpet led, then the saxes should play to the brassy nature and not be fluffy and jazzy. It has to be full, immediate and punchy - unless it is a genre that requires the laid-back sound.
 

Jazzaferri

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If you really want to get to a complete understanding of the topic Sammy Nestico's Complete Arranger is IMO the best book on teh subject. It has lots of core examples with CD music of them happening. Every instrument's range and strengths are clearly set out.

Not cheap, it will take you a few days or weeks depending to digest what you need to get from it. Each instrument/section has its own chapter so you dont need to learn about strings if you dont want.

Its the big challenge but it will give you the best understanding of how and why to arrange a 2 3 4 or 5 part horn section. Or even if you choose 2 alto 2 tenor a bari 4 trumpets and 4 bones.
 
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Pete Effamy

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If you really want to get to a complete understanding of the topic Sammy Nestico's Complete Arranger is IMO the best book on teh subject. It has lots of core examples with CD music of them happening. Every instrument's range and strengths are clearly set out.
There are several fantastic iconic books:

Sammy Nestico: The Complete Arranger
Henry Mancini: Sounds and Scores
Russ Garcia: The Pro Arranger Composer (2 books)
Don Sebesky: The Contemporary Arranger
Nelson Riddle: Arranged by Nelson Riddle

The horn section one mentioned by @jbtsax sounds good too. I'm not sure that this stuff can be digested as quickly as @Jazzaferri seems to suggest, but it will possibly stop you from making some rookie errors. The books lean in the direction of the authors style, but they are all wonderful books written by five recent masters.
 

rhysonsax

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There have been some threads on the Forum about this general topic in the past. Have a look at the following or do some searching around to find others.


Sax Arrangements (Alto & Tenor)

Horn Sections

And if you are arranging for particular tunes, there are probably lots of members on here who could share with you some horn section arrangements to give you a start.

Rhys
 

Jazzaferri

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@Pete Effamy ...one can get a basic understanding of what Sammy is on about and scan a few instrument chapters in several hours of study if you know theory. If one doesn't know theory, one needs to learn that first before one starts to arrange or it will always be shooting in the dark.

It was the main textbook for the arranging courses (we used a few pages from a few others) in my degree. Our instructor (a MMus) was the staff arranger for the Glen Miller band for a few years.

Once one understands the concepts of 5 voice close and drop 2 means dropping the second voice down an octave. Arranging for a few horns becomes technically speaking quite basic. Still takes many many hours of actually doing it to get comfortable.
 
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jbtsax

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This comment in no way is meant to chastise others for their suggestions, but as a career music educator I became familiar with the "cardinal rule" to begin teaching at the level the student is at. Some of the excellent resources that have been offered in this thread I'm afraid would be too advanced and complex for someone just starting out who just needs some "basic principles" with which to get started.
 
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