creating horn section parts

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pompatus
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creating horn section parts

Post by pompatus » Fri Aug 10, 2018 6:59 pm

I’m being contracted to play in a new horn section for a local blues band. As I understand it, we’ll be writing the horn parts from scratch. The band, as is at the moment, is vocal, guitar, keys, bass, and drums. Having not had to come up with parts like this, I’m a bit nervous.

Does anyone have a similar experience, and can offer any advice? Instrument-wise, what are you guys in similar positions playing on?

Many thanks!

Terry
Nhtrombone
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Re: creating horn section parts

Post by Nhtrombone » Fri Aug 10, 2018 7:14 pm

Are you writing originals? Creating parts for covers of songs that didn't originally have horns? Are you doing covers or songs that DID have horn parts?

I can't say that I've written originals. When I have created parts for songs that don't have horns, I've used a lot of stabs and pads. I write for a 3 piece horn section (tenor, trumpet, bone). A lot of stuff is octaves - especially the stabs. The pads I will voice out - some times in closed voicing, sometimes in my interpretation of the 'drop 2' voicing - with the trumpet on top, tenor on the next voice down but dropped an octave, and then trombone. That means that the tenor is sometimes playing lower than the bone. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't.

As for transcribing section parts off a tune that has horns, I will usually find the highest voice in the horn section - frequently trumpet and then continue to listen to figure out if the section is written in unison or octaves (VERY common) or if it's voiced out. 7.5 times out of 10, if it's voiced out, I take the trumpet note and then voice the chord underneath it on tenor and trombone - if my 'drop 2' voicing sounds weird being played back through sibelius, I transpose the tenor up an octave and it usually fixes it.

Hope that helps.
pompatus
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Re: creating horn section parts

Post by pompatus » Fri Aug 10, 2018 7:24 pm

It’ll be original tunes with no existing horn parts. It sounds like it may be a 3-piece horn section. I’m hoping there will at least be a lead sheet.
cmcslide
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Re: creating horn section parts

Post by cmcslide » Fri Aug 10, 2018 11:03 pm

Try to pick the spots that you play so that you don't cover up the other instruments in the band. Sometimes you can play a riff as kind of a call and response with the singer, other times the guitar player may fill in those spots. For a blues based band with a horn section, check out the band Roomful of Blues, as well as a lot of jump type bands from the '50's to get some ideas. Also the Blues Brothers! Don't think that you have to have your horns up to your faces the whole time on every song or you'll never make it through the night.
Professor of Low Brass, Coastal Carolina University
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Geordie
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Re: creating horn section parts

Post by Geordie » Sat Aug 11, 2018 2:12 am

You might want to check out Fred Stickley’s ‘Jazz and Rock and Roll Horns’. It’s a download from his website. Also, look at his YouTube videos. I found them really useful as I was in a very similar situation to you. I agree with the other advice posted here. Not all three horns need to play at the same time. This adds some variety to the sound.
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dukesboneman
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Re: creating horn section parts

Post by dukesboneman » Sat Aug 11, 2018 5:29 am

That`s what I did from 1989-2011 with about four different bands. So it gave me the chance to learn and write in different styles. I had 4 basic things that I took into consideration when writing. 1) It has to serve the music 2) Make it interesting so it`s fun to play night after night. 3) within the style try to be unique. (I took a que from Chicago and instead of yet another Sax solo, I`d write a Horn section soli , that really set the band aprt from other groups) 3) Make it so other horn players in the audience would want to play your parts. I also remembered 2 things Jimmy Pankow said in an interview years ago that stuck with me, " Make the horns an equal voice in the ensemble and write so the audience couldn`t imagine the song without the horns"
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ExZacLee
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Re: creating horn section parts

Post by ExZacLee » Sat Aug 11, 2018 1:23 pm

Just to kind of add to what's already been said, I do this a fair amount and teach this in one of my arranging classes - here's the rules for success I give my students, maybe it'll help:

1) Listen to examples of the style of music you're writing for - in the case of a "new" style (right...) listen to something close. While TOP is an amazing group, their approach to writing for horns doesn't work all the time. Otis Redding, The Temptations, Bob Marley, James Brown, Curtis Mayfield,Stevie Wonder, Jamiroquai, D'Angelo, Van Morrison, KC and the Sunshine Band - these groups all had their own approach to horn parts. You'll find that most modern groups are using approaches that mirror older groups, so definitely start with the older stuff.

2) The horns don't have to play all the time. The horns in most stuff shouldn't be playing all the time. Look at your listening examples - in some songs you may find that the horns only play on the intro and the last chord! That's okay! Easily the most common mistake beginning horn arrangers make is over-writing the horn parts. They look at the blank space in their score in they kind of freak out a little. It's alright. Embrace the space! It's like cayenne - the right amount can really open up a dish whether it be fried chicken, grillades, or even apple pie! Too much and it's just a ham handed attempt to do "spicy."

3) Don't be afraid to try new things! If you have an idea that might work, try it! You might have something new and different, or maybe even something that saves a bad song! But....

4) Always be beholden to the music. Some of the hippest stuff I've written ended up in the trash because it didn't fit or it got in the way of something important like the vocal line or a guitar solo. I used to over-write pretty much everything - I'd fall in love with an idea and I'd be reticent to get rid of it because of the time I spent developing it. Figuring out which ideas to scrap is probably 90% of the work.

edit: I forgot one thing - 5) I think one reason that many of my clients have been extremely satisfied with my work is that I pay attention to details. Even the hardest chart can be easy if you are cognizant of the little details. A) Use rehearsal letters or numbers (in BOXES where old people like me can SEE them) - and write in vocal cues where necessary even if it's just the first two or three words of a verse so we know where we are if the guitar takes an extra 4 bars during a solo. B) Have the number of bars per line reflect the phrasing. I.e., if your song, like most pops songs, consists almost entirely of 4 and 8 bar phrases, I don't want to see 5 bars on one line, 3 on another, 6 on the next... etc. A 12 bar blues should have 3 lines of 4 bars per line. You'll increase accuracy in read downs by a good 200% just by taking that extra step when you prepare your charts. C) Always consider the best speaking range of the horns you're writing for and keep the majority of what you write in there. 95% of the horn writing in popular music stays in the tessitura that an instrument sounds best and projects in. You rarely have the trombone in the extreme highs or lows of the instrument, for example. The point is always to write something that sounds good, not something that sounds hard.
pompatus
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Re: creating horn section parts

Post by pompatus » Sat Aug 11, 2018 7:02 pm

Wow, thanks, for the suggestions, guys! There’s a lot of good stuff here to get me started in the right direction.
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