Tag Archives: Clarinet

Calling it good

When God created the heavens and earth… he saw that it was good (see Genesis 1:10). It’s intimidating to turn over your piece to the choir director and saying it is good now, because it is echoing the great Creator. But at the same time, I do think my arrangement is pretty good now, and I’m going to move on to other projects.

I added in a couple of measures for a transition between verses 1 and 2, this time with four instruments (clarinet, alto sax, violin, viola), to help us feel the key change happen, and make it easy for the choir to come in. I have the flute, alto sax, and strings accompanying the second verse, and only letting the piano come in for the refrain. And then I cut out the piano for the repeat. Rude, I know. But I think the choir can hold its own with just clarinet and alto sax, and then let the strings help with the last phrase of that verse.

We’re used to having the piano kind of guide the voices, but I get bored with the same kind of gestures so we’re doing something a little different. This might make it so we’ll have to practice the choir with the all instruments more, but maybe that’s ok.

I’m keeping the piano part pretty simple because I don’t like it when it’s much harder than what everyone else has to do (it’s often the case that the piano part is the most difficult of all). Also, I know I will need to give out parts to our instrumentalists so they can start practicing. I can’t sit on this much longer for that reason too.

I look through the score some more. I add in phrase markings for the piano as well as for the violin. I add in a fortissimo for the last repeat. I like to orchestrate for dynamics, but it’s helpful for the ensemble, in particular for the piano, since it’s probably the most versatile of all the instruments. It can be soft or loud at all the registers, unlike the flute, for example.

And just like that, I’ve sent off the parts. I guess I should print out my part so I can start practicing too.

Angels we have heard on high

Yes, I wrote an arrangement on this song for wind ensemble last year. But it’s a popular Christmas song, and our choir director requested it. So a new arrangement is in the works. I’m writing for flute, clarinet, alto sax, violin, viola, piano, and SATB choir. I like simple, especially for a worship service. I think this will still classify as simple, despite the complication of so many additional instruments.

I’m finding that the deep chalumeau register of the clarinet works very well for doubling the bass voice at times. My software reminds me that the alto sax has a slightly smaller register, and I can’t give it the bass line sometimes. Well, given its name, maybe that shouldn’t come as a surprise.

I used to not like to write for piano. But it is such a ubiquitous instrument, and I’ve therefore included it in my last song (Thou shalt call and the LORD shall answer). It wasn’t just playing the voice parts, and because of that, it was more fun. So as I’m writing the piano part for this arrangement, I’m having more fun with the piano.

When I was in high school, I had a wonderful friend who played the flute. I wrote for my friends, and therefore, some of my early arrangements and compositions also include flute. These days, as a violist in orchestra, I often sit fairly close to the flutes, and I get to hear that glorious sound close by. I’m trying to keep it within not too difficult, and hopefully the flutist will agree when I show it to her.

Key changes. So much more fun when there is some change. I have sometimes written key changes very abruptly, so that the singers will have to create the key change with just them. I’m deciding for the second key change to let the violin and viola handle the transition, and I hope it will be helpful to the singers. I might still let the piano assist with it.

I’m not finishing the arrangement today. I have another concert to play tonight. Woohoo! Timpanogos symphony orchestra together with the Wasatch Chorale, “Halloween at Hogwarts,” second iteration (we played last night too).

More horn parts. And more clarinet lines. A trumpet rescue.

I start my composition today by just listening from the beginning and stopping when I notice that I could easily add in some more horn parts where I initially only had one. The melody passes from the first horn to the trumpet, and I decide to give the four horns some chords to play.

I continue listening through, finding where I need to add in some clarinet parts, some oboe lines, and a second flute line. The bass drum loses a few notes to give the measure two beats of just a little less thunder. I have this bassoon line that I want to support, and those clarinets get to help, and I also let the cello section pitch in.

I go to the ending, add in some clarinet doublings to the trumpets, let the tuba double the second bassoon. Adding in a few accents for the marimba. I get back, add in more clarinet parts. Seems like a clarinet kind of day. Like it’s the solution to a lot of problems. Another time, the first trumpet comes to the rescue, when I feel like I need a gesture to repeat once more in the first part of the movement.

Back at it in the evening. I see that the strings need some slurs to denote what kind of phrasing I’m after. I’m keeping it simple for now, it’s mostly tying sixteenth notes together for switching bows each beat. There are times for more complicated bowings, and I have them already defined. Some trill notations look really bad and I clean them up. I add in a second trumpet to the aforementioned trumpet rescue. There are a number of other woodwind additions I fit in.

I add in a couple of more percussion instruments that suit the quiet part better. I make note that I need a few more percussion lines in the last two pages.

More thoughts on writing a symphony, part writing, etc.

I ended up getting in another fifteen minutes last night and I worked on making the orchestration shimmer with some more woodwind parts.

Today when I pick up work on the symphony I’m thinking more about the clarinet line. There was this section where I had two bassoons playing, and it seemed a little bare. So I put in two clarinet parts and a flute part, and it’s more complete. I’m finding that I’m very pleased with the string parts I worked on yesterday, but second guessing the ending again.

I settle on changing the viola part at the end, which easily lends itself to another five measures of closure (I’m hoping it’s actually the end, because the piece is over seven minutes now), and I pump out a second violin part and a cello part to harmonize and play with the viola line. I’ve got to listen through the entire piece to see if I feel content with the way it ends.

I go to clear my head, walking outside, visiting a neighbor for a little while. Listening through the piece, I conclude: It’s probably not the end after all. It’s not definitive enough. Breaking for lunch. Adding in one more measure, extending the wrap-up. Adding in another measure at the previous transition, and the key change is more satisfying now.

I go back to the beginning of the last section, and start filling in contrabass and cello parts. What kind of accompaniment figure/bass line should they get? Well, after writing a piece that runs about 24-28 minutes, I think I have an idea of what figures will feel like they belong in the piece. It is not time to introduce lots of new material. It is time to wrap up, and we want to hear something that sounds like the ideas already introduced to the piece.

I’m reflecting on my first exercises in my first arranging and composition class as a junior in high school (Södra Latins gymnasium, Stockholm, Sweden). I think I wrote some songs, that were more like vocalises, and I was supposed to write a harmony part, so it was two-part harmony. I think a group of my classmates and I sang it together, and I think we performed it in some obscure venue that I have since forgotten. When I took my first composition class in college, with Dr Christian Asplund, one of our first assignments was to write a duet for flute and oboe. You can hear my piece, “A play for two“, right at the top of the page titled “Woodwinds.” It is a very basic skill to master as a composer. You want to be able to find a harmonizing line that stands alone. I find that much of what I do when I work on my symphony reaches that far back into my training, and I think of independency of lines, of what harmonies I want to hear, and it extends to a third part, and a fourth part. The more parts you introduce, the more doubling you will need to introduce, so you don’t end up with a total piece of mud cake.

I come back some hours later, and I fix this and that. Some articulation here, adding a second trombone to a particular line to give more volume when that sounded a little thin against a full string section and woodwinds. I add in dynamics where I notice some missing. I’m wondering if I should add in the violas at rehearsal E or just let the violins take care of the accompaniment to the soft woodwinds. Should I add any percussion in that section? I’ll probably spend some time thinking about soft options for percussion next time I have some time to poke around. Hmm…

I know I’ll need to look through each individual part to look for any anomalies that I may have overlooked while working on the score. More missing dynamics, phrasing, articulation. I’m happy to leave the project for tonight fairly confident that most of the shaping of the movement has been done.