Wednesday, 6 November 2013

[13 Horns Arrangement] "Blues For Alice" (Charlie Parker): 5 Saxophones, 4 Trumpets, 4 Trombones

Hello guys, so I mentioned I have a 2nd Arranging assignment. So here it is ! I picked the song Blues For Alice by Charlie Parker because I absolutely love the melody. It just sounds really sweet to the heart hahaha !

Okay let me give you a brief overview. There is a maximum of 13 horns to arrange, which includes 5 saxophones (2 alto, 2 tenor, 1 baritone) and 8 brasses (4 trumpets and 4 trombones). Wow that sounds like a lot right ? And of course it is not obligatory to arrange to the maximum of 13, well there is a lower limit, but arranging up to 10 or 11 or 12 horns is fine. My teacher mentioned that for Pop music, it would be more suitable to have just 5 brass instruments playing, which means 5+5 = 10 horns.

And guess what? There is no drop 2 or drop 4 or drop voicings to be used in this assignment yay ! Hahahah well, in my teacher's own words "There's like 13 horns, how many times do you want to drop ? Drop 7, drop 8 ?" Hahahah well I think it is very hilariously put but effective in conveying the point.

Frankly speaking, when I just started on the assignment I found it really confusing, well for one, the number of staves in the score increased from 9 (that I arranged last time) to 17 !!! And weirdly enough, I actually just realized that I started working on the toughest parts of the assignment first which includes writing Variable Coupling and Constant Coupling involving 12 horns, with 5-Way Close for the Saxes  and Drop 2 (or Drop 3) for the brasses.

Well, look at that !

And since I only allocate my time when I am most tired for my assignment, this part really made me a mental mess. And seriously I didn't check through the notes again, and by the time I finished the ENTIRE assignment, I decided that alright, time for me to live my life instead hahahah !!!

This is the 4-bars of constant coupling:

And since I'm showing you these, I thought I would show you another 4 bars that came right after those 8 bars:

I used Spread Voicings there and it involves writing for the entire 13 horns.

Just in case you are wondering, there are a list of voicings that it is obligatory for students to use for this assignment. So, they include Spread Voicings (as I have just mentioned), Tutti Writing, Upper Structure Triads, Full Doubling, Variable & Constant Coupling, Melodic Subdivisions, Counterpoints, Guide Tone Background Embellishments and other basic soli writing.

Here's how my Tutti Writing looks like in the ending of my arrangement:

I can't deny how huge a mental marathon my mind was put through to write everything, simply because  really not much material was covered in class and that we didn't have tons of exercises or sufficient time beforehand just to digest EACH individual voicing technique. In fact we are just expected to apply all the techniques. So I did these by referring to a book from the Berklee Press - "Arranging For Large Jazz Ensemble" ! And I basically transposed the notes I see in the book across the keys and chord qualities to my melody lines.

And here's an example of where I put my 8-part spread - to the little fragment of notes spanning 5 beats right where a section is ending.

Take a look at these Upper Structure Triads that I embedded in the middle of the phrase for Blues For Alice:

You might have noticed the chords there, the chord progression to these 4 bars is bar 5 to bar 8 of every 12 bar Blues For Alice form. And for those "specially chosen chords", they get a little friend accompanying them. The triad would be written on top of the original chord.

Same goes for Full Doubling - takes up one bar in the middle of the phrase:

Melodic Subdivisions time !

In this case, I used Short Melodic Subdivision in 2 groups. There are a couple of other possibilities as well, such as Melodic Subdivision in 3 Groups whereby each turn taken by a group of horns span 4 bars, or the Longest Melodic Subdivision in 2 Groups whereby each group of horns take a total of 6 bars in a 12 bar form. So for my case, each group of phrase spans around 6 beats before the next group of horns take over.

Here's another example of Upper Structure Triads:

Here it is used for an entire 4 bars in the start of the interlude section. If you are thinking how to derive the upper structure triad, first you need to know the chord scale of the individual chord including the avoid notes. So, just figure out any other chords that can be formed from the rest of the available notes of the scales and you get the triad !

Let me give you an example, let's take E-7(b5) ! Okay, that chord is the seventh chord in the key of F and it naturally exists as a minor 7th flat 5 in the key. So the chord scale would be Locrian. The formula for Locrian is 1 b2 b3 4 b5 b6 b7, with avoid note b2. So with the rest of the notes, you can form a A- triad from there. A- is formed from A C E, which is the 11th, b13 and root note of E-7(b5). So there you go, you have A- over E-7(b5).

So to figure out the rest of the chords, the process would be the same:
1. Figure out the chord scale
2. Cancel out the avoid notes
3. Find any triads that can be formed with the existing notes
4. Put the name of the triad on top of the existing chord

Hahaha, this takes some practice especially when encountering out-of-the-key chords, which for Blues For Alice's case there are plenty ! There are subdominant minors such as V-7, there are subV7s etc. So these on the other hand would involve the chord scale of Lydian b7 and Dorian etc.

Now to 2-Part Counterpoints:

I used counterpoint in the introduction of my arrangement. And counterpoints are the masterpieces of Bach, our beloved classical pianist. He is known to utilize counterpoints to the point of perfection, and that counterpoints are featured very VERY extensively in his compositions.

Here's some more stuff:

Use of quartal voicings and spreads. Quartal voicings are done by stacking intervals of 4ths between the notes.

There is supposed to be variation in instrumentation and orchestration throughout the arrangement. So, here I can show you how the same 4-Way Open voicings I orchestrate it to different timbre instruments or to the saxophones only or to the brasses only.

Here I let one trumpet, one alto, one baritone and one trombone take the lines.

In the above, I let only the saxes take the 4 lines.

Now for this, the brasses are the ones chosen for the task.

I guess here I should show you my Chord Scales chart:

So, those above are the less complicated ones.

Here it gets slightly more complicated with the flats, due to the IV-7 Bb-7 chord, the Ab-7 and Db7.

Anyways this assignment has tons and tons of demands and we had to prepare lead sheet and a diagram as well. Here's a snippet of my diagram:

So this diagram basically gives a general overview of the different voicing techniques used in different parts of the song and which horns are the ones playing those voicings in those 4 bars or 8 bars.

I have to say, my lead sheet's pretty ugly.

Wait, after second thought, maybe my lead sheet ain't that ugly anyway hahahah !!

Submission of individual instrument parts are required as well. Let me show you the parts of the "popular guys" in the horns band hahahah !

Trumpet 1.

The chords are there during the solo section. Note though that this parts score is transposed, so it won't be in concert score or concert key. In concert score, everything is in the key of F, for Trumpet 1, it's in G, as you can see the Gmaj7.

3rd page of sight-reading for the Trumpet 1 player:

So here's for Alto 1

Get the idea ? So, you saw the concert score, and then each player in the jazz ensemble would be getting "specially catered" scores.

For our dear bassist:

Remember that I am only showing snippets of the entire parts score of the instruments, so the actual individual parts span around 2 to 3 pages for each instrument.

Okay, I'm so glad that my assignment's finally done ! And I can look forward to my video-shoot this weekend. I would be shooting a 'music video' kind of thing, not professional music video, but music video-wannabe hahahah because I don't have a professional music video producer to direct the scenes nor a top notch videographer.

But it will be a personally-initiated venture as I had recorded my guitar cover of The Chicken by Jaco Pastorius, using the Apogee Jam and I was thinking of injecting more creativity and fun into the video instead of the usual stationary video camera featuring only a single shot throughout the guitar video, that many guitarists do and which was how my previous guitar videos are done as well. So, this video-shoot is going to be fun, my first time directing the scenes and editing the scenes.

Anyways, here is the general overview of my 13 horns arrangement for my school assignment. Of course my arrangement is FAR from perfect, in fact my teacher likes to put it, my arrangement is more technical than melodious. But I hope that by showing you what I was required to do for my class that I managed to open your eyes to something you might not have any knowledge about. 

All the best to you musicians (or arrangers) !!
Take care & keep following my blog for future updates on my musical and modeling journey. By the way, I'm graduating from my music college this month and transferring over to Berklee College of Music next year Fall (ie. September). So I would definitely be writing a blog post as well on my Berklee audition experience that is expected to be in March sometime next year, and my Berklee experience and classes once I start my semester there. Can't wait !!

See you again & Love ya,
Sapphire Ng <3 <3 <3

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