A Bandestrated Le Sacre

The US Marine Band posted this video of a wind band transcription of Stravinsky’s Rite or Spring a few days back to celebrate Stravinsky’s birthday.  I think it’s a fantastic teaching point for transcribing a work from orchestra to band.

First, kudos to the musicians who pull this off beautifully. Continue reading “A Bandestrated Le Sacre”

Adagio for Winds and Organ

In 2004, I was finishing my undergrad work.  At the same time, the long-time director of bands at the university, Ray Lichtenwalter, was retiring.  As a tribute to him, I composer my first work for band.  It is in the style of a Brucknerian adagio with long phrases and a slow development.

Originally, I planned on making this the slow movement of a larger symphony.  However, that symphony never came to fruition (though two other movements do exist).

This does show some of my earliest ideas about wind band orchestration such as grouping the Flügelhorns with the tuba ensemble, a strong contingent of low clarinets, and prominent double reeds.

  • 2 Flutes,
  • 2 Oboes
  • English Horn
  • 3 B-flat Clarinets
  • Bass Clarinet
  • Contra-Alto Clarinet
  • Contrabass Clarinet
  • 2 Alto Saxophones
  • Tenor Saxophone
  • Baritone Saxophone
  • 2 Bassoons
  • Contrabassoon
  • 4 Horns
  • 2 C Trumpets
  • 2 Tenor Trombones
  • Bass Trombone
  • 2 Flügelhorns
  • 2 Euphoniums
  • Bass Tuba
  • Contrabass Tuba
  • Organ.

Possibilities of the Concert Wind Band from the Standpoint of a Modern Composer

This is a reprint of an article by Percy Grainger from 1918.  It was originally published in Metronome Orchestra Monthly.  It is perhaps one of the greatest articles ever written on the art of bandestration.  This article is hard to find on the internet, so I have transcribed the whole thing for easier use.

Possibilities of the Concert Wind Band from the Standpoint of a Modern Composer

Percy Grainger

(1918)

Modern Wind Band a Product of Recent Musical Thought – Reed and Brass Sections as They Should Exist – Finer Possibilities of Arranging for the Modern Wind Band – Adaptability of Classic and Modern Music to the Needs of a Complete Wind Band – Suggestions for Strengthening the Double-reed Sections – The Percussion Section as it Should Be Perfected. Continue reading “Possibilities of the Concert Wind Band from the Standpoint of a Modern Composer”

An Interview with Hornist Brian Brown

This is the first in a series of interviews with performers on what they expect from good band writing.  First up is Brian Brown an active freelance horn player in the DFW area. He recently joined the Four Hornsmen of the Apocalypse horn quartet, and serves as Principal Horn of the East Texas Symphony, and performs regularly with the Fort Worth, Plano, and Waco symphonies, the Dallas Opera, and the Dallas Wind Symphony. Additionally, he has performed in many productions with Dallas Summer Musicals and Casa Manana Theatre, and in numerous recording sessions and chamber ensembles. In addition to maintaining a diverse performing career, he also publishes custom brass arrangements as co-owner of BrownWood Publishing. Brian studied with Dr. William Scharnberg at the University of North Texas.

 1.       What is your biggest pet peeve about Horn writing in band?
Continue reading “An Interview with Hornist Brian Brown”

Example of Great Bandestration

In this post, I will be putting together a list of several of the works for band/winds that I feel to be among the best orchestrated.  These are all original works for the medium.  I’ve tried to get as wide of a sample as possible spanning 175 years of music.  There’s music by American, British, Australian, Russian, French, Dutch, Czech, and Austrian composers.

Stravinsky’s Symphonies of Wind Instruments (1947 version)

Berlioz’s Funeral and Triumphal Symphony

Sparke’s Dance Movements

Maslanka’s Fourth Symphony

Grainger’s Lincolnshire Posy

Holst’s Hammersmith

Husa’s Music for Prague 1968

De Meij’s Lord of the Rings Symphony

Schmitt’s Dionysiaques

Schoenberg’s Theme and Variations op. 43a

The Woodwind Section Part 3 – The Band’s Ensemble

In my previous post, I highlighted the various forms that the standard orchestral ensemble can take.  However, in the band, there is no real equivalent to such a thing as “woodwinds in twos” or “woodwinds in fours.”  instead, each section is though of as a single unit.  The distinct family structure of each ensemble of woodwinds is the real distinction between writing for band versus writing for orchestra.  In the orchestra, each woodwind instrument is a soloist.  in the band, it is the mass of woodwinds that make up the core of the sound.

Historic ensembles

Baroque

In the Baroque Era, an ensemble of double reeds, trumpets, horns, timpani, and snare drums was the standard makeup of a band.  This is usually best exemplified by Handel’s Music for the Royal Fireworks.  There are no flutes, clarinets, or trombones in the make up.  The other “normal” band instruments had yet to be invented.

Classical and Early Romantic

By the Classical Era, the ensemble had diversified.  Woodwinds in pairs (1-2 Flutes, 2 Oboes, 2 Clarinets, 2 Bassoons) and pairs of horns were standard.  To this, trumpets and drums were usually added, especially in military music. Occasionally, we will see a pair of Basset Horns and a Contrabassoon added in.

Late Romantic

This standard pattern of the Classical and early Romantic Eras expanded in the late Romantic to include tubas, trombones, and occasionally saxophones (though only in France and rarely in Britain and the U.S.).  German bands saw use of Flügelhorns, while French bands saw use of saxhorns.

Today

For the purposes of this post, I am going to refer to a standard American wind band line up.  Note, this line up will vary from country to country and from band to band.  This is one reason that composing for wind band is one of the hardest ensembles to write for.

Today’s standard line up is close to this:

  • 1 Piccolo
  • 2 Flutes
  • 2 Oboes
  • 1 English Horn
  • 1 E-flat Clarinet
  • 3 B-flat Clarinets
  • 1 Bass Clarinet
  • 1 Contra Clarinet (Contra-Alto or Contrabass)
  • 2 Alto Saxophones
  • 1 Tenor Saxophone
  • 1 Baritone Saxophone
  • 2 Bassoons
  • 1 Contrabassoon

This would be the standard line up for a college or professional ensemble.  Instruments like the Contrabassoon, and to a lesser extent the Contra Clarinets and English Horn, are not universally found.

In the realm of the orchestra, this is somewhere between woodwinds in threes and woodwinds in fours (flutes, oboes, and bassoons are in threes; saxophones are in fours; clarinets in sixes).

To this,  we can often find Alto and Tenor (Bass) Flutes, Alto Clarinet, and Soprano and Bass Saxophones added to the mix.

Multiple Players on a Part

When dealing with the flutes and clarinets, we will most of the time run into the fact that each of the parts will have more than one person playing the part.  Larger bands can have many clarinet players playing a single part.  In some bands, clarinets alone will make up one third of the entire ensemble.

We might be able to expect 2-3 Flutes per part, and 3-6 B-flat Clarinets per part in a standard concert band.

This variability is full of potential, but it also makes composing for wind band extremely difficult as a composer has no dictation of the exact ensemble used for their work.  Band composers are usually just happy to have their piece performed rather than expect exacting specifications from ensembles.  This is the biggest difference from an orchestra.

Various Ensembles

I’ve covered various types of wind bands in previous posts.  Here are some links to those previous posts.

The Wind Ensemble

The French Band

The Wind Symphony

The American Wind Symphony

Potential

If we were to expand our horizons, it might be possible to start thinking of a wind band as something close to orchestral woodwinds in sixes or woodwinds in eights.  In order to do this, the double reeds (oboes and bassoons) can be though of as one family.

In order to think this, it is probably best to abandon the idea of multiple players on a part, and go with an orchestral standard of one player per part.

Woodwinds in Sixes

  • 1-2 Piccolos
  • 2-3 Flutes
  • 1 Alto Flute
  • 2 Oboes
  • 1 English Horn
  • 1 -E-flat Clarinet
  • 3 B-flat Clarinets
  • 1 Bass Clarinet
  • 1 Contrabass Clarinet
  • 1 Soprano Saxophone
  • 2 Alto Saxophones
  • 1 Tenor Saxophone
  • 1 Baritone Saxophone
  • 1 Bass Saxophone
  • 2 Bassoons
  • 1 Contrabassoon

Here we have 6 flutes, 6 double reeds, 6 clarinets, and 6 saxophones.  It provides a nice balance from top to bottom.

Woodwinds in Eights

  • 2 Piccolos
  • 4 Flutes
  • 1 Alto Flute
  • 1 Tenor Flute
  • 2 Oboes
  • 1 English horn
  • 1 Bass Oboe
  • 1 E-flat Clarinet
  • 3 B-flat Clarinet
  • 1 Alto Clarinet
  • 2 Bass Clarinets
  • 1 Contrabass Clarinet
  • 1 Sopranino Saxophone
  • 1 Soprano Saxophone
  • 2 Alto Saxophones
  • 2 Tenor Saxophones
  • 1 Baritone Saxophones
  • 1 Bass Saxophone
  • 3 Bassoons
  • 1 Contrabassoon

This is a much larger ensemble (though only 2 extra players per section – 8 total).  We have a wider range and diversity of tone colors.  There of course can be additions and doublings here, but it is a solid arrangement that isn’t too outside of the realm of possibility.  The only uncommon instrument here is the Bass Oboe, which should really become more widely used – especially in the band world.

The Wind Symphony

A wind symphony is nothing more than the old-fashioned concert band re-branded to make it sound more upscale.This seems to be the modern favorite ensemble among American performing groups. The majority of American wind symphonies are university groups with a handful professional groups.  I’m lucky enough to live in an area with one of the few professional wind symphonies (the Dallas Wind Symphony).  I became familiar with the ensemble when I was in elementary school as my next door neighbor was the Alto Clarinetist with the ensemble (which means she was probably the only professional civilian Alto Clarinetist in the U.S.).

I will use the DWS as a basic example of a normal wind symphony.

  • 1 Piccolo
  • 2 Flutes
  • 2 Oboes
  • 1 English Horn
  • 1 E-flat Clarinet
  • 8 B-flat Clarinets
  • 1 Bass Clarinet
  • 1 Contra-Alto Clarinet
  • 2 Alto Saxophones
  • 1 Tenor Saxophones
  • 1 Baritone Saxophone
  • 2 Bassoons
  • 5 F Horns
  • 7 Trumpets
  • 3 Trombones (2 Tenor, 1 Bass)
  • 2 Euphoniums
  • 2 Tubas
  • 1 String Bass
  • 1 Harp
  • 1 Piano/Keyboard
  • 1 Timpani
  • 4 Percussion

To this ensemble, Contrabassoon will be regularly added.  I have also seen Soprano and Bass Saxophones and Alto and Contrabass Clarinets.  These additions are based on the need of the composition.

Variations on this will include more flutes (4 or more is quite common), more clarinets (12 or more is normal), more trombones (6 is normal), and more tubas (up to 4 isn’t unheard of).  Parts that stay one on a part are usually the double reeds, saxophones, and horns.

The main difference between a wind symphony and a wind ensemble are the numbers of clarinets and trumpets.  A wind symphony will have multiple players per part whereas a wind ensemble will have one.