Author Topic: Euphonium & Piano Duet  (Read 1183 times)

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ben

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Euphonium & Piano Duet
« on: November 12, 2016, 09:23:18 PM »
I've never written an instrumental/piano duet before, so I tried my hand at it with a familiar hymn. I'll admit that there were several times that I had no idea what I should have the piano do. Are there any rules of thumb or good resources on writing piano accompaniments? Any thoughts on what I did here? Basically, I have a lot of scalar runs. Any advice appreciated. Thanks.
« Last Edit: December 28, 2016, 07:55:29 AM by ben »

gogreen

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Re: Euphonium & Piano Duet
« Reply #1 on: November 13, 2016, 05:50:37 AM »
How about a playback file?

ben

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Re: Euphonium & Piano Duet
« Reply #2 on: November 13, 2016, 07:54:52 AM »
Whoops. Sorry, forgot that. Will post when I get back to a computer

ben

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Re: Euphonium & Piano Duet
« Reply #3 on: November 13, 2016, 11:44:37 AM »
Audio file attached. Thanks, Arthur, for the reminder. Not sure why I didn't remember to do that when I originally posted.

Michel.R.E

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Re: Euphonium & Piano Duet
« Reply #4 on: November 13, 2016, 02:49:32 PM »
in piano writing, long single held notes are not really idiomatic.

**note: be careful, measure 1, last half beat, into teh 1st beat of measure 2, you ahve parallel octaves between right and left hands.

I notice that you're often repeating notes in the piano part, like using only 2 notes of a triad, repeated between the hands, while the euphonium gets the 3rd of the chord (an example). This is also weak writing. Give the piano full chords. The soloist will come out from that texture.

measure 18, that long upward "whoosh" in the left hand... it doesn't lead anywhere. at least, nothing it connects to.

measure 25-39 or so, I didn't think it was possible, but that right hand piano line is (take this at face value, not as an insult) very boring. it's the same notes, repeating, turning around the same notes, in the same register... it honestly looks like a viola part.

measure 42, the E natural in the left hand cannot be tied to the Eb of the next measure.

measure 44, left hand piano, the stems should be reversed, obviously.. the upper notes get up stems, the lower get down stems.

measure 52, left hand, change those D's to Bb's. and add the D to the right hand. it makes for a richer chord.

the fermatas on your final measure are a bit confusing in the piano part.
is the 1st beat held?

if your intention is just to indicate that the last note is held, then only put a fermata on that note. a piano part doesn't need a fermata in every voice. a single one, above the staff will suffice.
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ben

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Re: Euphonium & Piano Duet
« Reply #5 on: November 13, 2016, 03:12:30 PM »
Thanks for the detailed feedback, Michel. I'll look at those specific areas as well as the themes and write another draft soon! I appreciate your help and expertise.

ben

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Re: Euphonium & Piano Duet
« Reply #6 on: November 13, 2016, 07:44:12 PM »

measure 25-39 or so, I didn't think it was possible, but that right hand piano line is (take this at face value, not as an insult) very boring. it's the same notes, repeating, turning around the same notes, in the same register... it honestly looks like a viola part.


So this middle section is the melody of the actual hymn taken at half time in a minor key. My goal was to add enough color in the left hand and let the solo "dance" on top of the melody. Not effective?

Michel.R.E

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Re: Euphonium & Piano Duet
« Reply #7 on: November 13, 2016, 09:40:10 PM »
the piano is a particular instrument.
while it can create a very ponderous or clashing sound, a single-voice melody has to be extremely delicately accompanied or else it sounds weak and empty. If you really want that melody to come out, the simplest thing is to change register and double it in octaves. preferably even adding the 5th between the octaves (sort of "gregorian chant-ish, if you will).

remember that the other instrument in this group is a euphonium... a brass instrument. it may be a soft and delicate instrument when compared to the rest of the brass group, but in this context, it remains the more powerful of the two instruments.

back to the piano.
Piano writing has to balance elements.
The bass is louder than the upper register. The very upper doesn't sustain as well as the medium and low registers. Extreme upper register actually sounds more like a xylophone than a piano (thus its use in many orchestral pieces as either a doubling or a replacement for the xylophone).

a single-voice melody won't carry well against a busy accompaniment or one that is heavy with chords.
"Writing music to be revolutionary is like cooking to be famous: Music’s main function is not revolution. – Alan Belkin "

"Saying something new about something old is still saying something new. – Jamie Kowalski"

stevel

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Re: Euphonium & Piano Duet
« Reply #8 on: November 14, 2016, 06:17:49 PM »
I've never written an instrumental/piano duet before, so I tried my hand at it with a familiar hymn. I'll admit that there were several times that I had no idea what I should have the piano do. Are there any rules of thumb or good resources on writing piano accompaniments? Any thoughts on what I did here? Basically, I have a lot of scalar runs. Any advice appreciated. Thanks.

Ben, no offense, but this is a mess :-)

I'm not trying to be mean or anything, but helpful, so please please take it in that spirit.

1. Wind instruments need to breathe! The entire first section, the Euphonium doesn't even have a rest until the "piano break"! I'm surprised no one mentioned this yet (or maybe I missed it), but that's IMHO a bigger no-no than anything in the piano part. I'm not sure where the phrase breaks are in the original, but pretty much in those spots where you have a half note tied to a quarter, or maybe a dotted quarter, there should be a rest where the tied quarter is, or a rest where the dot falls.

2. My next "suggestion" is a little harder to quantify and maybe more philosophical than anything: I find a lot of composers seem to want to compose like "classical" (for lack of a better term) and don't understand it well enough to do so. Others want to compose "modern", but also aren't equipped to do so.

You'll hear a lot of people say "who cares, it's art, it can be anything you want, there is no RIGHT or WRONG"!!!!

However, I disagree with that statement. Because, as soon as you start sounding notes, we, the listener form a perception. And we as humans have this need it seems to "categorize" things - and we do so by comparing things to known things. So if someone starts of a piano work that sounds like the famous Mozart C Major Sonata (that begins with Alberti Bass in the left hand and outlines a C Major triad in the right hand - about as "classical" as you can get!) then we're immediately going to compare it to that and, more importantly, JUDGE IT BY THOSE STANDARDS.

As a result, your music will sound "wrong" or "bad" or "like a poor imitation of" or "obviously amateurish" and so on and so forth.

When this is the case, I feel like saying "well, it's my work, and I choose to write this way, and you can do anything in art" is really a cop out. It's really an excuse.

What you need to decide is, what "world" this piece is going to live in.

Michel pointed out that you had parallel octaves. No offense to him, but, really? That's a concern? I think there are a lot bigger issues. But his statement makes a valid point:

A. If you are trying to compose like "classical" music, Parallel Octaves would be a problem, and so would many other things here.

B. If you are not trying to compose like "classical" music, that's quite alright, and things like Parallel Octaves aren't a concern.

However, as your listeners, we (or I specifically) can't tell. It sounds like you're trying to do both, and it's not coming off well.

C. You're doing a lot of mixed meters, so it kind of puts it firmly at least in the 20th century. But your harmony is firmly triadic.

3. So what is it you're trying to accomplish? My suggestion would be, to use an existing piece as a model. You said you weren't sure, so it's great that you took the plunge and hopefully are OK with constructive criticism.

But, did you even look at any solo Euphonium pieces? Or hymns arranged for solo instrument and piano? Have you looked at piano parts to see what they do when they accompany a solo instrument?

IOW, you don't need to go into this blindly. Look at (and even learn to play) other music. You are "close enough" to tradition - and if you want to be more "correct" in terms of traditional composition, then the models will serve you well. If you're trying to be "avant-garde" or something, you're not even close :-)

Since you're learning, I would say, it appears you do want to stay more on the traditional side, though with a few modern elements, so look at music that does the same thing and see how they did it.

4. With regard to what piano usually does:

A. It can provide a completely accompanimental role sort of like you've done here. But generally speaking, things like this are more "consistent" traditionally. Likewise, traditionally, the accompanimental part "supports" the solo instrument, which is the "point of focus". You don't want your accompaniment instrument competing for dominance. Very often, the Piano simple sets the mood and the "backdrop" and the soloist "plays over" this background.

A1. Very often in the type of arrangement mentioned above, the accompanimental instrument will "fill in" in those spots where the soloist is not playing - like between phrases.

B. The Piano may also take a more active role in the melody. It may double the melody throughout (basically meaning the piece could be played by solo piano with the Euph.) or it may take its own sections of the melody, in alternation with the Euph. or as a B section, etc.

B1. There can be more of a "dialogue" between the instruments, where the Piano "echoes" the melody or plays a countermelody or imitative melody. It could also harmonize the melody either throughout are at various points (often done to "highlight" certain aspects of the melody or, when text-based, certain aspects of the text).

C. I'd like you to answer some questions for me Ben:

C1. Why did you choose Euphonium?

C2. At the beginning, it seems you are going for an "open" chord sound, with 5ths and 4ths in the Piano LH, possibly in an attempt to emulate a "churchy" sound. I'm curious why you chose a 4th interval for the 2nd chord, and just a single note for the D chord (beat 3 measure 2)

Supportively,
Steve

Michel.R.E

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Re: Euphonium & Piano Duet
« Reply #9 on: November 14, 2016, 08:08:35 PM »
Steve, remember that this is the beginner section of the forum. It's also a work in progress. So.. take that into consideration when thinking of posting harsh comments.

I pointed to the parallel octaves because they stuck out prominently upon just viewing the score (I didn't listen to it at all).

So when you comment on a work, try to keep your criticism of other posters to a minimum, it leads to a more civil environment.

My comments were almost entirely aimed at answering his question regarding piano writing. Since I am a concert pianist, and not a euphoniumist (or however it's written), I decided it would be best to keep to my own areas of expertise.

« Last Edit: November 14, 2016, 08:12:51 PM by Michel.R.E »
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ben

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Re: Euphonium & Piano Duet
« Reply #10 on: November 14, 2016, 08:13:35 PM »
I chose the euphonium because I play the euphonium. I wrote a part that I can play (and for the record, I have done some  considerable work with euphonium solos and played this one earlier today, so respectfully -- and I have not added phrasing marks yet -- I am not concerned about the breathing). As for other comments, I will dig in more deeply soon. Thanks for your feedback.

Michel.R.E

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Re: Euphonium & Piano Duet
« Reply #11 on: November 14, 2016, 08:14:58 PM »
Michel pointed out that you had parallel octaves. No offense to him, but, really? That's a concern? I think there are a lot bigger issues. But his statement makes a valid point:

A. If you are trying to compose like "classical" music, Parallel Octaves would be a problem, and so would many other things here.

B. If you are not trying to compose like "classical" music, that's quite alright, and things like Parallel Octaves aren't a concern.

Steve: I'd like to correct you here: parallel octaves are ALWAYS wrong, regardless of harmonic language. You will not find them in Mozart, and you will not find them in Boulez.
"Writing music to be revolutionary is like cooking to be famous: Music’s main function is not revolution. – Alan Belkin "

"Saying something new about something old is still saying something new. – Jamie Kowalski"

stevel

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Re: Euphonium & Piano Duet
« Reply #12 on: November 16, 2016, 04:38:55 PM »
Michel pointed out that you had parallel octaves. No offense to him, but, really? That's a concern? I think there are a lot bigger issues. But his statement makes a valid point:

A. If you are trying to compose like "classical" music, Parallel Octaves would be a problem, and so would many other things here.

B. If you are not trying to compose like "classical" music, that's quite alright, and things like Parallel Octaves aren't a concern.

Steve: I'd like to correct you here: parallel octaves are ALWAYS wrong, regardless of harmonic language. You will not find them in Mozart, and you will not find them in Boulez.

You seem to be defining parallel octaves differently or more specifically than I intended here. What I mean is, there are some musical styles where intervals that appear in parallel motion are considered Planing, or Doubling, and not "parallel 8ves" proper - i.e. in terms of contrapuntal definition.

In "classical" music, paralle 8ves would be astylistic. In contemporary composition, if intended to be non-traditional, the existence of parallels as planing or doubling is perfectly acceptable (and doubling has been acceptable in all styles traditionally).

My point is, if music is written that appears to be trying to be "non-traditional", the the parallels are not an issue - you can have parallel minor 7ths if you want.

And that's what I was getting at: if a listener is unsure of which "world" your piece lives in, it can make things that might be acceptable, unacceptable.

Michel.R.E

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Re: Euphonium & Piano Duet
« Reply #13 on: November 16, 2016, 07:27:32 PM »
Steve, I am defining parallel octaves exactly the way they should be described by any school of harmony or counterpoint: the appearance of two unison intervals between outer voices on two (or more) consecutive notes in an otherwise independent context. There's no other definition of "parallel octaves". Anything else is "doubling", which is completely different.
The issue here was not one of "planing" as you call it, or what I would call "doubling in octaves".
It was an issue of a single pair of octaves between soprano and bass, involving two otherwise independent lines: an issue in ANY musical language, tonal or otherwise.

Now, let's set this aside before it heats up and someone says something they will regret, shall we?

As I pointed out, this is the beginner section of the forum, and it is also the "works in progress" sub-section . As such we should reply with a courteous tone and without demeaning anyone else's work, nor retorting sarcastically to other members who have posted responses. This is simply not that kind of forum.
"Writing music to be revolutionary is like cooking to be famous: Music’s main function is not revolution. – Alan Belkin "

"Saying something new about something old is still saying something new. – Jamie Kowalski"

AO

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Re: Euphonium & Piano Duet
« Reply #14 on: December 18, 2016, 08:38:36 AM »
Some pretty good ideas there Ben, thought I heard a little Christmas stuff in there. My only observation that might be helpful is the Left Hand looks extremely busy, with my limited piano skills, that would be music I would have skip just by looking at it. :)