Lyrics & Knowledge Personal Pages Record Shop Auction Links Radio & Media Kids Membership Help
The Mudcat Cafemuddy

Post to this Thread - Sort Descending - Printer Friendly - Home


Help with piano arrangements

GUEST,Mister Fish 16 Oct 08 - 10:49 PM
The Fooles Troupe 16 Oct 08 - 11:43 PM
katlaughing 17 Oct 08 - 12:21 AM
Will Fly 17 Oct 08 - 04:16 AM
Mooh 17 Oct 08 - 06:00 AM
Will Fly 17 Oct 08 - 06:09 AM
Darowyn 17 Oct 08 - 06:36 AM
GUEST,leeneia 17 Oct 08 - 12:12 PM
Tootler 17 Oct 08 - 05:29 PM
katlaughing 17 Oct 08 - 10:59 PM
Howard Kaplan 17 Oct 08 - 11:48 PM
The Fooles Troupe 18 Oct 08 - 12:26 AM
GUEST,leeneia 18 Oct 08 - 10:23 AM
katlaughing 18 Oct 08 - 11:15 AM
The Fooles Troupe 18 Oct 08 - 09:59 PM
GUEST 01 Nov 10 - 03:32 PM
Stringsinger 01 Nov 10 - 05:53 PM
Nick 01 Nov 10 - 07:38 PM
Nick 01 Nov 10 - 07:49 PM
Share Thread
more
Lyrics & Knowledge Search [Advanced]
DT  Forum
Sort (Forum) by:relevance date
DT Lyrics:





Subject: Help with piano arrangements
From: GUEST,Mister Fish
Date: 16 Oct 08 - 10:49 PM

Hey everyone... I'm pulling together a small traditional band (piano, violin, vocal) with a few friends. As the only person with any knowledge of music theory, it's fallen on my back to work out all the arrangements. My own compositional experience is highly limited, and none of us have ever played folk music before, so I could really use a few pointers. I'm trying to strike a balance between not completely betraying the tradition and coming up with some schmaltzy overarranged crap and something that doesn't sound too folky that it wouldn't appeal to the more mainstream audience we'd end up playing for.

Anyway, the Gaol Song (Treadmill Song) is the first song I'm tackling. Our basic plan was to have the violin just play the melody with one or two embellishments here and there. I'm not sure if this is a good idea or not... maybe the violin should be playing some sort of countermelody?

The piano is giving me the most problem though. Right now, I have the left hand just playing two chords (Am and Dm) to keep the rhythm, while the right hand runs over the melody with a few added intervals here and there. While this definitely avoids the pitfalls of overrangement, I'm not sure how full or even good this will end up sounding. Also, I'm worried about the piece being over repetitive. While running through it by myself today, I improvised a nice thundering chordal crescendo for the last verse that deviates a bit from the rest of the arrangement, but I'm not sure that's enough variation for a teen-aged rock-oriented audience. Are there any tricks I could throw in to break up the monotony without totally departing from more traditional structure or sound? (I hope nobody tells me that in that case, I should just take out the piano. =P I've seen this board express its distaste for the instrument in traditional music.)

Anyway, I hope I made my goals clear enough that I can pick up a few tips here and there. I'm new at this game, so even the smallest pointer will be appreciated. Thanks, all. =)


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Help with piano arrangements
From: The Fooles Troupe
Date: 16 Oct 08 - 11:43 PM

I think it would look best over by the window, where the light is better...

oh, sorry...

"Arranging" is something that people spend lifetimes working on, so I'm not being facetious when I say that there really are NO 'tricks', but then again, there are 'lots".

The best advice (if you want to be 'creative') is to "mix it up", but not too much so that it sounds totally uncontrolled (overarranged).

With regard to 'arranging' and I'm also talking about 'arranging a whole concert' here too - is to listen carefully, and as many times as is necessary to see the tricks, to the "Hot August Night" Live concert by Neil Diamond.

As for your current perceived problem involving the piano - take a step back and think on this. Like a painter, you are dealing with aural 'colours and textures', and you need to emphasise or contrast them.

Some of the early 'folk, country, big band, etc' acoustic music would often have 'solos', not just to boost individual egos, but for aural contrast.

"Right now, I have the left hand just playing two chords (Am and Dm) to keep the rhythm, while the right hand runs over the melody with a few added intervals here and there."

So that instrument is just being used like some sort of 'rhythmic drone', with no change? Would you have the violin just scrape away the same? Would you have the vocal drone on without breaks?

I'm a Pipe Organ & Piano Accordion player. The one rule is: there are lots of buttons, keys and switches - you don't have to use them ALL, all the time! :-)

Stop trying to think about just individual instruments, but focus on the 'orchestra' as a whole. When driving a car, you don't focus on just the wheel, or the pedals, but you use all in together in synchronism to do particular tasks, speed up while turning a corner, etc. Sometimes you need to brake in a straight line, sometimes you need to turn a corner at the same speed. What you do depends on the road.

The same concept with music. Trying to draw up lists of 'what noises to make at particular times' is not music, but it does sound disturbingly close to what someone here wants to promote as "English Folk Music", on which topics a lot of wonderful experience and advice has been expended with little evidence of that someone comprehending and incorporating it.

Relax, you didn't learn to play your instrument overnight, you won't archive mastery of the skill of arranging overnight either. Start off by keeping it simple, so that the musos can actually achieve the desired effects.

Education: you can search for relevant books, and websites, but the best thing you can do is use your ears - listen to lots of the style of music you want to arrange, and pick and choose the bits you like that work together. This is of course a minor problem if you are new to the style.

Hope that my OPINION helps for a start - other will be along with other OPINIONS - pick and choose what works for you.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Help with piano arrangements
From: katlaughing
Date: 17 Oct 08 - 12:21 AM

I'll ask my brother, the composer and pianist, for some input, but I agree with Foolstroupe...very well put. I love singing harmony, so my thoughts go immediately to that with respect to any of the instruments.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Help with piano arrangements
From: Will Fly
Date: 17 Oct 08 - 04:16 AM

It's not really what combination of instruments you use per se (though perhaps jaws harp & spoons might be considered weird, for example) but, as has been said above, what you do with 'em. As to piano being considered not quite right for folk, I was watching a June Tabor concert on BBC4 the other night - backed by guitar, double bass, sax, melodeon - and piano. Sounded great - and the piano was used very sensitively and differently on each track on which it appeared.

I played guitar for some years in a mainstream jazz band where, occasionally, a pianist would sit in. Whether the paino and guitar meshed or competed (and there was huge potential for the latter) really did depend on both players listening carefully to each other. Generally speaking on these occasions, less was more. A principle you might want to apply, at first, when you have a crack at it all. Best of luck.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Help with piano arrangements
From: Mooh
Date: 17 Oct 08 - 06:00 AM

(I hope nobody tells me that in that case, I should just take out the piano. =P I've seen this board express its distaste for the instrument in traditional music.)

Lots of piano in Canadian east coast acts I've seen. Folk is what you make it.

Peace, Mooh.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Help with piano arrangements
From: Will Fly
Date: 17 Oct 08 - 06:09 AM

Hi Mooh - how's it hanging? Piano is a great instrument, whatever music you're playing. Don't hear many piano jokes around, do you. Or do you?

Cheers,

Will


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Help with piano arrangements
From: Darowyn
Date: 17 Oct 08 - 06:36 AM

The big problem with piano arrangements is that the piano covers the whole acoustic spectrum, so if the piano player really gets into it, he or she leaves no room for anyone else.
So your first rule should be, do not play in the same octave as the singer, except for little fills at the end of the lines to "answer" the melody while the singer is taking a breath.
Second, if the violin is playing the melody, play a simple counter melody below it- think of what a cello might play!
Thirdly, if you are playing with a guitarist, your left hand chords will mask the guitar's frequencies, so you need to 'thin out' your left hand playing. Go for a single note bass line based on chord notes and scale runs between them.
Also, remember what pianoforte means- you have a huge dynamic range, and will need to use it sensitively.
Personally, I think that the piano should never double the melody line, because it sounds like a teacher playing hymns in a school assembly. If your singer needs that to stay in tune, you need a different singer.
Cheers
Dave


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Help with piano arrangements
From: GUEST,leeneia
Date: 17 Oct 08 - 12:12 PM

I play piano for my own entertainment. I select good tunes (some classical, some popular) and put the chords on them. Then I improvise off the chords.

Here are some thoughts and techniques.

1. Watch out that the piano doesn't get too loud and drown others out. The piano is an immense, powerful instrument.

2. Speaking just for myself, I dislike the Cape-Breton thumping style where the pianist whacks out block chords, often drowning out the soloist.

3. Unless you are very competent, writing out every note of a pianist's part will be very time consuming. I suggest you find a pianist who is good at improvisation (they vary in their skill at that) and just provide the chords and tips.

Examples of tips I give myself:

D - low   D chord down in the bass

D - middle D starting at the D below middle C

D + 5 - play only the tonic and fifth, no thirds. This often solves harmonic difficulties.

music box - means putting the hands close together up high and letting it all tinkle

D thump - strike a block chord and let it die away. good for passages that are going up and down stepwise

p - play it piano, or softly. used esp. when one note in a measure doesn't fit the chord

and finally:

rest.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Help with piano arrangements
From: Tootler
Date: 17 Oct 08 - 05:29 PM

Try things out. Involve the other members of the band and get them to make suggestions. Buy a little digital recorder so you can play back your efforts. Let the arrangement evolve. It is surprising how an effective arrangement can emerge from this process.

Obviously it is helpful for you to have some initial ideas to get things going, but involving the others makes keeps everyone interested. Your job as "arranger" is then to keep a record of what has been agreed.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Help with piano arrangements
From: katlaughing
Date: 17 Oct 08 - 10:59 PM

From my brother, the composer: he suggests first and foremost, sit down and play what sounds good to you and let it be. His philosophy is if it sounds/feels good to you, other folks will probably like it, too.

If you want some more, he suggests syncopation as in the left hand playing the chords in syncopation to the singer, plus you don't always have to have the four-part harmony all of the time, you can break that up; let one voice, i.e. instrument, drop out a bit.

He says not to get too cerebral, just play it over and do what sounds good!:-)

Here's one of his songs and here's one of his classical piano pieces.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Help with piano arrangements
From: Howard Kaplan
Date: 17 Oct 08 - 11:48 PM

I'm another non-pianist who'd like to know more about what's possible to do with a piano in arrangements. My ear isn't good enough to understand what's happening just by listening; I'd like to add my eye to the process, and I wouldn't at all mind reading some explanatory text.

Specifically, I'm hoping that there's a web site or book along the lines of "Handbook of typical folk and popular piano styles", something that would give brief examples of blues, ragtime, cabaret, Cape Breton, and other styles, many of whose names I don't even know, especially as these styles are used in song accompaniment. I'd like to be able to look at a few lines of music in standard notation and hear the corresponding sound, either as an .mp3 file or a MIDI file. Does anyone know of such a resource?


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Help with piano arrangements
From: The Fooles Troupe
Date: 18 Oct 08 - 12:26 AM

It looks like you might have to write it, as you know what you want.... :-)

As they say, those who can...

Need help?
;-)


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Help with piano arrangements
From: GUEST,leeneia
Date: 18 Oct 08 - 10:23 AM

Thanks for the links, kat. I enjoyed the rondo. (Haven't listened to the song yet.)

As for your brother's advice, what does he mean by syncopation? I've heard that word used different ways.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Help with piano arrangements
From: katlaughing
Date: 18 Oct 08 - 11:15 AM

Thanks, leeneia!

What I understand him to mean is off-beat from the rhythm of the singer or other instruments. He said Mozart did it in the Magic Flute and elsewhere. I'll talk with him today and ask for examples. I'll also ask him about your question, Howard.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Help with piano arrangements
From: The Fooles Troupe
Date: 18 Oct 08 - 09:59 PM

Wikipedia - as good as any quick definition

In music, syncopation includes a variety of rhythms which are in some way unexpected in that they deviate from the strict succession of regularly spaced strong and weak beats in a meter (pulse). These include a stress on a normally unstressed beat or a rest where one would normally be stressed. "If a part of the measure that is usually unstressed is accented, the rhythm is considered to be syncopated."


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Help with piano arrangements
From: GUEST
Date: 01 Nov 10 - 03:32 PM

I am working on this song as well - playing lots of quite open chords on my bouzouki and using the keyboard(my mate) playing a plainer background to echo the monotony of the treadmill activity although varying it. For my money, I would experiment with using the violin using drones and i would personally tend not to try and follow the melody as I have found I am taking a very freeform view with the vocals from a timing point of view and to have someone try and dictate a phrasing pattern for the words would destroy it for me and take away all the creative vocal bit. You just have to experiment. I have been living with this song for a couple of months now and it has changed substantially from the first effort. I am still not sure it is where it will end up - and I have got to layer possibly cello and definitely trumpet on top , poss with me playing euphonium in a simple but harmonic instrumental bit as well. Its all good fun.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Help with piano arrangements
From: Stringsinger
Date: 01 Nov 10 - 05:53 PM

Only one caveat. Most piano players in an ensemble tend to overplay with too many arpeggios, too much use of the sostenuto or damper pedal. Keep it sparse, simple
and rhythmic.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Help with piano arrangements
From: Nick
Date: 01 Nov 10 - 07:38 PM

One of my favourite two players (not folk though so it won't be everyone's cup of tea) were Jim Hall and Bill Evans. The interplay between the instruments is, to me, lovely and they don't trample on each others toes and can still do lots of light and shade.

If you have Spotify (I'm not sure if this will work)-

Beija-Flor


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Help with piano arrangements
From: Nick
Date: 01 Nov 10 - 07:49 PM

The other thought is to nip onto Youtube and look at Transatlantic Sessions and see how they integrate a piano and fiddle (and others)

Or Stephane Grapelli and Oscar Peterson...


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate
  Share Thread:
More...

Reply to Thread
Subject:  Help
From:
Preview   Automatic Linebreaks   Make a link ("blue clicky")


Mudcat time: 21 July 11:36 PM EDT

[ Home ]

All original material is copyright © 1998 by the Mudcat Café Music Foundation, Inc. All photos, music, images, etc. are copyright © by their rightful owners. Every effort is taken to attribute appropriate copyright to images, content, music, etc. We are not a copyright resource.