Home Topic One-shot on arranging horns!
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    James Paskaruk
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    Like the title says, something that gets into the weeds of reggae horn arrangements (and whatever general horn knowledge one needs) would be very useful. Anecdote follows.

    Dub City Foundation had our usual rehearsal yesterday. On our setlist is Roots Reggae Music (henceforth RRM) by Rebelution. I have heretofore been playing a piano skank with left hand and doing all the horn blast stuff with my right, though only in the last couple of practices have both been happening at once lol. I also put a small clav section into my splits cause there’s a little clav lick in there, but so far I have not managed to integrate it into my performance at all.

    Anyways, the horn blasts are just various inversions of chord tones, nothing weird there, and I’ve been using some sort of generalized realistic “brass” patch, and as long as it’s just me it doesn’t actually matter what patch I use, or even if I play the same thing every time. So it’s been going okay, as my accuracy improves.

    Up until yesterday, I didn’t really have it in my head that while people like to talk about “horn” sections, a horn section is actually two sections, the brass section and the woodwind section. Even if one or both of those sections only consist of one player.

    Long story short, the first thing I attempted to do once a real “horn” was in the room, was to hand the bottom notes of my RRM blasts to the sax player, who is extremely capable and grasped what I wanted immediately. But when we played the tune and I started only playing the top note of the blasts, basically he was standing a few feet from me and I could see and hear that he was doing the right thing, but functionally that note just disappeared from the mix, cause a quick short hit on a sax does not and will not ever have the “punch” of brass.

    (on the other hand, his bluesy lead solos were dreamy, so no worries there)

    I intend to have many productive conversations with him about this as well, but a one-shot (or even an in-depth course) doing a high-level view of horns from a producer and arranger’s standpoint would be some primo content for this site, because aside from old-school “Skatalites rhythm section” skanking and sexy lead solos… basically I realized yesterday just how much I still need to learn about these strange contraptions from the past. I’m gonna dig up Bill Bailey’s Guide To The Orchestra today as well…

    But like, okay, I learned to read sheets, great, but when horns come up people keep talking about the instruments being “in Bb” or whatever, and that there’s a need to transpose your sheet music. Now that just seems outlandishly bizarre to me, because well, ok, I know it’s just dots on a line, but still, Every Good Boy Does Fine, right? If you write a dot on the bottom line of the treble staff, that is always either an Every, or an Every#, or an Everyb, or some other number of piled accidentals on a note that is always and forever an Every, right?

    Cause people keep seeming to be telling me that sometimes, for some instruments, that if I want that instrument to play me a C, then I need to write a Bb for the player, or something weird like that. And that is very strange to me.

    I should have been put in band back in school, but I was not.

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