Two-Part Writing for Horns with Fred Stickley: Session #2

by | May 5, 2020 | Video


Hello music lovers, songwriters, arrangers, boys and girls out there in internet land. This is our second session of writing for horns for your rock ‘n roll or jazz group.

We had started out talking about trumpets and tenor saxophone because I have a jazz group and that’s what we have, and I thought it would be a good place to start which is two horns. It’s kind of its own thing, very different from writing from three and four and five horns. We’ll get into that later on.

I don’t know if I missed this before but I’m assuming that you know something about chords and notation. If you don’t, there are some other information online that can help you with that.

Also, on reading your horn players, I can help you with some of that. Horn players aren’t necessarily arrangers. A lot of times they don’t know some of these concepts, but they typically know how to read, and they can help you get through that hurdle if you have troubles there.

We ended up last session with talking about octaves. Just write your trumpet in tenor saxophone and octave sounds great in a rock scenario. Sound is big and fat. That’s especially true if my trumpet is up above the staff. I’ll just write them in the octaves because in the tenor it gets kind of thin when it gets up there and it won’t sound as good.

A lot of this depends on who’s playing your horns for you and how good the players are. But typically, it’s going to sound a little thin, so I wouldn’t really write intervals for the trumpet in sax unless the trumpet was somewhere in the staff.

The trumpet sound is different depending on… you know all colors or instruments sound different depending on where they are in their range. That big brilliant high stuff you hear on old R&B records the trumpet is above the staff. In the staff is really nice sound too.

Let’s say the chord is a C7 chord. I’m just recapping a little bit what we did last session. Let’s say he’s playing C, D, and E. And then let’s say he’s going to play a half note.

Okay. So, we’re in 4/4 time. Okay. So, he’s going one and two, three, four. So, the sax down here if he wants to he could play a sixth down which would make… This is the first degree, second, third. Okay. So, he would play E, F, G. And then it’s a B. So, there is C7. And so, I would jump up to a B flat which is the seventh. The trumpet is playing the fifth degree.

Notice how we wrote out our trumpet first and then wrote our stuff underneath. That’s what you want to do – you want to write your lead part out first. It makes it so much easier. And that’s really what your ear hears when the band plays. I don’t care if it’s five horns. Whatever that lead trumpet player is playing or whoever the top voice is, that’s what your ear hears and then you just hear the harmony underneath.

There we have it. Now, if we want to do it… Now it’s going to be open. That’s going to have a nice sound too because the sax is down in its range. If you want, instead of sixes we could do thirds. Okay. And then he would be up to there, so he would be playing A. There is your B flat, C natural. And notice now I have three voices. Well, if you have trombone in the mix, the tenor would play the middle voice and the trombone would play the lower voice. We’re going to get into some three-part writing later on.

Also, my horn players also play flugelhorn and flute. What I do in that scenario a lot is instead of the flugelhorn being on there… Basically the flugelhorn – let me back up – is the same range as a trumpet. It’s just got that beautiful round sound. And typically, when I write for flugelhorn, I try to stay in the staff down low. I’ll get up to F and G but mainly you know it’s all around being in the staff and getting that most out of the instrument, right.

On the flute, the most of flutes that you see are C and their lowest note is middle C up to like a… Let me see. Here’s C. Here’s C. And I believe they can get up to this next C, D, E, F, G, A, B, C. Up to there. Okay? So, typically what I do with flugelhorn and flute is if I’m going to write octaves I’ll put the flute on top.

There’s the timer. And I’ll put the flute, so the flugelhorn will be down here, and the flute will be up there. That’s what I do when I write intervals 2/4. Like in this scenario here, this top note would be flute and this bottom note would be flugelhorn. So, just the reverse of what you would do for trumpet and tenor. Flugelhorn is nice. I love it when my saxophone person can double on flute because that’s a whole another color that you can bring into the palette.

Anyway, don’t forget to send me a comment. I would love to hear from you. I love to know that there’s people on the other side. If you have any suggestions, any tips, any questions, I’d love to hear from you. All right. Thanks for stopping by.