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Thread: Arnold Schoenberg

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    Default Arnold Schoenberg

    Happy Holidays Everyone

    I'm always looking for more theory knowledge and would like to start writing for orchestra. I dabble and have written for small strings quartet. Nothing major.

    I have recently bought Samuel Adler study of orchestration and Walter Piston - Harmony. But I hear Schoenberg was the best on the subject of Theory.

    Any help would be appreciated.

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    Senior Member mbhaub's Avatar
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    Not sure what you're looking for. A thorough knowledge of theory is essential for writing for orchestra, but writing well for large ensembles is a whole different topic and one fraught with dangers and difficulties. And it depends on what type of music you want to write.

    I assume you're trying to be self-taught? Nothing wrong with that, but it can be tough. For theory, I highly recommend a book written by Ricahrd Franko Goldman: Harmony in Western Music. There is no other book so concise, practical and thorough.

    Orchestration books are notoriously bad at the one thing most people want to learn: how to write for FULL orchestra. All of the books explain the individual instruments and their families. Most do a terrible job of explaining the extraordinarily complex task of writing for the whole shebang. Adler is just as bad as most.

    When I was learning to do it, the best teachers I had were the great composers of the past. The professor I was studying under had me go get scores of the masters and literally copy their score BY HAND onto blank paper with one major change: rewrite it in concert pitch. I got the insider's view on how and why these great composers and orchestrators wrote the way they did. Took a lot of time, but worth every minute. For text books, there was only one that really helped - the very old one by Ebenezer Prout: volume 2 is dedicated to orchestral combination, of course he wrote from a pretty traditional, late romantic point of view. But he explains everything so clearly.

    The other book I found invaluable was one written by John Cacavas: Music Arranging and Orchestration which is written for practical application and how he did it. Very, very useful.

    Another part of the puzzle is something I find very few people do anymore: read every score you can get your hands on. Read it "in your head". Read it along with a recording. You'll be amazed how much you can learn.

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    Quote Originally Posted by mbhaub View Post
    Not sure what you're looking for. A thorough knowledge of theory is essential for writing for orchestra, but writing well for large ensembles is a whole different topic and one fraught with dangers and difficulties. And it depends on what type of music you want to write.

    I assume you're trying to be self-taught? Nothing wrong with that, but it can be tough. For theory, I highly recommend a book written by Ricahrd Franko Goldman: Harmony in Western Music. There is no other book so concise, practical and thorough.

    Orchestration books are notoriously bad at the one thing most people want to learn: how to write for FULL orchestra. All of the books explain the individual instruments and their families. Most do a terrible job of explaining the extraordinarily complex task of writing for the whole shebang. Adler is just as bad as most.

    When I was learning to do it, the best teachers I had were the great composers of the past. The professor I was studying under had me go get scores of the masters and literally copy their score BY HAND onto blank paper with one major change: rewrite it in concert pitch. I got the insider's view on how and why these great composers and orchestrators wrote the way they did. Took a lot of time, but worth every minute. For text books, there was only one that really helped - the very old one by Ebenezer Prout: volume 2 is dedicated to orchestral combination, of course he wrote from a pretty traditional, late romantic point of view. But he explains everything so clearly.

    The other book I found invaluable was one written by John Cacavas: Music Arranging and Orchestration which is written for practical application and how he did it. Very, very useful.

    Another part of the puzzle is something I find very few people do anymore: read every score you can get your hands on. Read it "in your head". Read it along with a recording. You'll be amazed how much you can learn.
    Wow thank you for the great advice. I'm a classically trained guitarist and I do have some music theory training but nothing to advance when it comes to writing for other instruments. But I guess if you're creative and have a great imagination it shouldn't be too difficult especially with all the software that's available today. If it sounds bad it must be wrong but if it sounds good it must be right.

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    Do exactly what mbhaub did. Don't just read scores, also copy them (or sections thereof) out onto a few staves as in a short score, perhaps section by section to see how the instruments are combined, taking note of any interlocking, juxtaposition etc, along with spacing, doubling, phrasing, range and dynamics. Doing this will reinforce any insights into the various ways instruments can be combined and doubled. If you do it orchestral section by section, a picture will build up as to how to combine the whole orchestra and what works for any given situation. Ultimately, the goal is to be able to think orchestrally at the composing stage and not as an afterthought.

    A word of warning re. software. Anything can be made to work with samples and/or midi, good or bad and if it sounds good to uninitiated ears, it doesn't mean to say it is practical or realistic. Also, one only has to listen to a GM, or in some cases, sampled Sibelius playback of a great score to see the damage that can be done to well written music when played electronically. High end samples are admittedly far superior, especially those from OT, VSL and SFA et al, but they are only as convincing as the knowledge that has programmed them and they are limited to general techniques with the odd effects patches here and there.

    Idiomatic writing takes several years of study as does orchestration - the more you put into study and exercises, the better you will become but be prepared for the long haul if you want to do it well or to a professional standard. Online resources exist too but there is no easy route.
    Last edited by mikeh375; Dec-25-2019 at 15:58.
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    Arnold Schoenberg (1874 – 1951)
    Perhaps you find info in this earlier thread
    “Never argue with an idiot. They will drag you down to their level and beat you with experience.” ― Mark Twain

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    Thanks
    Studying scores sounds like the smartest thing to do.

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    Yes, studying scores is a smart thing. And fortunately almost any score you would want from the masters is available for free nowadays. But not always: One of the most frustrating things about score study is that so many that we want to see, to learn from, you can't get. I'm talking about pops arrangements and movie music. And light classical, too. For decades there were composers who wrote for salon orchestras - people like Ketelbey, Farnon, Coates, Herbert and many others. Music in copyright is really difficult to access, and even then you can often only get a condensed score. I love the sound that someone like George Melachrino could wrest from an orchestra, but learning his method was a challenge. I finally borrowed a couple of his arrangements, copied all the orchestral parts to create full score and voila! His voicing, doublings and all became clear. I also learned to never trust computer software. I like to use Finale, and listening to it's playback can sure pinpoint wrong notes and such. But it doesn't come close to what a real orchestra will sound like. And getting orchestra time to read music is very difficult and often expensive. In that regard I'm lucky as I have access to two groups that will read and usually play anything I arrange. Arranging for smaller ensembles is easier and the computer can actually do a decent job playing it back.

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    I do have a couple of scores I just haven't found the time to look them over but I am going to make time. I have Star Wars, Superman and Psycho. I'll have to look up Melachrino. I often compose small string quartets because there's not much instrumentation and it's also a lot of fun. I use sibelius with garritan plugin.

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    Quote Originally Posted by ClassicalMaestro View Post
    I do have a couple of scores I just haven't found the time to look them over but I am going to make time. I have Star Wars, Superman and Psycho. I'll have to look up Melachrino. I often compose small string quartets because there's not much instrumentation and it's also a lot of fun. I use sibelius with garritan plugin.
    Whatever you use CMaestro, do consider supplementing it with study as to what is actually possible and what sounds well in the real world because there is always a danger that a novice (not necessarily you of course) will be influenced by the actual sound of the playback, much to their own creative detriment. This is a real danger to potentiality within a composer, one that can be compounded by practices such as midistration. There is nothing wrong with scoring for a faux, digital musical world of course and there is plenty of great music written this way, but if you want total mastery and a freedom from creative constraints (ie sample limitations), then the road is longer and harder. Clearly it's down to what your priorities are but do bear in mind that the more you know, the more creative you can be and the more prepared and able you will be. Besides, samples sound at their most convincing when they ape reality in all aspects of performance.

    John Williams famously does not use digital means to create his music and as a result, his scores are vibrant, idiomatic, unbounded and imaginative - part of the great tradition of orchestral writing stretching back to late romanticism. To achieve that level of competence and creative freedom requires more than a DAW but it's only consistent and focused hard work and time that is asked of one - a small price to pay for the personal rewards given. I wish you well in your studies, whichever way you decide to create.
    Last edited by mikeh375; Dec-27-2019 at 10:41.
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    A classic that is a wealth of good resource and it's free online....

    http://www.gutenberg.org/files/33900...-h/33900-h.htm
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    Yeah - a real classic and with lots of real-world, practical advice. And lots of scores (his, of course) to demonstrate. RK was the teacher and inspiration of Respighi, Ravel, Prokofieff, Shostakovich and many others. Not a bad track record.

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    Quote Originally Posted by ClassicalMaestro View Post
    I have recently bought Samuel Adler study of orchestration and Walter Piston - Harmony. But I hear Schoenberg was the best on the subject of Theory.
    Yes, he was the best on the subject of theory for sure. If you want become the best theoretical master ever walked this planet I can highly recommend his books. If you don't have his books in your bookshelf - no theoretical master will ever respect or even love you - imagine what a greek tragedy that would be. Unbelievable...

    I can sell them to you. Just hurry up - everybody who wants to become a great theoretical master wants to have this books now.

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    Great thank you.

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    Quote Originally Posted by mikeh375 View Post
    A classic that is a wealth of good resource and it's free online....

    http://www.gutenberg.org/files/33900...-h/33900-h.htm
    Thank you I'll check it out. I'm looking for small easy scores to study. Any recommendations?

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    Get a DAW like LOGIC and then add Vienna Orchestral samples, then a book about how to orchestrate in that app. Then you can hear your results immediately. This is how movie soundtracks are made.

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