Copyright and transposing - Assistance required!

Discussion in 'The Rehearsal Room' started by Di B, Oct 8, 2003.

  1. Di B

    Di B Member

    Hi all,

    Have a problem and need help from those more knowledgeable than myself (so thats all of you! :lol: )

    I want two cornet players from my training band to play a duet and have thought of the ideal piece for them. It is a fairly new piece, certainly under strict copyright rules.

    Our band has the brass band arrangement in the library so I do have the originals.

    My problem is that one of the cornet solo parts goes up to a top Bb - this is too high for the player in question. The second part goes up to a top G and that is *just* manageable by the second soloist.

    I am wondering if there is anything I can do to make the piece more playable without breaking copyright laws?

    Taking it down the octave won't work at all.... and the only other thing I can think of is transposing it from Eb Major into say, C Major which would solve the issue, but again, does this break copyright laws?

    Also, as I do not have a full compliment of instruments in the training band is it against copyright to combine the euph and trom part for a euphonium for example? (Thinking in the way of cues here?)

    Sorry if I seem thick - copyright and royalties etc are something I have never had to deal with before - if anyone can give any general advice in these areas it would also be very welcome and stop me getting into trouble! :wink:

    Many thanks
  2. Naomi McFadyen

    Naomi McFadyen New Member

    I wouldnt have thought adjusting a few notes would have hurt...
    Just lower the harmonies so it's comfortable for your players :)
    If you break copyright laws, you only do so when you publish or sell it without permission.
  3. Roger Thorne

    Roger Thorne Active Member

    Sorry Naomi, buts that is incorrect.

    Most publications will carry a copyright notice at the bottom of the page which usually reads something like:

    Unauthorised reproduction of any part of this publication by any means including photocopying is an infringement of copyright.

    Translated, it basically means if its in copyright you can not legally alter it.

    So Di, you have three options available: Play the music as wirtten, apply to the publisher for permission to alter it, or pick another piece that is not in copyright.

    Remember: When you buy a piece of music you are only paying for the services provided by the publisher, i.e: The publishers costs. You are not buying the copyright! The copyright still remains with the publisher.

    Hope that's been some help.

  4. yorkyboy

    yorkyboy Member

    No one is going to be bothered about you adjusting a piece like that for your own purposes. I would think its is 99.9% unlikely that you will have the puplisher knocking on your door asking what you have done to the music. The conductor at our junior band is forever arranging pieces which would have copyright rules against them as there is not a appropriate version of it for the players he has available to him. Lets have a bit of common sense
  5. Mike Saville

    Mike Saville Member

    Technically Roger is correct.

    However, I can't remember the last time I played a solo and stuck rigidly to what was on the printed page - I always do my own thing - creative licence I thnk it's called :)
  6. Roger Thorne

    Roger Thorne Active Member

    Unfortunately the publishers who own copyrights don't see it the same way, and to be honest if you are advertising the fact on here it wouldn't suprise me if you do have the publishers knocking at your door!

    I'll be absolutely honest here and let you know that many years ago I was doing exactly the same thing. Until I was caught!

    Believe me, its just not worth the risk.

  7. yorkyboy

    yorkyboy Member

    I agree that technically you are correct roger but if somebody who is working with a youth band cant just transpose a piece to make it easier for a couple of young players its pretty bad state of affairs. They have at least purchased the originals.
  8. Di B

    Di B Member

    Thankyou for all your info.... I know it is a huge topic of debate.

    Roger, I don't think the publishers (or more so the composer) would allow me to change the notation on the music as the composer has recently tightened the rights on his music even more than they used to be!

    How do you get kids to enjoy music when so few decent (teen friendly) pieces are written for brass bands or junior bands?

    Kaliedescope (sp) are very good but at £35 for a score and parts my band cannot afford it and of course I wouldn't dream of photocopying... so no arrangement of Star Wars then :cry:

    Themes from television, films and pop songs are what kids would really like to play and I admit it seems a damn shame that there are no arrangents out there that can be used and people like me wouldn't know where to start due to the potentially legal landmine!!!!

    I understand the copyright laws (about 70 years after composers death etc) but if a piece is still under copyright how do you find out/get permission to arrange etc?
  9. Naomi McFadyen

    Naomi McFadyen New Member

    write to the publishers to get copyright permission...

    As with the tread and questioning of changing a few notes...

    Just say they mispitched it by so much ;o)
  10. Di B

    Di B Member

    lol! Or they were reading the sop copy! With the piece I am thinking of that is actually quite appropriate! *grins*
  11. Naomi McFadyen

    Naomi McFadyen New Member

    :D :lol: :D :lol: :D :lol: :guiness

    Sorted ;)
  12. beard_4b

    beard_4b Member

    "i think its absolutely disgusting"
  13. James McFadyen

    James McFadyen New Member

    Just to show the risk involved, an individual can be fined upto £30,000 and an Organisation upto £60,000. and you may even be locked up!!

    As a composer (and publisher) it would be unethical and unprofessional for me to say 'no one will notice or even bother' that may be true, but like Roger say's it ain't worth the risk.

    Besides, takeing an arrangment down a whole major 5th WILL lead to catasrophoic results in one way or another in terms of the scoring. You can't simply say, oh well, take it down to Eb, beacuse all the harmonies will go down to low and will probably cause problems for the bass parts, the harmonies would probably have to be re-written to suit the key and the piece in question.

    If you do need to transpose; go up a minor 2nd (semitone) for a more brillant effect, or go down a minor 2nd (semitone) for the opposite effect.
  14. Naomi McFadyen

    Naomi McFadyen New Member

    Oh yes I completly agree James; but surely just changing the harmonies in the duo melody down a third each to make life easier for these up and coming players is fine... then surely you'd just need to put the higher note in sop, or something else an octave below... surely little things like this is ok without getting a fine (or jail, whatever! lol)... I'm sure that lower section bands mess about with the score all the time in contesting as well as concerts... (well, I know this cos the bands I've played in previously have done it)
  15. PeterBale

    PeterBale Moderator Staff Member

    Just to clarify, the transposition quoted was from Eb down to C (a minor 3rd, not a 5th) - think you were confused by the reference to Bb as the top note. On the subject of brightness when transposing, it can also make a difference if the new key leads to more "open" notes (no valves or 1st position for the trombones), which can sound brighter.
  16. Anglo Music Press

    Anglo Music Press Well-Known Member


    Many of us think the copyright laws are difficult to police, but the line HAS to be drawn somewhere.

    In my experiance, publishers would be delighted if your were to contact them about rearranging the piece in a different key. They much prefer that to having done illegally.

    They have the right to say yes or no (on artistic grounds) but will usually say yes and may make a small charge to licence the rearrangement. This is not unreasonable and means you are staying the right side of the law. They are not trying to make extra money out of you, just protecting their rights, and may think your new version is worth publishing in its own right if there is a widespread need for it.

    So PLEASE contact the publisher about it !!!!
  17. Di B

    Di B Member

    Ummmm..... just to clarify... I was joking about the solo cornet 'accidentally' reading the sop part for those that didn't realise! *Anyway, without amending the whole band it would sound awfully bad don't ya know! lol!)

    Still not really sure what to do - I guess the best answer is to leave it alone :cry:

    Any ideas on an alternative cornet duet I could use that is grade 4-5 standard with simple band/quarter parts?

  18. Richard Dyson

    Richard Dyson Member

    This is an interesting one from what has been said when it comes to contesting. Does switching a part from say Baritone to Tenor Horn etc therefore breach copyright? Not that any bands do that sort of thing of course :wink:
  19. RThomp7462

    RThomp7462 Member

    I agree with Philip Sparke

    I take Philip's line of reasoning.

    I would always allow (if you've bought an original set) for you to rearrange it to suit the players of your band if it's our copyright, and we are asked on numerous occasions. As long if's not for resale or financial gain.

    But it's best to get written permission (which we would give), then you are covered if anyone questions the copyright situation.

    Also it is rare for the composer to retain the copyright, this normally remains with the publisher, so asking the composer would be no help.

    Hope this helps

    Roger Thompson
    Wright & Round Limited
  20. Dave Payn

    Dave Payn Active Member


    As a trumpeter/cornettist AND employee of the Performing Right Society, I'd say.... it's a tricky one! I appreciate the replies from publishers that you've had. It's a grey area because firstly, as an example, all sorts of things get altered for recordings. It's particularly true of brass bands. (I mean how many recordings have you heard of old test pieces which have suddenly been spruced up with extra percussion parts? Did the bands concerned ALL get permission? I recall one composer admonishing a top rank band and/or their conductor for including a previosuly unused suspended cymbal in a recording of his piece. I'm not naming names....) Maybe, maybe not....). I've seen college students perform brass band works on orchestral brass instruments (which means French Horns transposing and basses and trombones more used to reading bass clef, reading treble clef). I would guess that in those instances, no re-writing or written transposition of the parts would be necessary, simply a case of said players transposing in their heads from the original.

    I would say the best bet in this case, seeing as the rights are generally owned by the publisher, is to contact them directly and explain your position. (Sorry if this reply comes too late, it's my first post! But it would apply generally anyway), then at least you'll have the answer from the horse's mouth. Obviously, if you wished to arrange works for different forces (i.e. from brass band to orchestra, wind band or even orchestral brass - and you wish to produce a different manuscript from the original printed version) then permission must be sought from the copyright owner (again, usually the publisher).

    I hope I've been of some help and hope that (in my work capacity anyway) I can be of more use to this forum in the future.


    Dave Payn
    Fulham Brass Band

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