How to write music for Brass Band?

Discussion in 'The Rehearsal Room' started by xRinat, Mar 21, 2009.

  1. xRinat

    xRinat Member

    Since I was 14 I allways wanted to write music for Brass Band.

    I have no idea how famous composers do it, but I want to learn.

    What program do they use on the computer to write their own music for brass?
  2. ScaryFlugel

    ScaryFlugel Member

    I think the good ones don't write it on a computer...they write it in their head...
  3. Hells Bones

    Hells Bones Active Member

    Yep. Composers tend not to use computer tools to compose.

    Computers are generally used for notation because it's clear, it's easy to print copies and easily backed up.

    I don't know about other colleges (maybe Mr Tubb can tell us about RNCM) but at RWCMD the composition students are encouraged to compose without using sibelius, Finale, or this new thing that's appeared called Mozart and then transfer it when the composition is done.

    Obviously there can be exceptions to the rule but that's generally how they go.
  4. xRinat

    xRinat Member

    Oh. I saw an intervew with Philip Sparke, I think he mentioned he used computers for composing.
  5. benjaminuk

    benjaminuk Member

    When i compose Brass Band music, I use Siblieus 5. This is because its easy to understand and also it has a brass band template as well.
  6. ScaryFlugel

    ScaryFlugel Member

    yes and the trombones are in bass clef *smacks forehead*
  7. benjaminuk

    benjaminuk Member

    its not that much of a headache really, 3 simple actions and its changed.
  8. mikelyons

    mikelyons Supporting Member

    I think there are the same pitfalls to using a computer before you've gotten your ideas settled in your mind as there are using a calculator instead of your head for straightforward calculations - you get lazy.

    When you say you want to write, have you got ideas for tunes floating about in your head, or is it just wishful thinking?
  9. Squeaker

    Squeaker Member

    You're in luck xRinat! I'm lead to believe that Mozart used 'Microsoft Music Maker', however, Beethoven favoured 'Sibelius'!
    Hope this helps.
  10. flugelgal

    flugelgal Active Member

    Well at least only 2 of them need to be changed! ;)
  11. Ali.Syme

    Ali.Syme Member

    Sibelius or Finale is the best way to get your ideas down. Have your ideas ready in your head and try out your harmonies and melodies on a piano or keyboard before going to write.

    If you're writing for brass band, don't start immediately for brass band - write your melodies and harmonies for a smaller group. For example, if you have a huge idea for a long brass band piece get the main concepts of it down in a 10-piece before trying to write in every line. That way you'll have your Bbs, Ebs and bass clefs all sorted and you can say "okay I have the fundamentals - time to add" and then you can decorate your melodies and add percussion.

    Get a local brassman to critique your work - even just someone who conducts from time to time can be useful. There are a lot of online resources about range of instruments and so on but it'd help if you know what ensemble you're writing for. Maybe find a local band and listen to them and work from their strengths.

    Good luck! Hope to see your stuff on sale in the years to come ;)
  12. xRinat

    xRinat Member

    Your post really hit my head, your making a lot of sence.
    Thanks :)
  13. xRinat

    xRinat Member

    Is Sibilieus a free program?
  14. Cornet Nev.

    Cornet Nev. Member

    Hi XRinat,
    There are two main software contenders for writing music, they are Sibelius and Finale. Sibelius tends to be the one favoured on this side of the world and only probably because it was created by a couple of Finnish folk.

    Finale on the other hand is of American origins and favoured by folk over there. The abilities of both programs are very much the same, but in some areas quite different in the way they do it. Consequently there will always be some contention as which is best, but really it depends on which you used first as to which you prefer.
    Neither of them are free and are quite expensive to buy.
    Have a look at the finale site here-
    And the Sibelius site here-
    For an idea of how much you are looking at to buy.
    However there are some free programs available, but are very basic in what they can do.

    Next is the writing itself, there has already been some helpful comments, but brass band itself does have limitations, both in playable scale of each instrument, and also tonal qualities, an example being that a piano piece may sound perfectly OK on the piano, but if played by several brass instruments there may well be some terrible dischorded sounds, and this just down to the nature of the instrument.

    There is a extremely good write up about writing for brass band by Nigel Horne on the Bandsman website which explains a great deal for you and in some depth. Here-
  15. Anno Draconis

    Anno Draconis Well-Known Member

    Uh-oh ;)

    A very important distinction - as far as I know the only tool available for composition is the grey squishy one between your ears. There is no such thing as "composition" software. Computer software simply helps you write it down.

    It's like the difference between using a pen and paper to write an essay, and using a word processing program like Word. The computer can't write the essay for you, or structure it. It can do useful things like check spelling and present it nicely, but the creative process still happens elsewhere.

    See above - you use Sib 5 to notate, not to compose. And I hope you don't rely on the dodgy synth noises but are hearing the sounds in your head ;)

    Mike, that's a little unfair, and not an entirely acurate analogy. There is no creative process involved in metal arithmetic, so in that example it is possible for the "machine" to do your work for you. With essay writing, or composition, it isn't.

    I'm never quite sure why people think that a composition has to almost complete in your head, or on paper, before you go near a computer. All you are doing is replacing the pen and paper with a computer, just as you would for writing a report or essay. I actually find it tremendously helpful to be able to capture ideas on the computer as I'm working on them at the piano - I find it a lot quicker than writing them down, and my musical handwriting has always been shamefully untidy. I've also always been an inveterate tinkerer, and it's much easier to remove/add bars on the computer than on paper.

    At the other extreme, my composition lecturer at uni used to write out his final version on sheets of acetate, using a fountain pen - he even used to rule his own lines. If he made a mistake it had to be scratched off the acetate with a scalpel! Not only did the finished article look like a work of art, it also made him acutely conscious of making absolutely sure that every note was in the right place before he starting writing out.

    I don't think they were Finnish - you might be getting confused because their surname was Finn? Agree with the rest of the post though, especially the tonal quality thing. Whatever instruments you're writing for, there's no substitute for knowing what they can and can't do from the players themselves, and for looking at other composer's scores. Relying on the software to tell you what can and can't be done most certainly is lazy. ;)
  16. xRinat

    xRinat Member

    Thanks! I MIGHT take a look at Sibelius, but not sure if I can buy it yet ( I am only 16 years old, my parents would think Im crazy using 600$ on a program)
  17. xRinat

    xRinat Member

    You are definitely making sence.
  18. Ali.Syme

    Ali.Syme Member


    Unlike a lot of music software, Sibelius doesn't take the creativity out of your hands. It can't make the next bit piece but the idea is it's an easy way to have an idea, hear it back, save it, edit it, harmonise it and so on.

    I think composing by writing on a blank page is old school - it's sort of like using a typewriter to write a novel with a few bonuses like improving your notation and relative pitch.

    Also if you have an idea right now you just want down and saved then pencil-writing it can take a long time if you're not sure of the intervals.
  19. mikelyons

    mikelyons Supporting Member

    In actual fact, Andy, I think you are wrong there, there are computer composition programs available that will 'compose. They aren't particularly good, but they do work.

    That's what I meant! Duh! Much better than what I actually wrote!

    See above! So shoot me! :p

    I didn't say it had to be complete, or even nearly so. I did say you should have an idea before you go to the computer - rather than just sitting there in front of the computer keyboard and throwing random notes at the page. (Having said that, the random thing works for Cage & others ;))

    And is also likely to be wrong - electronic sounds don't balance the same as real instruments!
  20. mikelyons

    mikelyons Supporting Member

    I think one point that needs to be made is that 'old school' or not, not being able to judge what the music sounds like (however roughly) is a no-no, and also, I would have thought that improved aural skills in general is a very good idea, surely? I wish my aural skills were better than they are and I practice them constantly. There is no shortcut to practice.

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