Is Self-Publishing Worth the Effort?

Discussion in 'The Rehearsal Room' started by DocFox, Dec 16, 2016.

  1. DocFox

    DocFox Retired

    I have been trying to decide where to put this thread and this seems to be the most logical place. Many well-trained, either formally or informally, may use Sibelius or Finale to write Brass Band pieces, or Quartets, Quintets, etc.

    I have owned every version of Sibelius since Version 1. I used to arrange music for my church being the MD at the church. The severe car accident I was in (not my fault) has handicapped me. So, I have written a concert band piece and a brass quartet piece and self-published them on If you look, I have exactly one download. That is not the complete picture. When I changed my account from my name to "Culturally Free Arrangements" it reset all the numbers. My brass quintet "Dill Pickles" has been downloaded over 50 times.

    My concert band piece, which is free to download and print all parts and the score has yet to been used by anyone.

    I am on the verge of finished "Variations of a Hymn on Psalm 76" for brass band. I will finish it and publish it only because it is so close to being finished.

    There are hundreds of thousands of pieces on ScoreExchange. If no band or quartet plays your piece, is it worth the effort? It is a fun and interesting hobby. But if your music is not sufficient (or more likely, interesting enough) to be played, is it a hobby of futility?

    Do anyone else has thoughts in this area?
  2. Andrew Norman

    Andrew Norman Active Member

    Hi Jim
    If you get satisfaction from writing the arrangements then carry on doing it.
    Sadly many Bands will not even look at music from an "unknown" arranger and many more are not interested in music which they do not already know.
    I have been Self-Publishing for 10 years now with varying degrees of success but small quantities of my music sells all over the world and my free music for Schools and Junior Bands has a wide following.
    I try to write music that is playable by "Community Bands" but that means that it doesn't get the exposure required to really promote it.
    For me it has been worth the effort, even if not in financial terms, but I get a lot of satisfaction when I get positive feedback from Bands/Quintets.
    Keep up the good work.
    All the best
  3. MoominDave

    MoominDave Well-Known Member

    I have come to the firm conclusion that if you wish to have your pieces reliably programmed, then it is necessary to have your own tame ensemble that will do them for you. There are simply so many aspiring composers and arrangers out there that just hoping that your stuff will somehow stand out and be picked up by people only works for the odd musical lottery winner. The ideal set-up from the writer's point of view is to conduct the band - then you simply programme your own stuff. One either makes it happen or one recognises that being frustrated by it not happening is simply a waste of time and effort. If not getting your stuff aired is a depressing thing for you, then I think there are only two sensible possible courses of action - i) arrange performances yourself, or ii) work out how not to be depressed by it.

    You can favour yourself though. Much of the unnoticed stuff out there that you are competing with is scored with a notable lack of craftsmanship and sympathy - even a fair bit of the stuff that does get played also. If you can part-write as sympathetically as Alan Fernie, edit as ruthlessly and effectively as William Rimmer, balance as carefully and imaginatively as Goff Richards - then you'll be starting from first base rather than home.
    mikelyons and Euphonium Lite like this.
  4. Andrew Norman

    Andrew Norman Active Member

    If only......
    MoominDave and mikelyons like this.
  5. DocFox

    DocFox Retired

    This is so true. If you are conducting a band you have a better chance of getting the piece in shape, the errors (or errata) cleaned up. Most of my music career has been spent holding the baton, but since my accident, I no longer have any band or ensemble under my direction.

    But I have seen nobodies come out of the primordial soup of ScoreExchange, and suddenly they become a household name. A publisher picks them up, and you never see anything by them on ScoreExchange again. Now that rarely happens. More frequently happens is what has happened to my brass quintet "Dill Pickles".

    "Dill Pickles" is a two-step rag published in 1908 which makes it in the public domain by US Law. I pass the melody from the first trumpet to the second trumpet, to the F-Horn, to the Euph, and on to the Tuba. It sounds good and is fun to play. It is also only about 2 1/2 minutes long and has been downloaded over 50 times.

    I do not care to make any money. Everything I write is free. About three months ago I finished a concert band piece titled "Lord of the Brave" based on three 19th century militaristic hymns (all from the 1943 US Army/Navy Hymnal) that included as the finale "The Battle Hymn of the Republic". I posted it with a mp3 of midi sounds (I wish I had the $2000 to spare for a great sound set - that itself would make a large difference).

    5 minutes and 20 seconds long. My wife listened to it last night (she has a music degree from UCLA) and liked it fairly well. Pieces that are not as good, IMO, that you have to purchase (especially over 5 minutes), cost $85 -$100 US. Yet my march you can have for the cost of the printer paper.

    I think having a $2000 sound set would make a world of difference. But, alas, being on disability payments, I am very unlikely to come up with that much money spend on such a luxury. Nearly all my discretionary funds go into the radio station.
  6. DocFox

    DocFox Retired


    I do have a lot of friends here, and plenty of people who would love to take pot shots at me for standing my ground. Ironically funny. But I have found most of the people on this board decent and straightforward. So I am going to lay myself a bit bare. I invite criticism, both positive and constructively negative. I arrange an 1850's tune that I will give to any band for free and will eventually post on ScoreExchange (where it will be free also).

    Why the long intro? I am going to post the midi sounds version of the arrangement in mp3 format. Again it would be great to have a terrific sound set. Here it is. Say what you feel about the piece. Its title is Hymn and Variations on Psalm 76.

    Click on this link the hear the piece:

    Some notes: It is 5 minutes, 20 seconds long. Several types of variations. One where the Chimes takes the melody. Near the end, there are several bars in 6/8 before the 4/4 finish. Sibelius is a great piece of software, but it does not pause. So after each fermata, I added an empty bar to give some space. I am known for my liberal use of running eighth and sixteenth notes (quavers and semi-quavers).

    Comment are invited.
  7. ari01

    ari01 Active Member

    Just out of interest why the 1850's? And is this with modern scoring or authentic scoring from the 1800's
  8. mikelyons

    mikelyons Supporting Member

    Just for information, Sibelius does allow you to insert fermatas and to pause, you just have to know how to get it to.
  9. GordonH

    GordonH Member

    My advice would be that there is a lot more money to be made writing for concert band than brass band, simply because of the American market. If you can produce pieces in arrangements for both then you would be in the best position. The orchestral brass ensemble pieces probably do quite well because there is not much around for those types of ensemble that you can get for free.
  10. DocFox

    DocFox Retired

    I have been using Sibelius since Version 1. In the early days, you just put a fermata over the note and it worked. I never thought of "digging deeper".
  11. DocFox

    DocFox Retired

    I have an excellent wind band piece with world parts on ScoreExchange for free. No takers yet. My brass quintet is a big hit (if over 50 downloads makes it a "hit"). One of the reasons I did this is because the cost of published music is so high. It is a price you have to pay for a newer piece. But I have seen and directed pieces that were compilations 1870 tunes and they charged $100 for such an arrangement. When I was the MD of our local concert band, I wrote stuff for them. I wrote hymns out for small ensembles for the church.

    This piece just seemed to be right for a "brass band".
    Last edited: Dec 20, 2016
  12. DocFox

    DocFox Retired

    Two reasons: It is a catchy little tune, and it is in the public domain. It is a Hymn and Variation so it is not authentic. It comes from a 4 part hymn.
    Last edited: Dec 21, 2016
  13. Andrew Norman

    Andrew Norman Active Member

    I find that Brass Quintets are more adventurous in what they play. It might be worth arranging more for quintet.
    Do you include "Brass Band" parts ie Eb Horn and TC low Brass ?
  14. DocFox

    DocFox Retired

    I have not published this piece yet. I sought opinions first. But when I do publish it, it will be a traditional brass band arrangement with Eb horns, Sop, Flugel, Bass Trombone, and everything in treble clef except the bass trombone and some tuned percussion. Even in the US, the major bands are playing treble clef instead of "world parts". If you listen to the mp3, the chime solo is accompanied by a BBb basses (in treble clef) and a xylophone (which with my sound sets sounds a bit clicky).

    I believe your opinion about quintets and quartets is true. The next piece I am working on is another brass quintet. A theme and variations is a common idea throughout the instrumental music world. In "Psalm 76" it has a section for just for the low brass. Fortissimo is written for the baritones on down to the BBb basses. On the parts, it is written "rumble, not blast" which the midi sounds do not project well. I wanted it to sound like someone standing on the pedals of a large pipe organ. You cannot make that kind of sound with a quintet.

    Here in the US, contesting bands play traditional treble clef parts and Eb horns. Non-contesting bands usually have someone in the band to transpose the parts to treble/bass parts. The most difficult thing is getting F-horn players to play Eb. Most of them do not learn on a single F-horn, but on a double french horn. Therefore, they do not always know even basic fingerings for a scale.

    But the top NABBA bands you will find are much like the UK bands, and several always make the Top 100 list. Fountain City Brass Band, Brass Band of Central Florida, Pikes Peak Brass Bank, Atlantic Brass Band and others are fine bands. The brass band culture is growing here, thanks to NABBA's tireless work.
  15. Andrew Norman

    Andrew Norman Active Member

    I don't quite understand your point about "French" Horn players - whatever instrument you learn on you still treat it as if it is pitched in F therefore the transposition is the same. ABRSM candidates are expected to sight read Horn in Eb from Grade 6.
    I was (and still am to an extent) a "French" Horn player and learnt to transpose early on - it saved an awful lot iof effort re-writing orchestral parts which pop up in just about any key !
  16. Anglo Music Press

    Anglo Music Press Well-Known Member

    I think he was referring to F horn players transferring to tenor horn. Whole new set of fingerings, as you know. :)
  17. Andrew Norman

    Andrew Norman Active Member

    That makes sense now - although again the basic fingering patterns remain the same so there shouldn't be great difficulty in transferring - I guess it's more likely that there is resistance to playing Eb Tenor/Alto Horn.
  18. GJG

    GJG Well-Known Member

    That's the point; I don't think they do. The way one fingers a written C scale (for example) on a tenor horn is not the same as the way it's done on the F horn, because the Bb valve is engaged at some point during the scale. I'm not a French Horn player, so I may well be talking nonsense (it's happened before), but my understanding is that one learns different sets of fingering on a double horn because of the Bb valve.
  19. Andrew Norman

    Andrew Norman Active Member

    I am a Horn player - Yes on the Bb part of the instrument the fingering sits in a different part of the scale but the "pattern" remains the same - after all 1st valve lowers a tone, 2nd lowers a semi-tone and 3rd a tone and a half just the same...
    Some players will switch between Bb and F sides of the instrument but again the process is basically the same.

    We're getting away from Doc Fox's original question - but I suspect there is also a reluctance to swap mouthpieces. Adaptors ARE available but often hard to get hold of.
  20. DocFox

    DocFox Retired

    GJG and Andrew: You both make excellent points -- and we have turned a bit off course. But it remains the same. A trumpet player joining a drum and bugle corps playing an F-Bugle has less trouble than a French horn player going to an Eb horn. I have been to several NABBA contests and that is the one thing most MDs tell is problematic. Adapters can be found, but they add a tuning problem.

    Oh well, back on topic.

    Mike Lyons was a very considerate Gentleman and took my score and his sounds and made a MUCH better sounding mp3 if people are interested in it.

    It can be found at and sounds much better. I still invite criticism.


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