So it turns out I can orchestrate a bit. No need for a ticker-tape parade just yet, but I can orchestrate a bit.
Not that the point of all this is to make me feel good about myself. The point of this is for me to learn the sort of minute detail that makes the difference between a terrific orchestra call and a painful one.
To wit, the French Horn player (relax, she was just lovely to me), who asked:
“Would you like da da-da? That is, should I re-articulate the second note, to match the singer?”
“Yes,” I say. “Is that what I’ve written?”
“No, this is more da-ah-ah …”
“Oh, well, no, the first, to match the singer would be better.”
And there it could have rested, but curiosity got the better of me.
“For future reference,” I said, coming over, “how should I notate that so it’s clearer? How would I write it so that you automatically re-articulate the second note?”
“Like this. Remove this, and add this.”
Here’s a visual. We’re talking about the difference between this:
See? One has the phrase mark over all the notes, and the other just between the first two. If French Horns weren’t so damn great when they’re well-orchestrated and well-played, you might be tempted not to care, but French Horns are damn great when they’re well-orchestrated and well-played.
Incidentally, it has taken me twenty years to learn this about orchestration:
Instruments sound best playing what those instruments should play.
That’s it. Don’t give an oboe a line that rightly belongs to a trumpet. Get a trumpet. Or write an oboe line. Also, don’t take instruments out of their best range so that triads remain triads. Put the instruments in their best registers, and you’ll get the same impact as the original triads, even if it’s now spaced over more than an octave.
I will learn this again and again before I really learn it, though.