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Please Critique my arrangement

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by wild4oldcars, Mar 7, 2014.

  1. wild4oldcars


    Jan 22, 2012
    Garner, NC
    First draft of a version of America the Beautiful I'm going to play for a school function. Any criticism would be appreciated, but please don't rip on me too bad, I'm only a kid :p This is meant to be taken with very, very liberal rubato, but I tried to notate everything fairly consistently with what one would hear me playing.

    This was a screen grab from MuseScore; the blue rest was what was selected during the grab, and the red notes were the program telling me notes don't exist that high on bass lol.


    The last 7 bars will obviously not be a snoozefest off everlasting whole notes, I just figured that would be a good way to notate them building through the tonic chord, then resolving to only the tonic note.
  2. FretlessMainly


    Nov 17, 2010
    My first impression is that your upper register notes are written as if they were on the lower part of the stave - in other words, flags up instead of flags down. That's not the normal convention - also; those upper register notes that are way up there should be notated in a different clef - tenor/alto would work, but G clef would also be more in line with what a bassist would expect - as in a piano grand clef score. I dunno about the actual harmony; my brain hurts too much to comment on the actual arrangement.
  3. davidhilton

    davidhilton Supporting Member Commercial User

    Apr 13, 2009
    Los Angeles, CA
    why don't u record it and post the audio so we can hear how u want it played.
  4. Clef_de_fa


    Dec 25, 2011
    I saw that kind of writting when there is only one clef for 2 hands or two melodies at once so you can keep track of of both otherwise he would need a Treble and Bass clef.
  5. because he gave you the music ;)

    we should quote you on that in the "is reading important threads"

    serious note-

    i agree, don't be afraid to switch clefs. i generally agree to stick to bass and treble, a lot less people can read tenor or alto, and the golden rule of composing is that if people cant play it (for whatever reason) it wont get played!

    i dont have it in front of me (since i clicked the "Reply" button) but check the stem direction, as someone else said. anything on the middle line or higher should go down, unless you're writing chorale texture or two different parts (ie clarinet 1,2) on one staff.

    whats with the rest in the last bar of lines 1 and 2 (i think it happens more.. again.. not in front of me..)

    looks good overall! check those notational things. make it easier on the eyes.
  6. okay now i can see it while i type -

    like i said before- in chorales, you share a clef with two lines, so one is stem up and the other down. you could stem these the same even though you've written two parts, melody and accompaniment, because it's being read by one player.

    for the same reason (only one person reading) you don't need to account for rests as if you wrote this literally for two voices. in bar 3, you don't need those rests- and they don't make much sense either- quarter rest + 8th, then nothing else.

    several times (like i said before) you have quarter rests written on top of whole notes. just get rid of those rests.

    instead of writing the first bar with 3 quarter rests, just start with a pickup. make sure to end the piece with a dotted half then, because pickup + last measure = one full measure.

    your triplets are marked in a strange way as well- especially measure 12- is that rest on the staff supposed to be along with you're triplets? put it up near them so the player can tell. same with bar 18

    perhaps some dynamics, and a mood / tempo marking would help. i was imagining this at a somewhat slow tempo, but then the last 8 bars sound pretty boring- maybe mark it slow, then change the last 8 bars to 2/4, or write an accelerando.

    looks good though

  7. davidhilton

    davidhilton Supporting Member Commercial User

    Apr 13, 2009
    Los Angeles, CA
    Dude, u don't think I know how to read music? lol
  8. Bainbridge


    Oct 28, 2012
    When two voices are represented on one staff, the higher voice is stems up and the lower voice is stems down.

    Onto the arrangement.

    Notationally, this is pretty poor. That's okay, though; everybody struggles with notation at first. Here is a fixed up version:


    You wrote this song, huh? No? In that case, you'd better give credit to the composer and put "Arranged by" or "Arr." in front of your name. And put some performance indications down - tempo, dynamics, other relevant information like that. You only need the instrument to be indicated on the first system, and really, you could omit it from the first system, opting instead to indicate "for Electric Bass Guitar" as a subline to the title of the piece. That first note is a pickup - you don't need three quarter rests at the beginning. Ledger lines aren't wrong, but I would consider putting this onto two staves. Clean up all those rests, simplify the rhythms, and make sure your notes look nice; in the first complete measure on your copy, it's difficult to tell whether that's a B or a C because the two notes are occupying the same level on the staff. Ditch MuseScore, download Finale Notepad. Notepad is an extremely lite version of Finale, but it should get the job done. Unfortunately, the only decent full-featured notation program that you can get for free, Lilypond, has an extremely steep learning curve, no GUI, and is not very intuitive to use. It produces beautiful notation, but in the long run, you'll probably want to buy Finale or Sibelius if you're going to continue with electronic notation. Also, that's how I would notate that chord thing at the end. Maybe you could indicate "improvisatory" or "molto allargando" above it, but all those whole notes that you currently have written don't make a lot of musical sense. Even a slash marks and a chord symbol would be better.

    Compositionally, you have some problems. It has a good beginning, but it falls apart soon after. I put in some comments:


    This is a melody that everybody at your school is going to know. In their heads, they're going to be singing along. I've represented an exaggerated version of some of that in-head singing. Measure 4, fourth beat, is a pickup. That means that something's coming on the downbeat. Why don't you have a note there? You need that E, little dude. Same thing at measure 11: you have a huge scale as a pickup to... what? America is on the downbeat. It needs to be there. Have a look at the phrase going into the next measure. You start it down low, take a breather (eighth rest on the downbeat), then rocket off into space before crashing down again. You're messing with America, dude. You don't mess with America. Make that whole section very, very straightforward. And pay attention to the timbre of the instrument; when you go up high like that, the tone is going to be weaker and you can't really keep the same dynamics as you could an octave lower. Those chords at measure 20, you might be able to get away with, but I don't think it matches the style that you set yourself up with. And that last low A, I would junk it. I know it sounds good to you in your bedroom, but everybody that's listening is going to wonder when this thing's going to end for real.

    I know my comments are perhaps more harsh than you anticipated, but I'd rather tell you my truthful opinion now than have you hear it from someone else much later after you've invested a lot of time, money, and effort going in that direction. I went through community college thinking I was hot poo because I only ever got positive comments on my work and nobody told me otherwise. I built up a small portfolio, applied to universities (which takes money and time), interviewed with various composition faculties, and only once did anyone say "I don't like it." The interviewer pointed out a few things here and there in my music, and it quickly became apparent that he was quite right. After taking a few months to think things over and get serious about my music, I took lessons, wrote a batch of new music, applied again, did an interview with the same guy who told me I sucked, and managed to impress him enough with my turnaround that I was accepted into that program. Your path might be different, and sure, musical aesthetic is subjective, but don't always believe everybody who cheers you on.

    In terms of arranging stuff like this, it's a good idea to stay safe. At least in the beginning. Honestly, keep the melody and play some chords/single notes underneath it and it will be successful. When you're comfortable writing straightforward arrangements and have a venue in which you can try out your arrangements with other people (church band, etc.), then start experimenting. From my choral conducting and arranging professor: "Be useful, not original." From the director of the African music ensemble I played in for two years: "Change the notes before you change the rhythm."

  9. wild4oldcars


    Jan 22, 2012
    Garner, NC
    Thank you to everyone above, especially Bainbridge. All will be taken to heart, reconsidered and revised. If I may ask Bainbridge, what software was used for the revisions you've made? I have used Notepad, but it is too limited, especially for key and time signature changes. The only thing about MuseScore is that it makes you write in separate voices to have multiple notes that are not consistent with each other rhythmically. This resulted in the awkward stem directions, as well as the miscellaneous rests. This is going to be performed, not reviewed, so notation isn't a huge factor. However, its always good to have things right, and I appreciate all comments. Thanks again!
  10. Bainbridge


    Oct 28, 2012
    I use Finale 2011. Upgrading to 2014 tomorrow, actually. Gimme dat figured bass.

    Unfortunately, Notepad is rather limited. There is nothing wrong with doing it by hand, especially if the resulting notation looks cleaner than what you can produce with your current setup. Really, pencil and paper is the most flexible you can get with notation, and frequently more correct. Another quote, this time from my electro-acoustic composition teacher: "If you all wrote these by hand, your rhythms wouldn't look like this." :D

    George Crumb did all of his scores by hand, and they're beautiful to look at.

  11. wild4oldcars


    Jan 22, 2012
    Garner, NC
  12. Bainbridge


    Oct 28, 2012
    Looks much better. In the first bar, that quarter note tied to the eighth note tied to the sixteenth note looks awkward. I'd do a double-dotted quarter note or a quarter note tied to a dotted eighth note. Are the upper notes in bar 11 now optional, or do you mean for those to be played as octaves? If optional, you can reduce the size of the noteheads. I don't know if that's within the capabilities of MuseScore. I like that you changed the durations in bars 17 and 18 - those need to be full rhythmic values, in accordance with the line. I still think you need the proper melody notes on those downbeats (bars 2, 6, 10, 11, 14; 10 is non-negotiable), but if you're adamant, I suppose I can't do much about it. Think about doing those chords at bar 19 as half notes. The melody does not make sense to me at bar 13; you're trying to ornament that A, but the figuration is nowhere near the A. Maybe something like A G A B (neighbor group), or A E C# E A (arpeggio), or A E C# D E F# G# A B A (arpeggio followed by a scale and then a neighbor tone). I don't know what is best there, but A E D C# A E D C# A A is weird - you're leaving the A (your melody note) hanging there while the melodic motion is happening somewhere else entirely.

    Perhaps I'm missing your process. Walk me through this arrangement. Why did you make the choices you made and deviate from the melody in such an extreme way?
  13. wild4oldcars


    Jan 22, 2012
    Garner, NC
    The notes in bar eleven will be played with false harmonics. When I play these, both the root and the octave harmonic are audible, hence the octaves. In bar 13, the original A (second space on the treble staff) rings through all the ornamental stuff, as does the low A. Also, the ornamental notes are much quieter than that high A, so I haven't ever felt particularly thrown off by that passage.

    I arranged this before I even thought about notation, sitting in my bedroom, playing it over and over again 'til I had felt confident about the lack of kinks *to me*. The biggest problem for me was the fact that only one note can be played on each string at a time (or at least, that's all I can do), and keeping the bassline from sounding muddy/clashing with whatever the melody is doing. This bassline problem resulted in some of the harmonies like in measure 11, where instead of a low e, the 7th fret harmonic of the E and A strings would be played. Also, in regards to the one note per string, what you mention of measure 13 is a direct result of that. I only own 4 string basses, and while that may not loan itself well to this arrangement, that's just how it is. Also, some of the arpeggiated lines you suggested would be awful hard to complete, and even harder to stay musical, by just scooting around in the upper G string's register. My basses are all 21 fret (that high e is a godsend sometimes), and I have personal limits regarding my own skill. This is reflected in my arrangement, and, as you have pointed out, has apparently resulted in some shortcomings.