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Old 03-17-2014, 03:42 PM
Sherry C's Avatar
Sherry C Sherry C is offline
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Join Date: Jul 2009
Location: Bad Axe, MI, USA (The Tip of the Thumb of Michigan)
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Default Mountain King Swing - in progress

Hi friends,

I decided to do something a little different. I did something like this with Fred Winterling some years back, and we had a blast. Fred is no longer with us (r.i.p.), but I thought I'd put this "work in progress" out there and see what comments and suggestions I get

I sometimes use the melody line from "In the Hall of the Mountain King" as a warm up exercise on my bass at band practice. I started "swinging" it a bit, and some of the guys would sort of doodle around it, so I thought "why not get a swing arrangement?"
I looked around on the internet, and believe it or not, I could only find a quartet, a quintet, and a couple of recordings of an old but never in print arrangement for swing band, but no big band arrangements (I did find one on a UK site, but no samples; I emailed them, but still no replies).
So I decided to do my own

I'll confess up front that this is one of the areas that made me fall in love with Notation Composer, because otherwise someone like me would never be able to produce this kind of arrangement.

  • I decided to write it in what amounts to "cut time" to make it read easier. So I took the original file I found and used the "Meter/Scale notes" feature to stretch it out.
  • I then created a new big band file (using the Big Band template, amended for our band) and first "sketched" out the the outline using Rehearsal Marks to mark out the repetition sections from the original classical piece (got it from Classical Archives) and free text for the initial ideas I had for "fleshing it out" (some of which has changed). Here are the "classical original" InTheHallsOfTheMountainKing-orchestral_parsed_for_sections-BEST.midand the first "outline sketch". MountainKingSwing-001.not
  • After setting up the divisions, I copied over the melody line from the original to the big band file for reference.
  • I then used Composer's recording capability to bang in rhythms for the "swing" version I wanted into a "recording" staff with my keyboard (I don't play keys at all) and then adjust the pitches according to the original staff I had copied from the classical original.
  • I then banged in harmony rhythms, and adjusted those pitches (I use an "instrument range" sheet that Ralph Rayner posted on the forum), playing back the piece as I did to check how things sounded.
  • The drums are pretty rudimentary - we have a great drummer and I'll just put in annotations like "swing toms" or "cymbals" and such, and let him really fill out the drums.
  • The bass is also rudimentary - I just put in a repetitive line at this point to outline the chord structure to make sure the parts all "fit" together. I know the bass player can ad lib around chord changes
  • For some of the solos, I'll add "solo: choose ad lib or as written" so that our older/better players can "expand" if they want, or any younger players will still have something to guide them.
  • I'll also re-transcribe the piece to "swing" notation to make for easier reading after I get all the notes right.
  • I'm consulting with our lead players to make sure the parts are playable - if they're difficult, then they're less likely to want to play the piece
  • I still need to come up with a piano part. I honestly don't even really hear a piano part in my head for this, so I'm really struggling. Our pianist needs everything written out, so if anyone has suggestions, I'm all ears

If you hear or see places where "real live" musicians might struggle, please let me know. Any other comments/suggestions/tweaks are also welcome!

Please note that this file is not tweaked for performance either - this is the "rough cut" in the works. This is partly to encourage folks to see that getting a good arrangement does take some work, and to know that it can be pretty rough at first


Music is to the soul like water is to green growing things.
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