Chris Woods Groove Orchestra Rehearsals Pt 2

This extract of the blog delves into how I have been communicating my ideas to the rest of the orchestra…as we work towards recording.

One of the best/worst/most interesting challenges of getting a band together…or ‘Orchestra’ as I like to think of it is communicating your ideas. I come from more of a contemporary/rock/jazz/pop background and the usual way of things is ‘heres the song’ and let players go crazy!

This time things are different, I’ve really tried to approach this project in a more orchestral way, composing with different instruments in mind, at the same time as recognising the strengths of the musicians who join. So how do you go about composing specific parts for other instruments when you cant play that instrument…did someone say notation?

‘Notation?!? oh my god!…you mean dots and all that rubbish!??! – surely without the magical skill of reading music I wont be able to do this?!’

Now, I’m not really a ‘reader’. I have never really had the need, and groove, swing and feel always seem so distant from the score not to mention the whole changing tuning thing. I also have some pretty strong feelings on the teaching of it to children – notation really has got in the way of some good common musical sense… (see my Jimi Hendrix blog).

I admittedly have a good grasp of reading rhythms, but as far as sight reading goes its something I don’t practice so I don’t do well. But it really hasn’t put me off and I don’t think it should put you off either… I use Guitar pro. Its an amazing programme and really helps in creating your ideas. By using the TAB function, writing parts for cello or double bass are easy and importantly you can HEAR what you create… so with a bit of trial and error you can compose something quite stunning with very minimal reading ability! thank you Guitar Pro!!!

I know there are a host of similar options; but I think what is important here is how we can now just intuitively tweak a score with very little knowledge, quite literally play until its what you want it to be  - Giving you the ability to pass on information in a range of ways and bring those stuffy and slightly redundant dots to life with some creative dabling. Interesting…hmmm…

Below is an extract from the score I have for a recent work in progress. Just guitar and double bass. The main theme worked out…and then I let Ben Taylor work his magic.  You can listen to the recording/video here…

2Spooky new track

It works a treat, and once again the abillity to hear what you are creating is mega powerful. As a contemporary acoustic player, writing the melodies and riffs on other instruments is amazingly liberating too. I find the textural difference amongst instruments is so much more exciting than trying to squeeze it all into one guitar part.

Refering back to a far older track Amygdala part two, which you can listen to here, I used the same process. And as you can see from the music below, the TAB function makes it really clear as to what is possible to be played…

cello

Ultimately, this has been a really exciting journey for me as some of you may have seen as the CWGO has grown over the past two years. The main lesson I have learnt here that I’m keen to pass on is how technology really is such an amazing tool when it comes to orchestrating, and also the balance between sticking to written parts and building on what the player has to offer. With regard to technology, I think we can safely say it is facilitating a new inclusiveness, giving people the tools to access worlds that used to be and perhaps are still ‘exclusive’. With regard to other players I have to say so many of the musicians I have worked with in the orchestra always have an amazing idea to offer that I would never have thought of…that balance of ideas is the nirvana of orchestration in my mind, the ability to create an overall piece with a feel, themes and structures but being open to fresh ideas from other creative people….I guess in some ways that’s what is making this orchestra that bit different. I wonder without these new technological aids, would this kind of thinking be possible?

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