Thanks to assistance from George Spicka (composer friend in the Baltimore Jazz Alliance), my hand-written score for Blues for Lester has been put into Sibelius software. This piece is for jazz soloist, 5 horns, and rhythm section. Flexible instrumentation is used to enable the music to be played by many configurations of instruments. The Blues for Lester page on my website has a link to the ensemble score. Bands that are interested in playing this piece can write to me from the Contact page.
Being primarily a composer and not having a performing band, I have given considerable time & effort to building an online audience through my website and other music sites I use. Along the way, I picked up a number of tips from musician friends and website developers. Following are several basic tips that have been helpful to me:
Cast a Large Net
There are many music sites on the internet. To name only a few: Youtube, Soundcloud, Reverbnation, Vimeno, BluesJazzRadio, All About Jazz, Last.FM, Hardcoremix Radio, Jango Radio, Fandalism, (the list goes on and on). Having your music on multiple sites is a good way to reach out to a broader audience. In addition, when you have your own website the other sites you are using can have a link to your site. This enables your website to be the hub of a network of music and social media sites.
Your Own Website
Having your own website is one of the most important things that one can do to have an online presence that stands out. The site layout and features can express who you are and what your music is about. There are a number of free or inexpensive site builders that are easy to use (using drag and drop icons). Talk with musician friends to see what they are using, look at their sites, and see which site builder is the best match for you.
When you have your website, think of it as being like a restaurant. What does a successful restaurant do to bring in customers and retain a loyal base? Take a similar approach with a website.
Here is an important tip: Do not let your site become stale or inactive. Do new and creative things with your site on a regular basis to keep it fresh. This includes adding new music, posting news and blogs, making improvements to the site, etc. Active sites typically have more weight with search engines than inactive sites.
A Personal Domain Name
A personal domain name for your site is highly recommended – in particular, using your name. A domain name can be purchased from a website builder or companies like Namecheap. A developer told me that one’s name (with a .com extension) makes it easier for people to remember your site and find it with internet searches.
Without question, Facebook brings the greatest amount of traffic to my site. However, it is my understanding that only 7% (or less) of the people in one’s friend list actually see the messages posted on a timeline. In my experience, one of the best things about Facebook is the groups. With groups, you can find a collection of people who share an interest in music with you. Posting a link to your site within a message to a group (or multiple groups) will usually bring more people to your site than by only posting it on your timeline.
It is also important to have a music page on Facebook in addition to a personal timeline. I have been told that having a Facebook page gives more weight to your name in search engines.
A rough demo of my Sleepy Creek Samba score for mid-size jazz ensemble has been created. It was done in Sibelius with only the 6 horn parts and no solo section. The demo can enable one to get an idea of what the horn writing sounds like. Of course, it will sound much better with a real band!
David Arivett has started to work on a recording of my composition Salt Marsh Rag (5 woodwinds & jazz rhythm section). I am impressed with David's work in creating recordings of big band scores with electronics and, at times, live musicians. His recordings sound like a live big band. I am looking forward to David working his magic on Salt Marsh Rag and hearing the result. The recording will sound like a woodwind quintet with piano, bass, and drums. It will enable others to hear some of the concepts I have for a mid-size ensemble.
Thanks to assistance from George Spicka (composer friend in the Baltimore Jazz Alliance), my hand-written score for Sleepy Creek Samba has been put into Sibelius software. This piece is for jazz soloist, 5 horns, and rhythm section. Flexible instrumentation is used to enable the music to be played by many configurations of instruments. The Sleepy Creek Samba page on my website has a link to the ensemble score. Bands that are interested in playing this piece can write to me from the Contact page. Over time, more of my hand-written scores will be converted to Sibelius.
An information page for the Interstitial Arts Foundation has been added to my website. For many years, my creative process is to write down music that comes to me. I do not put a stylistic filter on my work. Sometimes the music fits (more or less) into a particular style, sometimes it is a blend of styles, and sometimes I do not know what to call it. When I discovered the Interstitial Arts Foundation earlier this year I suddenly found a community of kindred spirits who are not constrained by artistic borders. Their creative vision is deeply inspiring to me.
Composer friend Amy Duncan has a wonderful new blog: The Creative Process. Here is her description of it:
"A few weeks ago, I posed these questions on Facebook:
Here are a few questions for my creative friends (writers, musicians, composers, artists, photographers, etc.): What is your creative process? How do you approach your work, day by day? What are your work habits? Your frustrations (if any!)? Feel free to be wordy!
I received so many interesting and varied answers that I decided to share them here on my blog. Feel free to add your own in the comments section!"
Twenty four of Amy's friends (writers, actors, musicians, photographers, directors, artists, poets, singers, composers, etc.) responded with messages about their creative process. It's an honor to be included with them. I highly recommend a slow and careful reading of The Creative Process. These are inspiring messages!
There is a common understanding that each saxophone, trumpet, and trombone player in a big band has an individual part. However, that is a misconception with regard to harmony. Traditional big band arrangements -- with 5 saxophones, 4 or 5 trumpets, and 4 trombones (13 or 14 players) -- typically use 4 or 5-part harmony. Therefore, doing the math, 2 or 3 players are going to play the same note, using unison or octave doubling, in a given harmonization.
A traditional way to harmonize a melody in top-down, close-position voicings for 5 saxophones is the 1st alto plays the melody note, the 2nd alto plays the chord tone below the melody note, the 1st tenor plays the next chord tone (below that of the 2nd alto), the 2nd tenor plays the next chord tone, and finally the baritone doubles the 1st alto an octave lower. While there are 5 saxophones, the chord voicing is actually 4-part harmony.
Here is an example of this method of writing for saxophones using a melody note of D (9) on a C7 chord (from the top down): 1st alto = D, 2nd alto = Bb, 1st tenor = G, 2nd tenor = E, and baritone = D (octave below 1st alto). Even if tensions of a chord (natural or altered 9, 11, or 13) are used for modern harmony, the voicing often follows this traditional concept of harmonization. As a variation of the example used above on a C7: 1st alto = D, 2nd alto = Bb, 1st tenor = A (13), 2nd tenor = F# (#11) or E, and baritone = D.
Top-down, close-position 4-part harmony (as described above for saxophones) is also used for the brass section. Usually, the 4 trumpet parts are written first and then the 4 trombones double the trumpet parts an octave lower or with variations of this technique.
When saxophones are joined with the brass in concerted ensemble writing, the 1st alto usually doubles one of the trumpet parts and the remaining saxes double either lower trumpet or trombone parts. Thus, there is a considerable amount of unison and octave doubling in traditional big band arranging.
Open or spread voicings can go beyond the 4-part harmony used in traditional close-position writing. In spread vocings, the trombones and/or lower saxophones play basic chord tones (such as 1-3-7 or 1-7-3) and the trumpets and/or higher saxophones play remaining chord tones and, importantly, include tensions to give the voicing a richer sound. Here is an example of a spread voicing with an Ellington flavor on a C7 chord (from the bottom up): C, G, Bb, E, A, D#. Spread voicings can use 5, 6, or 7-part harmony instead of being limited to 4-part. However, unison and octave doubling still occurs when 7-part harmony is used in concerted saxophone & brass passages.
While the focus of this discussion is on traditional big band harmony, I would like to say a few words about contemporary writing for big bands. Characteristics include a greater use of individual lines (linear writing), contrary motion, expanded harmonic structures (clusters, intervalic-based structures, etc.), and orchestration that crosses horn sections. Even with the use of advanced harmonic concepts, unison and octave doubling is also found in contemporary big band music.
The simple reason why harmonic doubling is commonly used in big bands is there are more horn players in the band than the number of individual notes in the harmonic structures used by big band arrangers.
Given this perspective of harmonic doubling in big band music, I have an idea to offer to big bands: to try using my 6-horn ensemble scores with doubled players on a part. This is described in my Mid-Size Ensemble article. So far, big bands have been reluctant to try it. However, as I envision this approach (as another option to playing these scores with 6 horns), it can give conventional big bands a fresh sound.
Bands are encouraged to experiment with this idea. For example, the 12+ horns can be used in different combinations at places in the score as well as playing together. Of prime importance is my concept of having 6 lines with distinct tone colors instead of the conventional sound of saxophone, trumpet, and trombone sections. This can be done by combining saxophones & woodwind doubles with the brass using various mutes (as well as playing open) to create an expanded palette of tone colors. With this approach, each wind instrument is used as an individual tone color -- and blended with other colors -- instead of as part of a section.
Interested bands can write to me from the Contact page to discuss these ideas and to inquire about scores.
Here is a link to The First Climate Message Video Festival. It is a work of love by Warren Senders who coordinated the project and edited over 120 submissions. The scope of the music in the video is fantastic. Many countries from around the world are represented. The clip of my tune Sunset on the Chesapeake starts at 13:12. The Climate Message website has information about this on-going project.
Warren plans to create a second Climate Message video. For those interested in submitting music (or another talent) along with a personal message, see the Climate Message website for info about how to make a submission.