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Old 01-12-2022, 02:55 PM
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Default Notes in arrangements

Useful notes or just filler notes? Openness or more density? And what records better? Naturally what works better can vary tune to tune.
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Old 01-12-2022, 03:27 PM
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Originally Posted by rick-slo View Post
Useful notes or just filler notes? Openness or more density? And what records better? Naturally what works better can vary tune to tune.
Hi Derek

Fills, arpeggios, and other variants should:
  • Make Sense
  • Sound good

I never add 'filler'.

After I've developed something elaborate for a piece, I'll scale it back for use in early passages, and hold the most elaborate using toward the end.

The 1812 Overture would sound a lot less dramatic if they fired off the cannons at the beginning.




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Old 01-13-2022, 10:38 AM
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Useful notes with filler notes that make sense. If you listen to some of Pierre Bensusan and Steve Baughman's arrangements you'll find some examples of arrangements with too many filler notes, imo. I think too many filler notes can obscure the melody. You could call it their "phrasing," but too much of a good thing is not that great.

I think clear melody, with background filler notes and accompanying bass that accentuates the melody sounds best in a recording.
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Old 01-13-2022, 03:43 PM
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Originally Posted by TBman View Post
Useful notes with filler notes that make sense. If you listen to some of Pierre Bensusan and Steve Baughman's arrangements you'll find some examples of arrangements with too many filler notes, imo. I think too many filler notes can obscure the melody. You could call it their "phrasing," but too much of a good thing is not that great.

I think clear melody, with background filler notes and accompanying bass that accentuates the melody sounds best in a recording.
I suspect Pierre does not think of anything he's playing as "filler notes" :-)

One person's "filler" is another's enhancement. People have different tolerances and understanding of complexity. John Lennon apparently said he didn't like classical music because there was too much going on. Who was right about this? John or Beethoven? And of course there's Chuck Berry's lyrics about "modern jazz", which he disses as "sounding like a symphony", as if that's a bad thing! always thought that was a funny criticism.

In most music, from rock/pop to orchestras, there are lots of parts. Moving lines, harmonies, countermelodies, rhythms. Ideally, every element contributes to the whole. If you can label a part or certain notes as "filler", that's a judgement that the part isn't really contributing, which the composer/arranger, or even other listeners may not agree with.

For me, the process of arranging usually involves decisions like that - is that note really important? what does it contribute? would the tune be better without it? Or does the tune need something else added in? Hopefully the end result doesn't contain anything I think of as "filler".
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Old 01-13-2022, 06:21 PM
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The topic reminds me of something I learned years ago when I sat in on a Master Class given by Leo Brouwer, a very dynamic figure in the classical world. His view was that all notes in a piece of music (and arrangements), and/or performance, including what’s being labeled here as “filler”, should be considered important. However, some notes will carry more weight than others, and should thus be treated as “more” important. Those are the ones that need special attention and need to be flagged as such, whether you are composing, arranging, or playing.
I think it’s an important message to abide by. Ever since then, when looking over a new piece to play, I always look for those “1st tier” notes to give me a better idea on how I should approach playing them, along with the rest of the group.
Brouwer had an interesting analogy. When discussing a Bach prelude he said that a lot of the notes in this passage are like conventional gifts that one would bring to a party. A bottle of wine, chocolate, flowers. They’re all nice. But one particular Bb note in the piece was special, and needed to deliver a lasting impression to the listener. It’s not an ordinary gift. You’re not walking in with candy. You’re bringing a lion to the party.
Funny analogy, but it was a useful message imo.
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Old 01-13-2022, 10:49 PM
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I've certainly added 'filler' notes to arrangements, Usually for rhythmic effect, to create or maintain a desired texture.
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Old 01-16-2022, 04:17 AM
Robin, Wales Robin, Wales is offline
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It is harder to be sparser.

When I was at a "Sore Fingers" week Mike Witcher played the melody of "Amazing Grace" just on one string on dobro and it was spellbinding. I learnt so much from that 3 minute demonstration, and have carried that philosophy with me in my music ever since.

When I play traditional mountain dulcimer I just have one melody string and usually two drones (root and 5th), so I have to make the melody "believable" or the arrangement just sounds flat. Here is an example of that sparse sound played in noter/drone style on an old Glen dulcimer from NC.



So I have sort of come through that apprenticeship of less is more, and being patient with my music, giving the melody space to breath. And, although my guitar playing is all to accompany songs, I do tend to be quite sparse (almost simplistic) in my playing, and not afraid to leave plenty of "room" in my arrangements.
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Old 01-16-2022, 05:35 AM
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On some of Bill Frisell's slower, sparser arrangements he really pushes right up to the line of paring the tune back so far he risks losing the listener's attention. But for me at least he never, ever crosses the line. I get totally wrapped up in his playing even when the melody becomes so insubstantial it might blow away in the slightest hint of a breeze.

That style isn't every listener's thing I know. But I've always liked instrumental music where the melody can occasionally be like the Cheshire Cat's grin, the cat fades away and only the grin remains.
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Old 01-16-2022, 10:13 AM
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Filler notes just sounds negative. So, they probably are. Personally, I don't like anything musically that doesn't have a purpose or move the piece forward. That being said there are some things musically that need to be done to set up what is to follow.
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Old 01-16-2022, 12:34 PM
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An exercise I was doing a few months ago was to take a melody and reduce it to the least number of notes possible and still carry the tune, then fill the voids with chords. It was interesting how far you can go with it. A companion exercise was to take a song with complex chord progressions and see how many chords you could reduce it to and still carry the melody.
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Old 01-16-2022, 01:50 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by rllink View Post
An exercise I was doing a few months ago was to take a melody and reduce it to the least number of notes possible and still carry the tune, then fill the voids with chords. It was interesting how far you can go with it. A companion exercise was to take a song with complex chord progressions and see how many chords you could reduce it to and still carry the melody.
That sounds like an exercise you could learn a lot from, if you got that from a guitar teacher thats one a cut above the usual.
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Old 01-16-2022, 01:53 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Brent Hutto View Post
On some of Bill Frisell's slower, sparser arrangements he really pushes right up to the line of paring the tune back so far he risks losing the listener's attention. But for me at least he never, ever crosses the line. I get totally wrapped up in his playing even when the melody becomes so insubstantial it might blow away in the slightest hint of a breeze.
That’s a great description.
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