Tips On Writing Big Band Music?

I’ve just got an opportunity to write music for a big band. You know. Drums, piano, bass, brass, brass, and more brass.

Does anybody have any pointers on where to look for info on writing this style of music?

no idea, but how fucking cool is that. i love bigband music and wish i could make it in Renoise.

if i had to give you a tip, just listen to a lot of bigband music. try:

  • Benny Goodman (& his Bigband)
  • Count Basie (& his Bigband)
  • Duke Ellington (& his Bigband)
  • Glenn Miller (& his Bigband)

and for a more contemporary (‘swing revival’) band:

  • Cherry Poppin’ Daddies

I’m sure some people would disagree, but my best tip would be using a piano roll for big band/orhestral/jazz. Renoise can obviously do pretty much anything, but I would need something a little more visual for that many notes and melodies.

actually, i agree with you as it was my first thought: ‘wow, big band in Renoise? can that be done? comfortably?’. but, i figured he wanted to use Renoise so i ignored that thought.

I’ve done several big band and orchestral pieces in Renoise, for commercials and just on request. No problem there, if you have all the proper instruments.
Pianoroll? :rolleyes: :lol: oh, man. I don’t know what good a pianoroll is, if instead of ‘classical education’ you grew up with computers and trackers, like me. All I know is you have to listen to lots of good music (including classical and orchestral) and be attentive to details.

I think if Mozart had trackers (instead of just notation) he would’ve composed hundred times more stuff.

just out of curiosity, would it be possible for you to give us an example xrns of a big band song? i’d really be interested in seeing how you did that and what it sounds like. i mean, if you have something lying around you feel free to share with people without fear of stealing or things with property and blabla?

Is this supposed to be a finished recording or sheet music for an actual big band?

I did a pretty terrible-sounding big band score for a filme using MIDI in Live a couple of years ago (I used Garritan big band thingie); it would have been equally easy to do it in Renoise. Actually, probably easier: you can think of a column as a horn instead of trying to track the voice around a piano roll*.

In either case, here’s my main tips I got from the studying I did for that score:

  • The rhythm section is the bass, piano and drums. NOT just the drums. The composite rhythm is mostly the bass, with hi hats or rides, and the piano providing accents. Snare drum backbeats are not idiomatic of the style.
  • The characteristic big band horn sounds come from “close position” chords. By that, I mean if you’ve got 4 saxes, they usually will be following each other around at a spread less than an 8ve across all 4 voices.

*easier to make the music, that is. Renoise doesn’t have a video track so it would have been tougher to deal with syncing to picture.