Compose Concert Band Music - Discover The Breakdown
There are few types of music more satisfying than those that are geared towards concert bands. With full instrumentation and classic sound palettes, concert bands are great for composing.
In this article we’ll take a look at exactly how to compose concert band music!
What does composition for a concert band sound like?
We’ve already covered a great deal of what makes a concert band composition different from other music. But what does that mean in terms of an actual composition?
This article will outline some of the main elements of concert band composition, and I hope to provide some insight on how the listener can tell the difference between a concert band composition and other types of music.
The title of the piece
As previously mentioned, in concert band music, there are no distinct tempos. Rather, we have phrases of a varying tempo.
The title of the piece is often used to help set the tempo, and help the audience decipher when a piece is in a different tempo from its predecessors.
In instrumental music, each instrument has its own tempo reference. This means that one musician playing a drumstick can make a rhythm that’s 1/32nd of a beat per second, or 1/16th of a beat per second.
However, this doesn’t work in music for a concert band because the tempo reference doesn’t change throughout the piece, so one person can’t keep up the same rhythm for an entire piece.
In this sense, a written written tempo is less helpful for concert band music because it’s a constant tempo for everyone.
But that doesn’t mean that your tempo is all that matters. The title of the piece will indicate whether you have a fast piece, a medium-tempo piece, or a slow piece.
This will give the audience a good indicator on what sort of piece they’ll be listening to.
A sense of tempo is also conveyed by tempo marking on a score. Sometimes it’s a single bar of a given measure, but it could be a full bar or several bars that indicate when the tempo changes.
This can really help, since it’s not so ambiguous that someone can incorrectly judge the tempo.
Variations on the main theme
Every piece of concert band music should contain a different style of tempo. Some pieces might contain a quicker tempo than another, some a slower tempo, and others have no tempo at all.
A musical piece with a similar tempo could be written by different composers. The same piece could have different tempo signatures, such as 6/8 time signature or 12/8 time signature, as well as differences in time signatures.
A composer could write a piece with 4/4 time signature, then a piece with 7/8 time signature, then a piece with 3/4 time signature. However, no matter the tempo signature, your main idea will still be there.
One of the most important parts of creating a tempo variation is ensuring that it has a clear theme. Any variation on the theme should relate to your main idea.
For example, in a march theme, variations will often be associated with movement, such as playing a slow tempo while marching.
This rule of thumb will help avoid song overload, as it will help ensure that variations only differ in the key or meter of the piece.
An example would be playing the theme in 4/4 time while marching, or playing the theme in 3/4 time while marching. Variations on the tempo should be used sparingly so that the main theme isn’t lost.
Majors and minors
Every instrument in the band plays at a certain tempo (major or minor), and this tempo should change throughout a piece. For example, in a piece that begins in G minor, we might see the first six bars change to a bar that is a quarter of a beat faster.
If you know that your tempo is different from the rest of the band, your concert band teacher or band director can provide a sheet to determine your main tempo.
In addition, you can use a paper clip or a strip of colored paper to visually indicate the different tempos in your music.
A tempo variation occurs when you play at a different tempo than your fellow players. Tempo variations can be used to help the audience get the rhythm of the piece, as well as providing “action” to the piece.
If you have an ensemble, your band director should make sure that there are tempo variations written in the score for this reason. In addition, the dynamics should also be different.
Some music teachers will write tempo variations for your ensemble without having to have a set tempo in mind. For example, they could write in 2/4 time and make sure that there are no regular beats in the piece.
Another example would be having the music begin with a 2/4 time signature.
For any ensemble where the tempo varies, the exact tempo will likely be different from the tempo you will actually play.
In addition, each instrument will play different variations from the others, so your audience will also hear the different tempo variations.