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A Legend of Zelda Medley for a High School Concert Band

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My band director said that if I could put together a couple decent video game medleys, then we could play them at our winter concert. Well, I'm working on the Zelda one right now. I was wondering if you all could critique it and give me some pointers on improving it and making it a bit more unique. The instrumentation will have to be basically what it is right now though because our band is pretty small.

Tthe songs are: Title Theme ~ Palace Theme from Zelda II ~ Hyrule Castle Theme from Zelda III ~ Zelda's Theme (ALttP/OoT) ~ Triforce Fanfare (Ending)

The instrumentation is this: Flute, Oboe, Clarinet in Bb, Alto Sax, Tenor Sax, Bari Sax, Trumpet in Bb, Trombone, Tuba, Bass Drum (Concert & Marching), Snare Drum, Cymbals (Crash & Suspended), Timpani, Triangle. I'm also thinking about having someone play bells on a few parts, like Zelda's Theme.

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I don't have time to do a full crit post, but I'll mention a few things real quick:

No horns or euphoniums? :(

1. Dynamics: More! Some dynamic contrast will help a lot with this medley.

2. The Caesura at 2:59 was way too long. I would advise trying to eliminate it with a couple of transitional phrases. If you want to keep it, shorten it considerably. A caesura should never be longer than, say, 5 seconds at the absolute longest.

3. Eliminate the Caesura at 4:00. It breaks the musical flow too much. Instead build on that chord at the end of Zelda's theme and crescendo into that ending.

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Yeah, the limited-ness of the instrumentation bums me out too, but there's nothing I can do about it unfortunately. We're lucky to even have Trombone and Tuba this semester, since no one wants to play brass for some reason.

The caesura at 2:59 is where the other song needs to go, which is why the big break is there because I haven't figured out what to put there yet.

Thanks for the other tip, I wasn't really sure what to put between Zelda's Theme and the finale; I'll keep working on it. And the dynamics do need work, so I'll keep that in mind.

Oh, and some more tips on what to do with percussion would be great. I'm very inexperienced with it. We have some other percussion like Triangle and Glockenspiel available, but I wasn't sure if I should include them or not.

Thanks for replying though! (And I wish I could just post attachments so everyone doesn't have to download it from megaupload, but I just joined so I don't think I have that option.)

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Another major thing I noticed is you non-melody parts consist of a lot of sustained chords. Sorry, but that's boring.

Get some more harmony and countermelody in there. Also consider adding some woodwind runs if you feel your players can handle it.

I can give also you some percussion pointers:

Since you intend this to be played by real players, I would double-check your Timpani part and make sure it is playable. I would suggest avoiding pedaling unless your timpanist can do it and keep the drums in tune.

One of the best Timpani tutorials I have come across: http://members.cox.net/datimp/mus1.html

Are you going to have a drumkit back there? If not, the second song needs to change the percussion writing a lot.

In this type of music, avoid 4-on-the-floor with the bass drum. That only really works in a march style. Otherwise, it sounds really cheesy. The only time I would put 4-on-the-floor in a non-march piece is if I really wanted to emphasize quarter notes, like in a battle BGM, but there would still be points where that would be broken away from so the bass drum can emphasize specific rhythms or impact points.

Basically, in orchestra/band music, the bass drum's job is to bring out slower rhythms from the bottom, or to create impact. It is not so much a keeper of the beat like it is in other genres.

Snare Drum is your pulse drum in many cases, but it also is used to emphasize rhythms that are faster due to it's crisp sound. It can also add impact to something.

Some great snare and bass writing: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bT6IzLnTwE Notice how the bass drum only plays in the impact points or when certain passages need emphasis. Notice how the snare drum is used to emphasize the rhythm of the melody and the impact points, and to keep the beat in others with eighth-sixteenth-sixteenth rhythms, but taking a break to add impact. Also notice how much both drums are absent. They don't need to be there at all times.

Cymbals are mainly for impact. They are usefull as they can create a milder impact without the weight of the bass drum and can ring unlike the sanre.

A notable exception to impact is the suspended cymbal roll, which is a great tool to emphasize crescendos.

With accessories, most are used to emphasize something. Which one to choose depends on how you want to emphasize the part. Accessory percussion is so open-ended that I really can't go beyond this: Make sure the sound musically fits. IE, don't try to emphasize a fast rhythm with a ringy-sound like a triangle.

Mallets: You mentioned a glockenspiel. A lot of people make the mistake of associating the glock with soft music. That is not the case. It is a very percussive sound. If you have a very lyrical, floating segment, you may want to steer away from the glock. The vibraphone is a good alternative because it still has a metalic sound, but can be played with much softer mallets than a glock can. Play a glock with soft mallets, and the audience won't hear it.

Another glock pitfall is the ring. Some composers, John Williams comes to mind, will actually stunt glock parts so that the ring does not interfere with the chord structure of the piece. Others simply choose to avoid glock in parts like that and use something else, like the xylophone, which has almost no ring.

Here is an example of a John Williams work with Glock. Notice at :35 that the glock follows the woodwind part somewhat, but breaks it up to compensate for the ring.

It doesn't have to play the melody, can can emphasize other parts as well, as you saw in the Williams piece where it did not play the melody much.

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Okay, I'm going to cut this reply down some since I typed it all up and then got logged out, so I lost it all.

Basically, I'm working with a limited band as far as skill-level goes for many of the players. So my basslines are going to be a bit weak except for the trombone, which I'm trying to work on. Thanks for pointing it out though. And I'm doing my best to work in more countermelodies and harmonies in the oboe and clarinet, but it's somewhat difficult since this is my first arranging task of this caliber. The only other stuff I've arranged was for pep band, so it wasn't high-scale stuff.

And DEFINITELY thanks for the percussion tips. I fixed the four-beat stuff, so the bass drum mainly accents certain parts now. And I changed up the snare drum to match the triplets in the melody. And I also already made sure that the timpani didn't stray beyond two notes (specifically the B-flat below middle C and the F below that) because we only have two. I'm hoping that the high B-flat is reachable for the ones we have since that FAQ listed it as one of the extrema of the typical range.

As far as glock, I'll keep what you said in mind. I wasn't planning on writing it in, but I will use that to decide where they will play (if they do). And I found a few spots to stick in triangle.

As far as the second piece goes, the percussion is supposed to imitate a drum set. The cymbalist is going to hold the cymbals together and another percussionist will strike the cymbals with snare sticks to imitate a high-hat (since the only section we are NOT lacking in is percussionists, lol) And the winds in that section I was trying to keep close to unison for the certain effect it gives.

Oh, and unfortunately, as far as pitched percussion, I think we are limited to the two timpani and the glock, so we don't have the option of a vibraphone or xylophone since the school has a really low budget for music (which sucks). Maybe I'll ask if we can borrow some stuff from another school in the area for our concert.

Thanks again for all the comments, especially the percussion ones since I was kinda floundering around with it, not being a percussionist myself.

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Okay, I have now basically finished and so I'm re-uploading it, this time to the OCRemix WIP thing at fireslash.net. (Check first post for new upload.) Anyway, comments are especially appreciated now since it's more fine-tuning then anything now. Please keep in mind the things I mentioned about our ensemble when replying. Oh, and if you want a MIDI or MusicXML file to look at, just mention it and I'll be happy to upload.

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As far as the second piece goes, the percussion is supposed to imitate a drum set. The cymbalist is going to hold the cymbals together and another percussionist will strike the cymbals with snare sticks to imitate a high-hat (since the only section we are NOT lacking in is percussionists, lol) And the winds in that section I was trying to keep close to unison for the certain effect it gives.

This won't sound like you think it will unless you have the right kind of bass drum. A concert bass drum will sound too deep and rings a bit much, even when muted. It sounds pretty bad in this style. Ask your percussionists to use a kick drum if they have access to one. Else, a marching bass drum is a decent alternative.

I made a quick mock-up to demonstrate this for you. I took a part of your drumbeat in that section and put 8 bars in. First time using concert instruments and second time using a drumkit.

http://www.corneriasound.com/files/concertvkit.mp3

Notice that it sounds a lot better on the drumkit. It's more crisp. The other one wouldn't have sounded quite as bad if a different bass drum were used. I do not know exactly what you have back there, but this sound distinction is an important one to remember. Most band/orchestra composers that want that kind of beat write it for a drumkit because of this.

If you do not have access to kick or marching bass drums, an alternate writing that would help is to imitate a drumkit using only the bass drum and snare. Basically have the snare play eighths, but accent the second beat and the tweo eights of the fourth. IE: 88>888>>. I'd put bass drum hits on beats one and four(Quarter rest rest Quarter) to bring out the change in primary note in the melody. This will create a similar feel without exposing your audience to the kit-part-on-concert-drums sound.

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Instead of long sustained notes for the harmonies, you should have all the instruments play the same rhythm as the snare. There's really no reason to have sustained notes in a march.

If this is a piece for beginners have all the low brass (trombones, euphonium, tuba) and bari and tenor saxophones and other low winds (bass clarinet, bassoons) play the same rhythm in two octaves. This will give the performers the confidence to really get into their parts and make the piece sound great. The timpani can play the tonic in the same rhythm until the harmony reaches the dominant. Once you've established a strong rhyhtm you can play around with the notes and start to add counterpoint (if you want.)

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Oh, okay. I see what you mean about the bass drum. I kinda thought about it before but not really, if you know what I mean. I'll make sure they use the marching bass drum for that part. We have a drum set but the sixteenths would be hard to play on a kick with only one pedal.

And I'll try to see what harmony parts I can make play the snare rhythm, but there are some parts I wanted like that on purpose because there is a similar part in the originals (specifically on the Hyrule Castle part). But I'll change it up on the Palace theme.

Oh, and thanks again for all the input everyone! :)

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Okay, I just uploaded what is probably my last major update. I added a LOT of articulations to the Hyrule Castle theme and a few more triangle and suspended cymbal bits and changed up the harmony rhythms on the Palace theme. I think it's basically done now, so I hope it sounds good.

I realized I going to have a heck of a time with this oboe part though, lol, since I'm the one playing and it's only my double instrument, so I'm not that great with it. It'll be fun to practice though, so I'm not complaining (too much :P).

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