The workflow in this blog will be as follows:
- Reading and hearing the piano version one phrase at the time.
- Analyzing the melody to see what’s the best way to be performed by the strings.
- Analyzing the piano phrase to see which and where the three elements Melody, Background line(s) and Pad are used (see the above menu for more information about this topic).
- Analyzing the piano phrase to see which piano idioms are used, using the Reference Chart from the “From Piano to Strings” book and examine how they can be translated into string idioms (I will give the page number in case you want to study this idiom in the book).
- Applying this translation to the piano phrase.
I will mention these “translations” for the piano pieces in this blog whenever I encounter them, so it is not necessary to have this book for this. However when working on your own pieces it is very helpful to have this book as a reference.
In case you do buy the book, I recommend to insert 3 extra steps in the above workflow:
4a. In Sibelius start a new score by loading the string template you created earlier. Play the piano example from the book (for the idiom you are working on) with strings sounds on your midi keyboard, and try to understand, by listening and looking at the keyboard, what the problem would be if this piano example would be performed by strings. Now play the string solution and study how this solves the problem.
4b. Study this string solution in the book and copy it by hand down on paper to get a feel for this piano-to-strings translation (don’t skip this step, because you will miss aha-moments, believe me).
4c. Enter this string solution in Sibelius and listen carefully to the balance between the sections, especially when divided strings are used. Is the melody clearly to hear or is it pushed away by background lines or pads and if so, how can you correct this balance?
For the 4c step, it’s important to have a string library that automatically divides the part so you can hear how the balance will be. NotePerformer does this for you.
Steps 4a, 4b and 4c look like too much extra work, but most examples are only between 4 and 8 bars long, and really doing these extra steps (not just reading these lines) will make you remember these idioms translations for every next time you need it.
With every phrase I do a lot of in depth questioning of the material, especially on the melody, which forces me to think about the available possibilities to translate the piano material for strings. This way of working is not suited for a person who wants a quick arrangement, but is perfect for anyone who loves to improve their craft in orchestration and arranging.