Arranging for Rock Band with Horns

Discussion in 'Trumpet Discussion' started by Kevin Hilman, Jan 9, 2007.

  1. Kevin Hilman

    Kevin Hilman Pianissimo User

    Jan 24, 2005
    Salt Lake City, UT
    My usual gig is playing trumpet in a local orchestra but I have a new music project with which I could use some advice. I am putting together a small rock band with horns to play cover tunes for sporting events. Kind of like a mini-pep band. The instrumentation for this group is drums, bass guitar, electric guitar, trumpet, tenor sax, and trombone. I am playing the bass guitar in this group and am doing most of the arrangements.
    My problem is that the trumpet and tenor sax parts keep ending up in horrible keys since so much of the rock lit gravitates to concert E, A, and D. For of the tunes we're doing is "That Thing You Do!" from the Tom Hanks movie. Although the bass part lays nicely in the key of E Major my poor trumpeter and sax player are going to be stuck in F# Major. The part is playable but is not a joy to play if you get my meaning. I'm writing my arrangements on the Finale Notebook program which does not allow you to deviate from standard tunings on the guitar/bass tabs. If it did, I would probably try to solve my problem by tuning the bass down to Eb, Ab, Db, and Gb and the guitar accordingly. Do any of you know of a music notation program that does allow for altered tunings of the guitar parts? any of you have suggestions on how to write better arrangements or any suggested books I could read on the subject?


  2. wilcox96

    wilcox96 Mezzo Piano User

    Oct 31, 2005
    charlotte nc
    First of all... these "guitar" keys are just part of life. They work better and sound better on guitar. For the horns... if they are not used to this by now, they should be and will just become accustomed. If you want them to take a solo and are afraid they won't be able to handle the tougher keys...modulate... and return to the original key. Just a thought.

    I know Finale will allow you to do something like "select all"...change key. I mean, you can always "start" writing in whatever key you want to do the song in. However, you'd end up having the same situation in reverse (where it's the guitar and bass playing in uncomfortable keys). Do what's best for all the players involved - and more importantly, the sound. These type of tunes sound best in sharp keys.

    Of course...have you ever listened to Chase? All kinds of "trumpet" keys in those arrangements - and the rock guitar/bass sounded just fine. If you and your guitar player can handle the more challenging keys, then trade off the altered key for you - in lieu of easier for the horns.

    Still, tell the horns to get out their scale books of choice and work on those "guitar" keys... ;-)

    Good luck...sounds like fun...
  3. dannac

    dannac New Friend

    Dec 4, 2006
    Noteworthy Composer is a nice software program .... not expensive, easy to learn, and they have a great forum if you need help.
  4. gzent

    gzent Fortissimo User

    Nov 5, 2003
    Rochester, MN
    Those 'weird' keys are just a fact of life when playing in a rock band.

  5. Kevin Hilman

    Kevin Hilman Pianissimo User

    Jan 24, 2005
    Salt Lake City, UT
    Thanks so much for your input. I feel a little less guilty now having these arrangements in "overly" sharp keys. I'm still in the process of arranging and rehearsing with the drums, bass, and guitar. I haven't had the horns come in to read yet but the guys I have lined up are fantastic and really shouldn't have too much trouble with the parts.

  6. Eclipsehornplayer

    Eclipsehornplayer Forte User

    Sep 14, 2005
    Metro Detroit
    This is pretty common indeed. I play in church a lot with similar instrumentation and it's nothing to see F Sharp and C Sharp Major a lot for Bb. When I come accross this I transpose and use my C Trumpet. I loose 2 sharps and get a better Key.

    Reminds me of an old Miles Davis quote. "Yo Miles", said the piano player to Miles Davis. "If the Piano is in 5 sharps what's that put the trumpet in?"

    Miles replied, "Back in the case man!"

    You just do what you gotta do....
  7. natetpt

    natetpt New Friend


    Most of the stuff we play in my rock/blues band is in Concert E, A or D, you just get used to it after a while!!!
  8. gregc

    gregc Mezzo Piano User

    Apr 5, 2004
    New York, U.S. of A.
    This is why I gig on guitar, for the most part!
  9. Vulgano Brother

    Vulgano Brother Moderator Staff Member

    Mar 23, 2006
    Parts Unknown
    I reccomend sticking with the original key of the tunes.
    Drop 2 voicings sound great with three horns, so you might want to consider writing for alto instead of tenor sax. It not only sounds great,
    but the alto player has one more sharp to deal with!
  10. hornguy

    hornguy New Friend

    Dec 30, 2006
    Ahhhh, the vowel keys, A, E.

    It good practice for the horm players. They will (need to) get used to it.

Share This Page