Mentoring Program

Viva la Vida arrangement

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This is an arrangement of the Coldplay song "Viva la Vida" for a bass quartet composed of a flugelhorn, french horn, trombone, and tuba.
Grade Level: 12
Intended For: Live Instrument Performance
Software Used: Sibelius
Instrumentation: flugelhorn, french horn, trombone, and tuba
Key: Ab major
Meter Signature: 4/4
Tempo: ~145
Status: Work in Progress
File 1: application/octet-streamDownload


#6 Erik Nielsen 2017-03-07 16:05
Dear Timothy,
First, I owe you an apology. You wrote me on January 30 and I never responded. I don't recall getting this, but I may have just missed it. You asked good questions and I'll try to incorporate them into my response today.
Your new version accomplishes a couple of good things. First, it gets off the ground faster by bringing in the voices sooner, bar 9 instead of bar 17. Second, your most successful section, bars 43-59, comes sooner in the piece.
However, what I wrote the last time still applies in a number of ways. That is, the piece is still tied much too heavily to the opening chord progression. Not only that, but the parallel fifths with the second voice means you only have one part, not two, since the tuba and the trombone in the opening (to use the first example of this) are locked together by the parallel motion. Listen to how much more effective the writing is when the trombone melody moves more independently of the trumpet and horn lines in bars 48-51. So try to work to keep the parallel fifths out of the equation. Also, how about substituting B flat minor-C minor-F minor-D flat major for the original chord progression that's a third higher, at least some of the time? By the time we get to the chordal section in bar 60 we've already heard that bass line WAY too often.
Speaking of the chordal section, there's still not enough going on. There are missed opportunities to make some interesting suspensions that resolve, except that they don't resolve. Look at bars 62-63. I don't understand why the trombone moves to A flat so there are two A flats and a bass E flat. Instead, what about tying over the trombone B flat and moving the horn from A flat in 62 to G in 63? A suspension that resolves is much more effective than what you have. This section is littered with examples that are similar. Not only that, but there's still not enough happening in this slower section in terms of any melodic content.
Finally, the accelerando is good (though it needs a tempo mark at the end of the dotted line to show how fast it ends up), but it reminds me how much more interesting this will be if you start at quarter = 112, say, and then at bar 84 start your acceleration from there. The original tempo of 100 is just too sluggish.

Timothy, here's a summary: more harmonic variation (including chord substitutions), less parallel motion, more variety in the individual lines so there's much less literal repetition, more activity in the slow section, and a faster initial tempo. As the Beatles (or the Isley Brothers originally) said, "Shake it up, Baby!" Finally, I'm less concerned with modulation at the moment and more concerned with shortening the piece and making it more interesting. Be more adventurous and don't feel compelled to stay so close to the original. Please let me know if you have questions. I look forward to your next posting.

Best wishes,
#5 Timothy Gilmour 2017-03-06 10:29
I just added an updated version to the drive folder. I'm planning on modulating to a new key in the second section, maybe at 84 or 103 but I'm open to suggestions. I'm a little unsure about how to do this cleanly so any suggestions would be great. I tried to shorten up the intro a little bit to stop it from dragging on. I plan to change up the ending a little more, most likely having the other instruments fade out and letting one of the high voices trail off. Do you think there is another way that would work better? Thanks for looking at this!
#4 Erik Nielsen 2017-01-31 11:55
Dear Timothy,
Thanks for the response. I've uploaded a file to Drive with comments that give you some specific suggestions as well as some questions for you to think about. I hope they're helpful, but please let me know if anything I've written is confusing. I look forward to hearing from you soon.

Best wishes,
#3 Timothy Gilmour 2017-01-30 10:35
Thanks for the input Eric! Can you point out some places where changing the chords would add interest? I also toyed around with modulating to a different key, but couldn't really find a place that worked well. Do you see one? My thought behind the slow section was to provide contrast to the faster melody, do you think it's not accomplishing this purpose?
Thanks, Timothy
#2 Erik Nielsen 2017-01-30 09:54
Dear Timothy,
Thanks for posting the first version of your piece for brass quartet. This is a very interesting combination of instruments, though I'm a little confused. You've listed the top instrument as flugelhorn but in your comment you mention trumpet. Which is it?
You've given yourself a very tough challenge by choosing this particular song. I watched a video of Coldplay performing it as I was unfamiliar with the song. It seems to me that the main interest lies in the vocal melody and words. Without the lyrics, we're left with a moderately interesting tune and a harmonic progression that consists of the same four-chord sequence played over and over (and over) again, except where it's reduced to two chords. This may work when there is singing and lyrics, but without them, keeping the music interesting might be a daunting task.
What I suggest strongly is that you think outside the box here. Don't be content to follow the blueprint of the sung version slavishly. After all, this is supposed to be an arrangement, not an exact transcription. Feel free to change some of the chords. Throw the melody from voice to voice. Change the key. Alter some of the rhythms. And keep the tempo upbeat. That's one place where the original keeps our interest. Don't let the music drag. There are a lot of whole and other long notes in this right now and that may not be enough motion to keep the music interesting.
Timothy, you've set yourself an interesting challenge. Think hard about what you can do to make this arrangement similar enough to the original to be recognizable but give yourself permission to be creative with it so that the arrangement has as much life (though it's somewhat different) as the original. Please let me know if you have questions. I look forward to your first revision.

Best wishes,
#1 Timothy Gilmour 2017-01-29 09:32
Right now I'm working on a way to end this piece by bringing back the main melody in the trumpet or horn while the tuba and trombone keep playing the long chords.

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