In this orchestral sketch I left functional harmony behind me. I entered a new world, the world of modes. In this case Dorian.
Don’t forget to hit that like button if you appreciate this video. Also sub to my channel for my music and videos about how to write orchestral music for film.
- 00:00 – Introduction
- 01:05 – First listening (piano and orchestrated version)
- 01:41 – Dorian (hammering out the tonic and use of the colour tone)
- 03:16 – More focus (accentuate the mode we’re in even more!)
- 04:26 – Alberti Bass (bass accompaniment and a simple motif)
- 05:58 – The orchestration (from piano sketch to orchestra)
- 08:12 – Ending
If you have followed me along on this channel, you know I lack a theoretical music background. So when someone said functional harmony or modes to me a year ago, I would not have understand many of it. But doing these orchestral sketches tingles my curiosity and it pushes me forward to unknown territory. And oh my God … I love it! And hopefully you do too!
Oh well, enough introduction. Let’s go to the 8 bars sketch in StaffPad.
Exploring Dorian Mode
To keep it simple for myself I wrote a simple melody line in D Dorian. Why D Dorian? It only uses the white keys on the piano from D to D. So D, E, F, G, A, B, C and D.
Now I have learned on this journey that when you write in modes you have to hammer out the tonic. In this case the D. And make use of the colour tone. For D Dorian that’s B.
Doing that in a consistent way, will make sure that the listener hears that typical Dorian sound. And not a C Major scale or a D minor Scale. That’s very important.
When I figured out the basic melody line behind the piano, I added some chord tones. And two arpeggio effects to make it a little bit more interesting.
Then I repeated the whole thing in E Dorian. Again, hammering out the tonic (the E). And making use of the colour tone, in this case C sharp.
I realize that a lot of music theory lies underneath this simple explanation. I’m not going to elaborate on that in this post and video, but feel free to ask anything in the comments on Youtube.
More focus on the tonic and Dorian mode
In the second step of this piano sketch I have tried to print in the tonic even more.
I added a rhythmic part in the higher range. First on the D and in the last 4 bars on the E. To be honest, I already had flutes in mind when I wrote this. But we will come to that in a second when we have a look at the orchestrated version.
Another element I added are chords on the third beat of the measure. This way I kept the maximum focus on the tonic on the first beat. And I strengthened even more by giving the tonic some extra attention with the chords on the third beat.
Let’s have a quick listening and continue with the last step of the piano sketch.
An Alberti bass line and motif
Currently I’m practicing a new work for my piano lessons. With an Alberti bass or in Dutch ‘Albertijnse Bas’.
I never heard of that fellow until my piano teacher told me about him. I can imagine you haven’t too, but his accompaniment is everywhere in music.
What am I talking about? The Alberti Bass is a kind of broken chord or arpeggiated accompaniment, where the notes of the chord are presented in the order lowest, highest, middle, highest. Just like I did here.
We composers use that all the time. And we thank that to mister Alberti. Now you know!
The other element I added is a simple motif. On the parts where the melody rests to grab your attention. Or as a support when the melody continues.
And that all completes this piano sketch. Let’s have a listening and continue with the next step which is about the orchestration.
From piano sketch to orchestra
I always enjoy this step very much. Orchestrating the piano sketch is a magical process. And sometimes a very frustrating process too. But in this case it worked out pretty nice.
So what have I done? Let’s start with the strings. The main melody went to the violins I. I tried other instruments, but they didn’t hold it for me.
The bass line obviously went to the double basses. In pizzicato style with a pizzicato Bartók on the last note of the first phrase. I love to use such an accent.
The chords on the third beat of the measure went to the violins II, violas and violoncello. With a dynamic marking going from mezzo piano to a bit louder. That gives a nice movement in the string section.
The flutes play the rhythmic part with staccato and tenuto articulations. With a legato run to connect the two phrases of D Dorian and E Dorian.
The oboes and clarinets double each other on the motif I wrote. And the bassoons support the double basses with staccato notes in the low range.
To make it all a little bit more exciting I added two percussion instruments. The crotales and the xylophone. Both accentuate the tonic again.
And last but not least, the harp. The final element in this orchestral sketch.