Battle of the Bands

I’m working on a project where it will be a good 'ole Battle of the Bands, in this case a full orchestra against a Jazz Big Band. It will be both one against the other but mostly working together in counterpoint. Output will all be mastered from samples, so time alignment needs to be strict with a MIDI output. What’s the best way to go about this?

  • Combined vertical score
    Makes it easy to compose and get the correct MIDI output. If this ever actually got performed it might be better to do two scores? Or alternate scores with Cues? It makes for a monster score regardless.

Best way to notate this? Just start with an orchestral score, and at the bottom add in the big band, and otherwise keep the same? Or better to combine one band into a single staff group, and the other into a second?

What about players, all separate? Or any advantage to have single player with multiple instruments?

  • Separate scores
    Advantage - easier to deal with, and can use appropriate formatting (Petaluma Jazz vs Bravura and other). But the MIDI and/or audio would have to be combined, and have to have the two scores open while composing.

Looking for any advice!

20 years ago I worked on a huge project (12 movements IIRC) for the NY Phil + Jazz at Lincoln Center + a gospel choir. Kurt Masur conducted. A woman that I worked for at the time ran the job, which obviously was a huge undertaking, but she didn’t use Finale which is what we ended up doing the job in so she had me set up the template and sort of be the Finale lead. The score was 18x24 and here’s how Masur wanted it:

Obviously not every movement had every instrument playing, but that was how the master template was set up anyway.

In Dorico it would be easy to have one score layout with everyone combined, one with the orchestra, and one with the big band if you wanted.

I have no idea.

But I sure as hell want to hear it when you’re done!! :sunglasses: :+1:

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Oh duh, of course I can have two score layouts! And lots of condensing - yes.

The master score you have there looks good, perfect thanks! I wonder though why the jazz band is above voice and strings? Interesting choice at least, for some reason (maybe because the two groups are more antagonistic) I feel like they should be stacked.

I suspect Masur (who was in his 70s at the time) had spent his entire life looking down to the bottom of a score for the strings, so that’s where he wanted them. I can’t really recall about the voices, but I’m assuming this was his request rather than the composer’s. (It was a NY Phil commission.)

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That would be “All Rise” if I guess correctly. That was a HUGE project …

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Yep! Did you work on it too? There were around 20 of us in NYC, plus a team down in Georgia, plus another team in the UK that worked on the parts I think. Our NYC team was the one in charge of the score to make sure Masur was happy and didn’t cancel the concert. (The composer was writing up until the dress rehearsal, so as you might imagine there are lots of stories about this job.)

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I wasn’t around. I don’t work in NYC and am a much smaller player than you are! but I have indeed heard the stories from many NY friends about the morass of difficulties in getting that baby born.


The thing that most interested me about this layout was that Mazur would want the Horns split 1/3 and 2/4.

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It’s my understanding that this is a common thing for horns. Either 1,2 & 3,4 or 1,3 & 2,4. The latter is achievable in Dorico but requires some tweaking…

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As a conductor, I find 1/2, 3/4 much easier to read in most situation. But I have to admit that certain scores work well with 1/3, 2/4, though they are in a minority. So I use the former pretty much 98% of the time myself. I wouldn’t wage a war against 1/3, 2/4. When dealing with Mahler-type large horn sections, it’s best to be as flexible as one can with grouping. That can be difficult to achieve with condensing tools as they stand now at times but is still possible with some elbow grease!

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Wow, cool to see a reference to “All Rise” in the wild. This is dusting off some cobwebs. It’s been many years since I’ve listened to this. All Rise: Movement 1: Jubal Step - YouTube

I never dealt with Masur directly, only the music supervisor did, so I wasn’t privy to the 1/3, 2/4 horn conversation, and just did what she said to do. I have no idea if that was his call or hers. It’s reasonably common enough though. Because most of the time we were inputting from concert pencil scores condensed down to 6 staves (the supervisor called these “Where’s Waldo” scores, LOL) I wouldn’t be surprised if it may have been her call to make inputting and proofreading easier when using interlocked horn voicings.

You’re bringing back my PTSD from this job :joy: :joy: :joy:

I was just flipping through the Schirmer style guide for another issue and came across this 1/3, 2/4 example:

The music prep supervisor on this gig did a lot of work for Schirmer and Boosey (NYC office) around this time so may have been used to following the Schirmer style guide. I don’t really know for sure of course, but it seems pretty common.

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My understanding of the 1/3 2/4 horns split was to do with how the players used to double each other. 1&3 are high register, 2&4 are low register. To preserve the lip of the Horn 1 for the big solos, horn 3 would often play horn 1 material if they had rests themselves. Similarly for horn 4 doubling 2… Hence 1/3 shared a layout as did 2/4.

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All major orchestras and many second tier as well have an assistant principal horn for this purpose. I’ve never heard of the 3rd assisting the 1st, although I have no way of knowing this doesn’t happen where there are only 4 in the section.

It has to do do with the historic development of the orchestra. When two horns were the norm, and four horns the exception, you could bring in two more horn players, but you couldn’t simply give them the parts from top do bottom - because then your usual low horn (the orchestra’s second horn) would now have to deal with a high part. And they don’t like that.


Berlioz (ed Strauss) Treatise on Instrumentation is instructive on the historical context.

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