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MMD > Archives > November 2002 > 2002.11.14 > 06Prev  Next

20er Music Scale & "Over The Waves"
By Harald Mueller

> Hello!  Harald Mueller speaking of 20-note arrangements, and Ben
> Jackson searching for a musical paper weight playing "Over The Waves"
> -- the first theme of this famous waltz must pose the worst-ever
> challenge to the arranger of lesser-keyed instruments!

I do not think so.  In the MIDI file attachment, I have placed the first
five minutes of work that I would do to arrange this waltz (I hope we
are talking about the same theme).

 [ Thanks, Harald, I'll put the MIDI file at the MMD Sounds page,
 [  -- Robbie

If you listen to the music (or read it), you will probably say, "Well,
but he did it wrong!  Exactly the 'interesting' semitones are missing,
etc."  Here are some explanations about arranging that explain my

There are two problems with "limited-scale" organs like the 20er: one
is that the spread of the melody range can be smaller than the range
required by your piece of music; the other are the missing semitones.
For both, there are solutions:

Reducing the spread:

Move things up or down an octave. If you can do this at a motif
boundary, it's quite easy.  If not (e.g. a sequence such as C1-E1-G1-
C2-E2-G2-C3...), then you can use the fact that chords with many
harmonics cannot be genuinely placed in a certain octave by the ear.
Therefore, you can e.g. harmonize the chord sequence as follows:

 - on a reed organ (which has many overtones), just add the standard
triad chords; they will already blur the octave placement.

 - with flutes, add jazz chords, mostly seconds in the middle range.
This will add the required harmonics

Missing semitones:

 - Replace the semitone with the next natural note. This is often
acceptable in ornaments.  Sometimes it helps to have a neighboring note
play _as if_ the semitone was there.  Then, the natural note is
understood to be the semitone.  A concrete example:

Original:   trill G - F# - G

Arrangement:   G+E - F+D#(!) - G+E (the D# would of course usually
accompany a F#)

 - Replace the semitone with some other note from the current harmonic

 - Move the whole piece to another key. Example: The first D# in Scott
Joplin's Entertainer. This note alone requires that (on a B-flat-based
20er) to arrange the whole piece in the key of C-major instead of the
much better supported B-flat.

How do you decide whether such a trick is acceptable?  There are two

(1) It must sound "correct".  It is hard to define this, but in our
western musical world there is whole range of acceptable,
somewhat-acceptable, hardly-acceptable, and many not-acceptable
combinations of chords and sequences.  You have to "understand" these

Good training: Go to a concert of piano playing pupils and identify the
errors, without knowing the pieces.  Or, maybe easier, download many
classical MIDI files from the Internet and find the errors by just
listening.  (You should _not_ know the pieces; the classical MIDIs on
the Internet are on average horribly error-ridden.)  If you can do this
reliably (i.e., you can spot more than 50% of the errors, especially
those in the tenor and alto inner voices, or the accompaniment and
counter-melody), then you have this sort of "musical understanding" and
"musical logic".

(2) You must know what the original composer wanted.  If a trill is
just an unimportant ornament, it is much more okay to replace it with
a different ornament, or even leave it out, than if a note defines a
theme or even a whole piece.

This is the reason why you must, in my opinion, always start arranging
from the original score, not a piano arrangement or the like.  Even
better, transcribe the piece from a CD, because then you will (with
a good conductor) learn much more about the _intent_ of the notes,
chords, sequences and ornaments than by just transcribing the notes.

Essentially, when you arrange for mechanical instruments, you must be
composer+arranger+conductor in one person -- then you will create
acceptable results.

Finally, of course, a 20er organ is just a limited instrument after
all, so some of your compromises will be horribly audible -- maybe you
should then decide to not do the arrangement, after all.

(There are quite a few more rules and tricks of the trade.  I'd really
like, one day, to do a "workshop for crank organ arrangers", maybe in
Waldkirch or wherever they would accept my proposal...)


Harald M. Mueller
Grafing b. Muenchen

(Message sent Thu 14 Nov 2002, 12:53:34 GMT, from time zone GMT+0100.)

Key Words in Subject:  20er, Music, Over, Scale, Waves

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