Monday, December 19, 2016

Blue Danube Arrangement


Blue Danube sheet music arrangement beginning orchestra


Here's another arrangement I've written for this year's String Fest.  I've included two sections plus a DC al Fine to end up with an ABA form for "Blue Danube Waltz."  The intermediate parts give the melody to violas and cellos in the A section and to violins in the B section, while the basses get a more traditional bass part.  Harmony parts are either "boom" or "chick-chick," intentionally simple so we can spend more time working on the melody parts in small groups.  Violas and cellos have to play C# on the G string, while violins go up to F# on the E string.  All intermediate parts (except basses) include slurs.  I've also written parts for a beginning orchestra.  The A section is a simplified melody with notes on the D and A strings, and the B section is mostly open strings.  While the intermediate arrangement can stand alone, the beginning orchestra arrangement needs the addition of the intermediate arrangement to fill it out (and to provide a melody for the B section).

I introduced this piece to my sixth graders by listening to a recording of this famous Strauss waltz.  Many students had heard it before and were excited to be learning this piece in orchestra.  Students also learned how to dance a waltz--"forward-side-together, back-side-together" starting on left foot for the leader or "back-side-together, forward-side-together" starting on right foot for the follower.  A few kids partnered up and tried the dance together, while everyone else was content to just try the steps themselves.

Sheet music (all PDFs):



Audio (WAV files) to preview or for students to play along with to practice:



Intermediate melody (first 4 lines only), which I used when introducing the piece:



Again, I like to use clip art instead of labeling parts "beginning" and "intermediate," so you'll see matching images within the beginning and intermediate parts and scores.


Blue Danube sheet music arrangement beginning orchestra

Monday, December 5, 2016

Les Toreadors Arrangement


Les Toreadors sheet music arrangement for beginning orchestra

My district has an annual String Fest, where all the orchestra students in the district get together for a day of rehearsing and listening with a big concert that evening in the field house.  Each grade level orchestra is featured for a piece or two, and then everyone plays a combined piece as the grand finale.  This grand finale piece has to be playable for first-year string players but still interesting to high school musicians.  My solution this year has been to arrange sections of "Les Toreadors" from Carmen by Georges Bizet in a multi-level format.  I did transpose it to D Major from its original A Major to make it friendlier for the beginners, and I shortened the movement to a simple ABA form.

Overview of parts:

  • The beginning students get a simplified unison version with limited range--mostly D string notes plus a section with  hopping 2nd finger notes (B on the G string and C# on the A string) and open G.  
  • The elementary (second-year) parts have the same simplified rhythms but an expanded range--mostly notes from the D Major scale plus the bass part gets some 2nd finger notes and a fun chromatic passage.  I also included "challenge" intermediate parts which include more finger work, more eighth notes, and a slightly wider range to sound more like the original melody.  The "B" section is the same between the regular and challenge parts.  The different voices would be regular parts (vln/vla/cello basically in unison), challenge parts (vln/vla/cello basically in unison), bass part.
  • And then the advanced parts come from Bizet's original, just transposed to D Major.


Here are the openings for the different violin parts for comparison...

Beginning orchestra:

Les Toreadors sheet music arrangement for beginning orchestra

 Intermediate orchestra (regular part)
Les Toreadors sheet music arrangement for intermediate orchestra

Intermediate orchestra (challenge part)
Les Toreadors sheet music arrangement for intermediate orchestra

Advanced orchestra (Violin I)
Les Toreadors sheet music arrangement for intermediate orchestra

Advanced orchestra (Violin II)
Les Toreadors sheet music arrangement for intermediate orchestra


Sheet music (all PDFs):

Audio (WAV files) to preview or for students to play along with to practice:


Intermediate melody (first 4 lines only) and challenge part (first 4 lines only), which I used when introducing the piece:

With all the different versions, you can mix and match to differentiate for individual students.  I like to use clip art instead of labeling parts "beginning" and "intermediate" etc., so you'll see matching images within the beginning and intermediate parts and scores.

Feel free to try out with your orchestras!