In my articles on open harmony I have tried to show how massive chords can be produced by the wind ensemble. The use of filler tones and all additions to chords are discussed and examples given. Having done that, it would be interesting to see which tones can be left out of chords to create special effects. The technique is enormously useful when scoring for a small group.
Example I you
will see a melody which has to be harmonised. Before reading on, try
and do this yourself.
2 shows a possible harmonisation, using the chords annotated.
Example 3 I have
used the same chords, but eliminated one tone from each, so that only
triads remain. The result is much more pleasing to the ear than that
of Example 2. The upper melody line in this example has been added here
to save space. Ignore this upper line for the moment.
at the omissions one can truthfully say that the first chord, on paper
at least, seems to be sadly lacking in the ingredients for an Am11.
Indeed, the tonic and 9th are missing, while the 11th
itself is tucked away on its own down below.
chord looks like a C major triad with a D in the bass. It could also
be regarded as a D9/4. Writing it as C/D would certainly inform the
keyboards and guitars that there are to be no extra tones in their interpretations,
with a resulting weakening of the desired sound. (Some arrangers use
this technique constantly. I cannot help thinking, however, that it
misses the point somewhat: a chord written as Eb/F, F9/4 or Cm7/F will
sound like a Cm11/F because it IS a minor 11th chord with
the 11th in the bass.)
next chord is written as a G major 9, but the third is missing. What
we are seeing is, in fact, a D triad with G in the bass. The fourth
chord is a B minor inversion with a G bass.
first four chords could therefore be quite logically written as C/D,
D/G, C/D and Bm/G. The sequence would sound exactly the same as the
original, but rhythm players would not be happy with such an illogical
the third in the G major 7 chord when it appears again in bar 2 puts
the ear, and the mind, at rest.
examples are taken from “Sailaway” by Maurice White (Saggifire Music),
recorded on the Earth, Wind and Fire album “Faces”.
of interest to the arranger is the choice of chords in this introduction.
The use of the minor 11 instead of dominant 7 on the upbeats has a haunting
effect on this passage, while the modulation from G to E and back again
is absolutely stunning in its simplicity.
legato quarter-notes for the dotted quarter-notes and the passage loses
much of its charm. Don’t forget that the played length of a dotted quarter
note is two thirds of a normal quarter note (i.e. not merely an eighth
note). On the recording these eight bars, with variations, continue
throughout the piece as a background. It is a beautiful arrangement.
you wish to write out Examples 2 and 3 using a music scoring programme
set the sound of all instruments to programme number 89, often called
Pad 1 (New Age). Although this was conceived and played solely by keyboard
instruments, such a passage would be enormously effective if the upper
line were played softly by four flugelhorns, or trumpets in hat, with
two trombones in unison on each of the lower tones of the triads.
alto saxophones could double the trumpets, with a tenor doubling each
of the trombone lines. The baritone and/or bass trombone could double
the bass line. Such a passage would have to be played very softly, and
balanced evenly for maximum effect.
a matter of interest I have included a few bars of the melody of this
song. This is the upper line of Example 3. You can see at once that
in bar 2 the melody tone C is dissonant to the chord for one beat before
moving down on to the major third. This is harmonically wrong, although
it is obviously acceptable, because, on the record, it sounds good.
As the instruments involved are so different in quality, i.e. voice
against keyboards, the dissonance is hardly noticeable.
(It is an interesting fact that a similar phenomenon often occurs during choruses of the twelve-bar blues. The penultimate chord of the blues in Bb is F7, but jazz players very often include the Bb, which is a suspension of F7, in their solos. This has led many rhythm instrument players to regard this chord as being more of an F7/4 – sometimes written F7sus4.)
a later part of the melody the origin of the intro can be seen. (Ex.
4.) There are very many lessons to be learned by studying the old
Earth, Wind & Fire records. The student should try and lift whole
passages, such as this one, and analyse them. There are many powerful
examples of sudden modulation, the introductions are always sensational,
and the brass writing contains much which can be remembered and perhaps
used later on in various other guises.
illustrate this: Peter Herbolzheimer once asked me to write a big band
arrangement of “Serpentine Fire”. Wanting to stay close to the original,
but to introduce more of a big band flavour, I listened to the record
several times. Upon hearing a sound that I could not identify I played
the record again at half speed.
sound I could not identify was suddenly exposed as an extremely fast
and complicated brass passage, lasting for eight bars, that had been
dubbed at normal speed on to a half speed playback. The result, at the
correct speed, was a very high, fizzy tinkling sound.
confirmed this later on with Chuck Findley, who had been on the Earth,
Wind and Fire recording, and who came over from Los Angeles to play
my arrangement with the Herbolzheimer band, in which I used the passage
as a new intro, at normal speed. (Example
5) Needless to say: the trombones played this perfectly, first
time off, without a word of complaint.
Needless to say: the trombones played this perfectly, first time off, without a word of complaint.
result can be heard on the Panda record “Bandfire” with the Peter Herbolzheimer
Rhythm Combination & Brass (Panda l-LC8033).