Excerpt Duet Revisited, or Making a Multitrack Recording with Audacity

I have been revisiting some of the excerpt duets I put together a while back (Beethoven 9, Brahms 3, Mendelssohn Nocturne), and decided to try my hand at making a multi-track recording. In other words, I recorded both duet parts separately, and put them together using Audacity, a free, open-source audio editing tool. The first excerpt I tried was the 4th horn solo from Beethoven’s 9th Symphony. Here’s the excerpt duet again, which is created from the original solo and woodwind parts.

And here’s a recording of the duet, made using an Edirol digital recorder and Audacity. This is a “raw” recording, with little to no editing, other than what was needed to align both parts. The recorder was placed on my music stand, approximately 2-3 feet away.

Looking at this little venture in hindsight, it was not that difficult to align both parts. I used a click-track (metronome with headphones), and copied and pasted both .wav files into the same Audacity project. From there, it was a trial and error process getting the files to begin at exactly the same time (I cut and trimmed, and re-cut and re-trimmed, several times). Once the parts were aligned, I tweaked the balance some using Audacity’s “change volume” plug-in. Without both parts playing simultaneously, it was difficult knowing how loud to play the duo part in order to balance correctly with the solo. There are a few places where the lower voice pokes out too much, but overall it isn’t too bad.  One area that was very difficult to gauge while recording – and impossible to fix in Audacity – was intonation. Again, without the other part playing along with you, it is impossible to temper the intonation exactly. If I try this again in the future with the other duets, I’ll probably play along with a recording of the solo part while recording the duo part. If nothing else, the intonation discrepancies in the recording can serve as an example of how this duet might be used in a lesson situation. Making sure the open intervals (4ths, 5ths, 8vas) are exactly in tune is very important in the first part of this solo.

Thinking in even more practical terms, the multi-track idea would be a great way to practice any duet (or trio or quartet) excerpts in the repertoire, such as Beethoven’s 3rd, 7th, and 8th Symphonies, or the opening of Weber’s Overture to Der Freischütz.  For some expert examples of multi-track recording, have a listen to Richard Chenoweth’s recent CD The Horn in Opera.

Excerpt Duet Based on Beethoven, Symphony No. 9

If you liked the previous duets I’ve posted for Brahms Symphony No. 3 and the Mendelssohn Nocturne,  here’s another one based on the famous 4th horn solo from the third movement of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony.  The duet part is meant to help the student establish and maintain excellent rhythm and intonation throughout the passage, and is based primarily on the 1st bassoon, 1st clarinet, and 2nd clarinet parts. In studying the score to this passage it is quite interesting to see (and hear) the way the composer interweaves the 4th horn line, at times playing an accompanimental role, and at others a soloistic role.  Download the PDF here. Beethoven 9 Duet

Excerpt Duet Based on Brahms, Symphony No. 3

As stated elsewhere on this blog, I’m a big fan of David Vining’s Long Tone Duets. They are great for working on ensemble, intonation, and lots of other issues. The final duet (No. 23) is based on the horn solo from the second movement of Tchaikovsky’s Fifth Symphony. In his preface to the horn edition of Long Tone Duets, John Ericson writes that this solo “is absolutely an excerpt that needs not only perfect intonation but awareness of the underlying harmonies and music. This duet will see much use in my teaching.” [p. i] After using this duet and others in lessons for the last several months, it finally dawned on me that a fun project might be to create other duets based on well known horn excerpts. Precise rhythm, accurate intonation, and a knowledge of the other parts is crucial when preparing any excerpt, so hopefully this duet based on the horn solo from the third movement of the Symphony No. 3 by Brahms will be useful. With the exception of the added note in the final measure, the solo part is exactly the same as the original excerpt, including the transposition (Horn in C). The second part is based on the cello and viola parts, with a few adjustments here and there to make things more playable. The part is notated for Horn in F, and can be easily sight read by the teacher. The duet is designed to help the student not only hear the underlying harmony, but also the relevant subdivisions in each measure. Feel free to print the image above or download the PDF below, and if you want to edit anything to make it more useful in your teaching by all means do that as well. Let me know if you spot any errors!

Brahms 3 Duet

I hope to do a few more of these in the future, but as this is somewhat of a side project I’m not exactly sure when they’ll be ready. Another excerpt that might work well in duo form is the “Nocturne” from Mendelssohn’s music to A Midsummer Night’s Dream.  Are there some other excerpts you would like to see turned into duets for instructional purposes?  Leave me a comment and let me know what you think.

Know Your Piano Concertos!

For the last couple of weekends I’ve been playing lots of piano concertos – not as a soloist, of course – but in the horn sections of the Rapides Symphony Orchestra and the Monroe Symphony Orchestra.  Every other year the RSO provides live accompaniment for the final round of the Louisiana International Piano Competition.  This competition brings in some really phenomenal young soloists, and over the course of several seasons with the RSO I’ve gotten to know a good bit of the major piano repertoire.  These works and others are standard fare for most orchestras, and many of them have important horn solos and section passages.  To my knowledge, piano is still the most popular solo instrument to feature with an orchestra, and there is no shortage of great music for that combination.  Regardless of the size or quality of the orchestra you play with, you’ll probably perform at least some of these works, and several of them have horn solos which appear on audition lists.  In short, you should definitely be familiar with as many of these concertos as possible – not just because they have important horn parts, but also because they are major works in the orchestral repertoire.  To close out this post I’ve included two lists – the first is piano concertos which I’ve seen on horn audition lists, and the second is piano concertos with prominent solo or section passages for the horn.  It’s not exhaustive, but representative.  If you know of another piano concerto that should be on either list feel free to comment below.

Piano Concertos on Horn Auditions

  • Beethoven, Concerto No. 5, “Emperor”
  • Brahms,  Concerto No. 1
  • Brahms,  Concerto No. 2
  • Rachmaninov,  Concerto No. 2
  • Ravel, Concerto in G

Piano Concertos with Prominent Horn Parts

  • everything on the above list, plus…
  • Beethoven, Concerto No. 4
  • Chopin, Concerto No. 1
  • de Falla, Noches en los Jardines de España
  • Gershwin, Rhapsody in Blue
  • Grieg, Concerto
  • Liszt, Concerto  No. 1
  • Liszt, Totentanz
  • Mozart, Concerto, K. 488
  • Prokofiev, Concerto No. 1
  • Rachmaninov, Concerto No. 1
  • Rachmaninov, Concerto No. 3
  • Rachmaninov, Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini
  • Saint-Saëns, Concerto No. 2
  • Schumann, Concerto
  • Stravinsky, Concerto for Piano and Winds
  • Tchaikovsky, Concerto No. 1
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