Feeling Overwhelmed?

to all our Horn Enthusiast

Feeling overwhelmed? 

When I first moved to LA I stayed with a vocalist I had worked with in Canada.  He was part of a singing group and within two months we were all on the road traveling east on interstate10 through the deep south. I was the music director/keyboard player and the youngest member of the group by a few years. When we would arrive at the venue in a new town, they would drop me off to rehearse the band for that night’s two shows, and they would check into the nearest hotel to relax. 

I had grown up with my Mom’s Count Basie records and always loved big band music. So for this road trip I had brought this small book on arranging for a full big band. I don’t remember where I got it, or the title, but I studied that book backwards and forwards while sitting in the back seat cruising down the freeway. I remember it all seemed a bit overwhelming but I couldn’t wait to try some of this out on a real band, if that was even possible. 

Because I had yet to apply what I learned in this book with live musicians, I had a lot of questions and it was still a bit of a mystery as to how all the pieces would actually come together. I had little confidence, feeling overwhelmed.

A year later I decided to study at a music school in L.A. called, Dick Groves Music Workshop, and wrote for either 5 saxes with piano trio or a full band/studio orchestra, once a week for a solid year. Only after a few attempts the light in my brain started to glow and it was all beginning to all make sense to me. What a feeling.

This is why it’s so important to hear what you write. It’s like learning to ski. You could watch all the how-to videos on YouTube you could find, but just a few trips down the hill and you feel like your getting the hang of it. The same is true for arranging music for a horn section, or any sizable group.

You will come to a plateau where the light will come on and it will all make sense. Don’t worry if it all seems a little overwhelming. Writing it, then hearing it, is the key to success. 

Anything you don’t understand is overwhelming until you understand it. 

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Fred Stickley Music