Jump to content


Please note: You can easily log in to MPN using your Facebook account!

Covering horns on keyboard


bfields
 Share

Recommended Posts

I just joined a cover/dance/party band with a setlist based on what I guess you'd call old school funk (Isley Brothers, Ohio Players, James Brown, Parliament/Funkadelic) but also with some newer songs (Bruno Mars and others). It's all new to me, but ridiculously fun.

 

We have (great) bass, drums, guitar, a couple singers, and then me struggling to catch up on a Casio PX-560.

 

I'm having trouble figuring out what to do with horn parts. Horn patches sound wrong to me, and I don't know whether it's the Casio or me. I think it just fundamentally bugs me to cover wind instruments on a keyboard. But it's possible that I'd be satisfied after some improvements to my technique, or my sound choices/synth programming, or my hardware.

 

The only other hardware I have available to me right now is an Alesis QS-61, an Oxygen 61 controller, a Linux laptop, and a couple new-ish Android devices. I have the budget for new hardware (and a two-tiered stand). But I'd rather keep things simple for now, especially as I need to spend most of my time just transcribing and practicing to get up to speed on their setlists.

 

For now I've mostly been substituting piano and organ (sound especially wrong on parts requiring bends like on James Brown's "Hot Pants") or synths (seems OK to me on newer stuff, bugs me again on James Brown).

 

Any advice welcomed! I'd especially appreciate any examples of people doing this well, that I should give a listen to. I'm not even sure yet what's reasonable to aim for here!

Link to comment
Share on other sites



  • Replies 45
  • Created
  • Last Reply

Top Posters In This Topic

Top Posters In This Topic

Plenty of keyboard players do this and people always have hard on for covering horn parts but think nothing of playing string pads under their piano parts. Or they cover other instruments. You have to think of horns as a section. Jamaicans do this really well. I don't think many bands that can have live horns. It's not sustainable a lot of the time.

"Danny, ci manchi a tutti. La E-Street Band non e' la stessa senza di te. Riposa in pace, fratello"

 

 

noblevibes.com

 

 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Lots of threads and discussions on this. One thing I think a lot of us have found useful is to layer several different brass section patches with different qualities, maybe even from different sound sources if possible, that adds a lot of life compared to using a single patch. Others will point out that the whole thing is hopeless because it's like having the whole horn section play each note rather than having the individual instruments play different notes as they would be doing in real life, but many players have found a way to make it work and sound credible.

Rich Forman

Yamaha MOXF8, Korg Kronos 2-61, Roland Fantom X7, Ferrofish B4000+ organ module, Roland VR-09, EV ZLX12P, K&M Spider Pro stand,

Yamaha S80, Korg Trinity Plus

 

 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

There were a few brass patches in the Alesis QS that should get the job done... not spectacular sounding, but some good workhorse patches. You can layer a few of them into a "combi" or "performace" setup to thicken it up.

 

For imitating horn sections, it's all about note choice and articulation. Hammering out simple block chords won't really do it. Horn sections have individual players playing different lines... hard to do on keyboard, but possible.

 

 

Kurzweil PC3, Yamaha MOX8, Alesis Ion, Kawai K3M
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Horn sections have individual players playing different lines... hard to do on keyboard, but possible.

 

So it'd be worth trying something like a split with one horn for each hand? I can see how that could work in at least some cases.

 

Lots of threads and discussions on this.

 

Whoops, mea culpa. Browsing through results from https://www.google.com/search?q=site%3Ahttp%3A%2F%2Fforums.musicplayer.com+horns looks like it should turn up some useful pointers.

 

And I'll try to carve out some more time to learn my way around the QS. Thanks!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Good tips here, but also from a starting point, the Casios are not so strong on horns. Probably Yamaha and Roland are strongest for the kind of thing you're talking about.

Maybe this is the best place for a shameless plug! Our now not-so-new new video at https://youtu.be/3ZRC3b4p4EI is a 40 minute adaptation of T. S. Eliot's "Prufrock" - check it out! And hopefully I'll have something new here this year. ;-)

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Having one real sax player sure helps me sound reasonably authentic when I add a horn section patch. Yamaha here.

 

I know your just joining, but man, with that setlist, it would be so much better. Just a thought for a future discussion with the band leader.

Barry

 

Home: Steinway L, Montage 8

 

Gigs: Yamaha CP88, Crumar Mojo 61, A&H SQ5 mixer, ME1 IEM, MiPro 909 IEMs

 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

It depends on the part. Some are just stabs or hits and a typical brass patch with quick attacks can do it. Once you get into lines with notes that slur (or mix staccato playing with slurred), or actual arrangements with inner voices that move around on their own, or swells & sfz, I used to either simplify the part or play it with an organ sound. The #1 determining factor in how much time (and $) you're about to invest: the bandleader and how set they are on sounding "like the original record." I'm allergic to that attitude myself. Good luck.
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Quick tip on the Alesis QS: I've found the most useful horn patch to be "Gold Brass," for whatever that's worth.

 

Also, I'm in a band like the one you're describing, and I usually let the other keyboardist cover the horn parts because he has a much newer board that can do sample-layering for different things (i.e., press hard and it's a "stab," otherwise, a standard attack). Much better results.

 

Also, we have found that a split with bari-sax in the left hand and other horns in the right can give a more natural horn section sound -- the bari-sax single notes down low at certain times, then with the brass punching in on top, seems more authentic.

Alesis QS8, Hammond XK-2, DSI Tetra

QSC K8.2 x2, CPS Spacestation v.3

Link to comment
Share on other sites

My rules for covering horns:

 

1. avoid it when possible. You are not going to be able to cover Tower of Power tunes, so slap your bandmates silly when that is suggested

 

2. play them on organ instead. Sometimes this can sound great.

 

3. If you HAVE to play horn lines, avoid using mass brass patches. Especially when playing R&B, the real horn lines were played on probably a single trumpet, a tenor sax or two, and MAYBE a trombone.

 

4. My best results have come when I put together a layer with a single trumpet, and two tenor saxes. I try to add differing attacks, separate random or velocity pitch variation per note when I can get it, etc. Occasionally I do mix a mass brass patch or even an analog style brass patch in, but at a much lower level.

 

5. If you are lucky enough to have a Yamaha board with a breath controller, USE IT!

 

6. If you are even luckier and have a Yamaha board that takes the PLG150-VL board, get thee one immediately and dial up a fabulous tenor sax to dominate your horn "section."

 

7. Expect that it will often take you 2 hands, or a hand and a foot controller, to articulate the lines. Downward pitch bend on a pedal really helps, expecially if you can program it to affect each "instrument" slightly differently. Real R&B horn sections often smear up in pitch at the beginning of lines and down in pitch at the end of lines.

 

8. Horn sections almost never hold out notes at a constant volume. They almost always do a sforzando attack followed by a volume swell. If you can make velocity and pedal control both patch brightness and volume, your swells will get brighter just like a real horn section.

Moe

---

"I keep wanting to like it's sound, but every demo seems to demonstrate that it has the earth-shaking punch and peerless sonics of the Roland Gaia. " - Tusker

http://www.hotrodmotm.com

Link to comment
Share on other sites

The #1 determining factor in how much time (and $) you're about to invest: the bandleader and how set they are on sounding "like the original record." I'm allergic to that attitude myself.

 

I'm new, I could be missing some unspoken stuff, but they've told me that's not a big deal. I'm pretty sure the priority is just being recognizable enough to draw in the crowd, and after that whatever we find the most fun should be OK. That should allow a fair amount of lattitude? So I'm all up for any more creative approaches.

 

The bass player actually does play sax, but I'd likely be the backup bass player. Yes, something to think about in the longer term!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

As Moe said, organ can often fill in for horns. It has a fast attack, and with a pedal you can do swells & SFZs. For laptop guys there are libraries like Roland's Session Horns Pro and Chris Heins Horns that can get you much closer than typical synth brass patches. But... they take more work to set up. Unless Kontakt has Linux version you may be out of luck there however.
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Why do horn parts on organ. I think it sounds bad most of the time unless you really know what you are doing. Even then it's a little cheesy.

"Danny, ci manchi a tutti. La E-Street Band non e' la stessa senza di te. Riposa in pace, fratello"

 

 

noblevibes.com

 

 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I suppose it depends on what else one has available to do horn parts. Typical synth horn patches can sound cheesy too. Whatever works for you I say. The times I've used organ in lieu of horns it was more in the spirit of re-arranging than trying to fake a horn section. I altered the part to make it more "organic" (npi)!
Link to comment
Share on other sites

8. Horn sections almost never hold out notes at a constant volume. They almost always do a sforzando attack followed by a volume swell. If you can make velocity and pedal control both patch brightness and volume, your swells will get brighter just like a real horn section.

 

+1 to the whole of Moe's post, but this in particular. Just a little filter/brightness modulation alongside the volume makes a big difference.

 

The other thing I do: if I'm playing a "BLAT!" with a fall is to pre-bend up with the wheel/stick, play the chord transposed down, and then release the pitch back to zero as I come off the chord. I find I get a more satisfying fall than trying to pull the pitch down with the wheel/stick.

 

Cheers, Mike.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

My rules for covering horns:

 

1. avoid it when possible. You are not going to be able to cover Tower of Power tunes, so slap your bandmates silly when that is suggested

 

2. play them on organ instead. Sometimes this can sound great.

 

3. If you HAVE to play horn lines, avoid using mass brass patches. Especially when playing R&B, the real horn lines were played on probably a single trumpet, a tenor sax or two, and MAYBE a trombone.

mate stubb's got it, at least on his first 3 points. As a horn player doubling on keys, I say don't play horn parts with fakey horn sounds. It sounds ... well ... fakey. Cheezy. In my main band, I play horn section parts on sax with a harp player. The blend works well. But if you're on keys and you don't have at least 1 real horn, rearrange the parts to sound good on organ. Don't play the horn lines as if you're trying to emulate horns, arrange it so it sounds like it's meant to be played on organ (or whatever sound you want to use). The audience will enjoy it just as much. And so will you because you won't be struggling to make it sound like something you can't.
These are only my opinions, not supported by any actual knowledge, experience, or expertise.
Link to comment
Share on other sites

The times I've used organ in lieu of horns it was more in the spirit of re-arranging than trying to fake a horn section. I altered the part to make it more "organic" (npi)!
yeah! thass whut I'm sayin
These are only my opinions, not supported by any actual knowledge, experience, or expertise.
Link to comment
Share on other sites

I just joined a cover/dance/party band with a setlist based on what I guess you'd call old school funk (Isley Brothers, Ohio Players, James Brown, Parliament/Funkadelic) but also with some newer songs (Bruno Mars and others). It's all new to me, but ridiculously fun.

 

We have (great) bass, drums, guitar, a couple singers, and then me struggling to catch up on a Casio PX-560.

 

This is similar to the main band I work in presently. The money is quite good, we work constantly throughout the year and we consistently fill dance floors. We work in several different configs, sometimes with horns (trumpet and sax or trumpet and bone), and sometimes without horns.

 

IMHO, work backwards from the intended end. The goal is to keep people dancing. As such, we find that slavish authenticity to the nth detail of the recording is a fool's errand - because the dance floor doesn't care. No tipsy young thing drags her beau to the dance floor and....then turns around disappointed because the horn patch doesn't sound good. Another musician, maybe...but not a wedding guest.

 

So on those occasions where we're without horns and we still want that sig horn line (the riff in Celebration, the closing repeated cadence in September), I layer in a big synth combi instead of a fakey horn patch.

 

This lets me give 'em the line, cut on top of the loud mix, and not get too muddy. Organ can work, but I've found synth on top can give a sheen while still staying out of the all-important (to a dance band) drums and bass.

 

For a while now I've said the successful dance band is like a musical mullet. All groove in the back, all sexy in the front.

..
Link to comment
Share on other sites

My rules for covering horns:

 

1. avoid it when possible. You are not going to be able to cover Tower of Power tunes, so slap your bandmates silly when that is suggested

 

2. play them on organ instead. Sometimes this can sound great.

 

3. If you HAVE to play horn lines, avoid using mass brass patches.

 

 

The first two fit my own taste; for whatever reason, I really dislike horns on a keyboard. Even done well, I just don't like it, in the same way I hate backing tracks...just feels wrong. Doesn't make much logical sense considering I don't mind playing strings, but hey I'm not going to wrack my brain over it :) Band doesn't mind if I play whatever patch I want. Our bass player is a very good horn player and he isn't fond of keyboard horns either, so I have extra ammo to replace them!

 

That said, there's a few tunes where I feel I can't escape them...Brick House for one. I tend to use "horn section" patches, I'll try it with individual horns per point 3 above.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

One of the best and most-recorded horn sections is the Memphis Horns, which is just Wayne Jackson on trumpet and Andrew Love on sax.

 

At my weekly jam, sometimes the house bass player is on trombone and I'm on tenor sax. It makes a very nice blend.

 

If you're going to use horn samples, doing it in a split with one horn on one hand and another horn sound on the other will sound best. And if you can do a 3-way split, so much the better but that's too complicated for me to think about. I'm just a sax player ...

These are only my opinions, not supported by any actual knowledge, experience, or expertise.
Link to comment
Share on other sites

back in the 70s and early 80s, musicians would ooh and aah the studio keyboard cats who could take synthesis one step closer to the real thang. I'm thinking of some Eagles song where they talk about taking TWO whole days to synthesize the sax line. Instead of hiring Tom Scott. hmmm.

 

Nobody gives a spit about that stuff anymore. My take, and you can take it or leave it, is that for dance music: do what's the most fun. Feed your inner 18 year old dancer.

 

I hate the sound of transistor organs. But when somebody requests Wooly Bully, that's the sound I want so that i can have fun. And by me having fun, I'm trying to spread the joy. (It's either that or a perfect stereo Ravenscroft through studio quality PA speakers. Ehh, no.)

 

Programming a good gigging horn sound takes time for me. Get the right samples. Set the velocity to drive the attack, but not so much as so squelch the sustain. Set the pedal to give just the right swell. And now repeat for each different horn usage. Meanwhile the band thinks you just hit preset 25.

 

Part of my definition of 'fun' is that I feel I have a certain amount of live control over the final sound.

 

I love the Mullet analogy, but just don't have enough hair these days...

Link to comment
Share on other sites

back in the 70s and early 80s, musicians would ooh and aah the studio keyboard cats who could take synthesis one step closer to the real thang. I'm thinking of some Eagles song where they talk about taking TWO whole days to synthesize the sax line. Instead of hiring Tom Scott. hmmm.

 

It was Don Henley, 'All She Wants to Do is Dance.' I remember the article in Keyboard about how they kept inserting MIDI pitch bend events until it sounded right. It still didn't sound very good, IMO.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I'd never done a horn part on keys EVER until very recently when our band decided to take on Radar Love. Listening to that breakdown in the middle I kind of felt I had to commit to it.

 

I found a bright sounding horn patch on my ROMpler and either play roots and fifths or thirds and fifths in the chorus, and single lines with both LH and RH in the breakdown.

 

Having heard it back from a FOH recording, it works OK in the mix with the rest of the band. I support Tim's commentary that the dance floor really wouldn't know either way!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

8. Horn sections almost never hold out notes at a constant volume. They almost always do a sforzando attack followed by a volume swell. If you can make velocity and pedal control both patch brightness and volume, your swells will get brighter just like a real horn section.

 

+1 to the whole of Moe's post, but this in particular. Just a little filter/brightness modulation alongside the volume makes a big difference.

 

The other thing I do: if I'm playing a "BLAT!" with a fall is to pre-bend up with the wheel/stick, play the chord transposed down, and then release the pitch back to zero as I come off the chord. I find I get a more satisfying fall than trying to pull the pitch down with the wheel/stick.

 

Cheers, Mike.

This is a great idea! I am going to try it - thanks! :)

"Turn your fingers into a dust rag and keep them keys clean!" ;) Bluzeyone
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Using a Kronos, I create combi's with 3 or 4 different different horn patches, some patches I will transpose one patch up +12 semitones or down semitones depending on the type of song I'm doing.

 

I try to chart out all the horn parts.

 

Also, try playing with both hands either 3rds or octaves (if you don't patch +/-12 semitones) to create very thick stabs and runs.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I enjoy replacing brass with keyboards. I'm lucky enough to have a few nice CTA-ish brass section patches on my PC361, which crossfade pretty seamlessly from 'bone to sax to trumpet.

 

For me, the aim is to play the lines like a brass arranger, not like a pianist or organist. Two things that happen a lot in horn bands: open chord voicing (Middle C, A a 6th up, and F a 6th above that); and simple octaves for melodic riffs.

 

For me, the most useful knowledge came in the form of a book of Chicago transcriptions -- not a fake book, but note-for-note -- I got in the 1970s. A quick check of Amazon shows that you can still get that. Well worth playing through.

-Tom Williams

{First Name} {at} AirNetworking {dot} com

PC4-7, PX-5S, AX-Edge, PC361

 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Good tips here, but also from a starting point, the Casios are not so strong on horns. Probably Yamaha and Roland are strongest for the kind of thing you're talking about.

 

The horns on my Fantom X6 are really good. I have found they have lots of velocity layers, and it's easy to get convincing swells and falls.

David

Gig Rig:Roland Fantom-08| Arturia Keylab 61MK2 | MacBook Pro 14" M1| Mainstage

 

 

 

 

 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Restore formatting

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

 Share

×
×
  • Create New...