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Topic: Writing Orchestral Percussion and Drum Staves (Read 16339 times) previous topic - next topic

Writing Orchestral Percussion and Drum Staves

Here is an easy method for writing orchestral percussion parts, not requiring dual staves for "sounding" and "viewing."

Parts for Gran Cassa (a kind of bass drum), Piatti (cymbals) and Triangle are usually written in orchestral scores on a single-line staff, using standard noteheads, and no clef. NWC V1.75 therefore supports everything necessary for an authentic visual aspect.

However, the sounded aspect poses a problem. While the sounds themselves can be reasonably approximated with sounds available on percussion channel 10, the "pitches" on this channel represent the different instruments. If staff properties is set for a single-line staff, this line will always be the middle line of a "normal" 5-line staff (i.e. the B above middle C in treble clef, or the D below middle C in bass clef).

This dilemma can be solved by using the Staff Transposition option in Staff Properties. A step-by-step example is given below, using Gran Cassa, Piatti, and Triangle.

  • Open the file drumref.nwc, included in the "Samples" folder under your NWC directory. Use SHIFT F5 to play either of the two staves, to find the desired sounds you want to use. Let's assume that you want to use the following sounds:

    • Gran Casse - "Bass Drum 1" ("C" 2 oct. below middle C)
    • Piatti - "Crash Cymbal 1" ("C#" below middle C)
    • Triangle - "Open Triangle" ("A" an octave above high C)
  • Create three staves (CNTL-A), one for each instrument. For each staff, hit Staff Properties (F2) and set the following:

    • General Tab: set Name, Group and Ending Bar as desired.

    • Visual Tab: set Vertical Size, Color and Style as desired. Set Lines to 1.

    • Midi Tab: Set Volume, Pan, and Playback Device as desired and appropriate to your system. Set Channel to 10. Set Transposition according to how many semitones your desired sound is away from the center line of the staff. Specifically, using our example:
      • Gran Cassa: this has to sound 14 semitones below the D below middle C (center line in bass clef), so set Transpostion to -14.
      • Piatti: this is the C# just below the D, so set transposition to -1.
      • Triangle: this one is best handled in treble clef; the high A is 10 semitones above the B above middle C, so set transposition to +10.
    • Instrument Tab: Set to 1 (1-based) or Acoustic Grand Piano (GM), or other instrument as appropriate (if your sound hardware supports additional percussion banks).
  • Add a clef at the beginning of each staff, as appropriate for the sound on that staff. In the example, "Gran Cassa" and "Piatti" would get bass clefs, and "Triangle" would get a treble clef. In the Visibility Tab, select Never.

  • Add the appropriate time signature after the clefs.

  • Setup done! Write your percussion parts on the single-line staves.
A sample file is attached.