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Would you like brass with that?

As we begin the process for Volume 3 of Salvation Worship, it’s almost time to start writing brass parts for five new songs. Salvation Worship has two available options for brass orchestrations. The first is the punch brass scoring, like Praise Charts. The other option is the brass pad scoring, which serves as chording colorizations that are an added element to piano and guitar accompaniment. The arrangement and scoring are designed in such a way that allows everyone to work together. The brass is never a stand-alone accompaniment. For more details, check out issue 10 of SA Worship Magazine.


I want to share a little bit of insight into how the parts are written and developed. The simple answer is that I listen to the songs, figure out what will work, and then notate it. The more in-depth answer involves a longer process. Perhaps in explaining this process, it will give some inspiration and guidance to those who are looking to write their own brass parts for worship songs.


Once the five songs are selected for publication, the team meets to discuss artists that could potentially record each song. Depending on the song, it will require different rhythm, keyboard, and guitar needs. Some songs are driven by the drums, or more delicately by an acoustic guitar. After this is decided, guide tracks, lead sheets, and overall scoring suggestions are sent out for musicians to record their part. Once all the individual tracks are sent back, a rough mix is put together. I will listen through each song to find a hook that the songwriter may have written, or one that a musician may have recorded, and I will expand upon this hook or motif.


As I discover these main hooks, I also listen carefully for other ideas that the keyboard or guitar might have played in recording their part. Perhaps there might be a moment that 

can be enhanced by adding an echo or harmony. These will often relate to the hook of the song or will preview an idea of something that is still to come. A motif that sounds cool but doesn’t fit the chording of the song won’t work. I rarely allow the punch brass to double the melody line. They may start or come in halfway through the line (check out the chorus of Boundless Love (from Volume 1), but it is simply to enhance or accentuate the line. The punch brass parts are usually a mix of octave unison and harmony playing.


The brass pad parts are the final element added. These parts are added to various sections of the song that need more depth and colour. It is important to follow the chords of the song very closely and voice everything in a way that is both pleasing and playable for a wide range of instruments and players. That’s why these parts are mostly whole and half notes. Swells using dynamics are often very effective, but the goal is to keep these parts in the background. 


I find the balancing act is finding the right places for all the brass parts to be inserted. Less is more, but sometimes less is also cliché. We have all seen many brass parts that simply say, “play 2nd time.” Always ask yourself where the brass texture is suitable and keep in mind that these orchestrations are optional.


As you discover more of Salvation Worship and we continue to publish more songs, it will be great to continually find more styles of writing for brass that will strive to enhance each song, and ultimately enhance our worship experience. 

Written by Marcus Venables

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