Week 9 – Zephyr string quartet

Posted in Uncategorized on June 11, 2013 by nataliezelenymusic

Tonight I recorded Zephyr string quartet. It was an amazing evening and I walked away tonight feeling so inspired. I was in Monday’s group along with 6 other students. To begin with, most of us were feeling nervous about our scores and were hoping that our score would make sense to the string quartet and not look like a strange alphabet of notes. Although I was a little nervous, I felt well prepared. I had put in all necessary markings, tempo information and notation. I also had a full backing track prepared without vocals, so that the string quartet could hear the track through their headphones while recording. I decided to do this as I thought they would be able to get a better feel for the song this way. Upon arrival, I asked the members if they preferred the backing track with or without vocals. When they told me that they preferred vocals, I quickly went downstairs and bounced out Gypsy in full, with vocals this time.

The first piece was Cate’s, and after a bit of sound checking, the quartet began to play her piece. It sounded so professional and our class was blown away. The rest of the recordings sounded great, regardless of the song’s genre. When it was time to record Gypsy, I asked the string quartet to play the song through so that I could hear how it sounded. I was blown away. In my mind, I knew how I wanted it to sound and they played exactly what I wanted. It was a great experience. When it came to recording, things went smoothly apart from one thing. During an instrumental section, the recording did not match up with the mix coming through the headphones because I had written one extra bar on the score. This was quickly fixed as the string quartet also realised it and marked it on their score. We recorded the song again and it went very well.

I am so happy with tonight. This was a fantastic experience. Not only was it great to have a professional string quartet record our piece, but I thought it was great for us to see exactly what a professional musician was. I feel very inspired to better myself as a musician. I can’t wait to mix the strings into Gypsy.


Week 8 – No class, preparing for string quartet

Posted in Uncategorized on June 11, 2013 by nataliezelenymusic

I have been scheduled to record the string quartet next Monday, the 27th of May. I am recording my song ‘Gypsy’. So far I am feeling good about my score. Upon getting started, I used a string quartet template in Sibelius. There are a few things that I have felt challenged by in Sibelius. I spent a long time looking for bar rests rather than note rests. This would simplify the score and then it would not be as lengthy. Something new that I learned was that if you show each part individually, then save it off, Sibelius will automatically put in a bar rest if the rest is longer than 4 beats. This simplified the score for the strings section, rather than having several bars of rests in between sections.


Week 7 – Extra considerations when writing for strings

Posted in Uncategorized on June 11, 2013 by nataliezelenymusic

In today’s class we learned more about writing for the strings. To begin with, we listened to a string quartet cover of Gotye’s ‘Somebody I Used To Know’ by Vitamin String Quartet. We also listened to their cover of ‘Love Game’ by Lady Gaga. It was very interesting to listen to these popular hits in the context of the strings section and while listening, I was easily able to identify the different sections (ie; first violin playing the lead vocal, second violin playing backing vocal) etc.


We learned more about the different sections in an orchestral setting, These included included the wind section (flute, oboe, clarinet, bassoon), brass section (horns, trumpet, trombone) and percussion (timpani, celesta, xylophone, gong etc).


When writing for winds in an orchestral setting they can be considered in two days: melodic or harmonic. A melodic context means that a single instrument will play the melodic line. In a harmonic context, the winds will obviously play low, high and mid harmonies.


When writing for brass, it is important to remember that they are less flexible in tone than the wind section and they also get brighter as they get higher in range. The brass section are always set far back in an orchestral setting because they are so loud in comparison to other instruments.


The harp is a beautiful instrument, but I was surprised to learn about how difficult it is to transport. An average concert harp will generally weigh between 30-40 kgs. The strings on the harp are commonly colour coded. C strings are normally red and the F strings are normally black or dark blue. The remaining strings are white. This can help the harpist find the right string at a glance. There harp has four different parts including the column, neck, body/soundbox and the soundboard. On doing some more research into the harp, I discovered several interesting aspects. The harp is very hard on the fingers, because unlike other plucked instruments (ie; guitar), picks cannot be used. This commonly causes callouses and blisters to the harpist and unfortunately there is not much that can be done about it. I think that this would be important to remember when writing for the harp, because you would take into consideration that a fast moving, more dense section would certainly result in soreness, callouses and blisters and this could have an impact on the harpists ability to play.

Here is a useful diagram I found for the harp


Week 6: Nexus gig

Posted in Uncategorized on June 11, 2013 by nataliezelenymusic

Week 6 – Nexus gig

Today was our gig at Nexus 10. Being the second Nexus gig for our group, we were all familiar with the venue and what to expect. I thought that all bands performed well, and there was a lot less pressure on us than there normally are in class performances. Although today went well, it hasn’t been easy preparing for this gig. There has been some dispute in my group between myself and another band member and it has been difficult to see eye to eye at times. Despite a few tears the other day, we pulled off the gig quite well. When I learn a new song, I think that it is important that the song form is infront of me so that I remember certain parts. Of course, this isn’t necessary if you know the song well from playing it several times, but in this situation my band learned Paul’s song the day before the Nexus gig. I was the only person who wrote down the song form and I had a small piece of paper sitting flat on my piano with the song form on it. The others did not think this was necessary. When it came to performing Paul’s song, two of the ensemble members stuffed up because they had missed a section in the song. It took us several bars to get back on track and for them to remember where we are. I hate to say it, but I told you so. This is a perfect example of why we write down music and why we make sure we know the song form well enough before we play the piece. This aside, the performance went well. I’m glad we pulled it off.

Road To Nowhere

Posted in Uncategorized on June 11, 2013 by nataliezelenymusic


When I first wrote ‘Road To Nowhere’, I had high hopes and dreams about a specific situation. In fact, if you listen to the song carefully, you will hear that it tells a story. It paints a picture in the listeners mind, which is exactly what I wanted it to do. But what do you do when those hopes and dreams come crashing down, and you no longer feel the same way as you did when you initially wrote the song?

This has never happened to me before. Each time I hear the song, I am reminded of something that I no longer wish to be reminded of. It actually was a road to nowhere. What do I do? The song has a lot of body, a strong groove, and a catchy melody. I don’t want to change any of those things, but I do want to change it’s meaning.

All of the above has been a challenge which I have struggled with during the past week. In fact, I felt so strongly about it that I would change the song each time Road To Nowhere came on my i-pod.

As I sat at the piano the other evening, I came up with a completely new story for the song. I wrote new lyrics. What I didn’t do was change the melody. I was careful to keep certain syllables the same, and certain phrases melodically conjunct and disjunct as they were in the first version.

Old lyrics:
I’m in love with someone, who’s taken, and there’s no chance in the world that we will ever be together
He’s made a home with the love of his life,
he lives a different life to the one that I pictured for him and I
And he’s taken

New lyrics:
She works nine to five in a beauty store
Wishing her life could be something more
She’s made a home with the man in her life
They live a different life to the one she truly hopes for, inside
And she’s stuck.

From the verse/pre chorus lyrics above, the story of both songs is very apparet. With a little more work I will successfully over come this challenge, and I look forward to recording the new ‘Road To Nowhere’ and submitting it for my compositional studies major.


Week 4: Considerations when writing for strings

Posted in Uncategorized on April 16, 2013 by nataliezelenymusic

In today’s lesson we learned more about the roles of different string instruments, their characteristics, and the effect that they can have in an arrangement.


The violin family initiated from the family of “viols” during the 1600s. The violin has a range of G-G, one octave which means that it can play notes that are quite high on the stave. It’s opening strings are G, D, A and E, and it is based in the treble clef. Something which I learned and found interesting was the terms ‘Arco’ and ‘Pizz’. When writing for violin, the term ‘Arco’ and ‘Pizz’ indicates for the player to play with the bow. This is called bowing. The term ‘pizz’ indicates for the player to pluck the strings. By marking ‘Arco’ or ‘Pizz’ on the score, the player will know if they should be playing a section, or piece using their the plucking or bow technique. If no technique is indicated, then the violinist will simply assume that the piece/section is played arco.

There is often a first and second violin. The first violin virtuoso often plays the lead melody, can accompany sections/instruments and is generally the highest.

The second violin virtuoso can be very versatile. It is commonly used as an accompaniment , but it’s role can also include playing a counter melody or taking on a register depending on the counter that the song is in.


The viola is based in the alto clef and has a range of C-C. When high notes are present, the treble clef if used. The open strings on the viola include C, G, D and A. The role of the viola is to be the tenor voice. It has a dark and mellow tone.


The cello has a range from C-C and is based in the bass clef. It uses the treble clef for higher notes. The open strings include C, G , D and A. In its higher register, the cello can be very effective and powerful. The cello often gives the drive underneath the other string instruments. Often, the cello and first violin lock in and give a strong drive.

The powerful sound of the cello is evident in my song Gypsy. Although I have not yet recorded the string quartet, I have put a lot of effort into emulating MIDI from a virtual string instrument. You can listen to Gypsy below

Natalie Zeleny: Musical Style

Posted in Uncategorized on April 16, 2013 by nataliezelenymusic

Shot at EMU Studios 2013