Creating band parts from piano music

• Aug 2, 2010 - 16:19

Over the weekend, I, a rank novice both with MuseScore and with music itself, having ended my career as a bass clarinetist in the early days of the Kennedy administration, successfully, with some help from this forum, input the piano score for "The Carlisle Indian School March" into MuseScore. Now, I would like to change it from being a piano piece to being music for a marching band as Dennison Wheelock intended when he wrote it in 1896. However, I don't have a clue as to how it should be done. I suspect that it needs to be "arranged" for clarinets, trumpets, trombones, etc. but don't know how to do that. Is there a program that takes piano music and creates parts for various instruments from it? Or, must one learn a lot about music composition and do this manually?

Thank you for your help. The fruits of my labor to date can be found at:


Hello. I play tenor saxophone in a sax quartet and look after the quartet's repertorie, so I'm always on the lookout for sax quartet music.

I have scored several numbers in our repertoire from piano music and I have to tell you that for amateurs like you and me it's not easy. For a start you can't just copy the notes from the piano staves and transpose them for the various intruments. There will always be a composing and arranging element to the task where you have to add or subtract phrases or change them as written for piano. I'm lucky to have a professional musician, composer arranger friend who I try not to bother too much when I get stuck, but whithout whose help I could not have completed any of the scores I started, and these were just simple tunes for a quartet, not a march for a full marching band that you're contemplating.

So I'm afraid the bottom line is unless you have a sound grasp of all the elements of musical composition and a arrangement I think you would really struggle to end up with a useable result. Your best bet may be to get in touch with a local school or college music faculty and see if there is anyone there who might help you out or perhaps even give it to their students as an excercise.

Good luck...........!!

In reply to by Peter B

Thank you for the suggestion, Peter. Perhaps I can find a student in need of a project. The fact that this piece is interesting in terms of our country's history and that it was composed by a Native American who was educated at Carlisle Indian School might make it a good fit for a student research or graduation project.

I can hope.

In reply to by TomBenjey

Having listened to the piano on your link a couple of times it might not be as difficult as all that. There's a pretty straightforward top line which could be scored for trumpets 1 and 2 without much trouble and there's a strong bass line also which could be scored for tuba(s) and trombones also without much difficulty. The difficulty, as always, would be the piccolo / flute lines over the top of the band, (you may have to compose something for them), and the middle of the band around the horns/baritones, albeit that the these would pick up the off-beats for much of the piece. There seems to be a line in the 'Trio' section which would go peretty naturally to the euphonium.

So I'm even more sure now that this would be a very good project for a student studying for top end grades. In fact a tutor might be grateful for the opportunity to stretch their best students with this exercise. Well worth a try.

In reply to by Peter B

I took your advice, Peter, and contacted a friend who, until recently was an administrator at a local college. He suggested a specific professor who he thought might be interested and I contacted him. He is quite interested. I suppose that not only is the project non-trivial, it is of historic significance. The student could do a research project on the composer, Dennison Wheelock, and on the Carlisle Indian School Band for whom the march was written and named after. We'll see how it works out.

In reply to by TomBenjey

Excellent !

Your posts encouraged me to research Dennison Wheelock a little myself. He was certainly a very extraordinary man, emerging from a Wisconsin Indian Reservation to become a major composer of his time who performed at all the major venues including Carnegie Hall where he debuted his three part symphony 'Aboriginal Suite'. Yet he never seemed to forget his roots since he died in Washington D.C. while serving as a lawyer representing several Indian Nations.

Perhaps Dennison Wheelock deserves better recognition than he current seems to command. A very worthwhile research project indeed, Tom.

Good luck with the professor.

In reply to by Peter B

I've been trying to avoid researching Carlisle Indian School musicians because that would be a book in itself. Carlisle Indian School fottball is a big enough topic by itself. The book I'm currently getting ready to print, "Wisconsin's Carlisle Indian School Immortals," features two of Dennison's brothers, Hugh and Joel, and his cousin Martin. Another brother, James Riley Wheelock, was also an accomplished musician. He also became bandmaster at Carlisle and had his own all-Indian band. Like his older brother. he died youngish. Hugh was a musician at Carlisle and locally in Altoona the rest of his life. Joel went on to have an all-Indian band of his own and like his older brothers died youngish. It's not clear if William Winneshiek took over Joel's band after his death or formed one of his own. The Wheelocks were like the first family of Carlisle Indian School because there were so many of them--others were not mentioned here-- and they were so accomplished. Because Joel and Hugh Wheelock were football players at Carlisle and elsewhere as was William Winneshiek, I am forced to delve into the Carlisle music program more than I wanted. Fred Cardin and James Garvie weren't football players, so I haven't had to research their lives.

Right now, I am rushing to run to ground whether William Winneshiek actually went on Richard Byrd's Second Antarctic Expedition and some contemporaneous newspaper articles I recently came across stated. I hope to use Carlisle Indian School March on the book trailer.

Thank you very much for your encouragement.

Do you still have an unanswered question? Please log in first to post your question.