Orchestration Tip: Harmonic Spectra of Xylophone vs. Marimba

Orchestration Tip: Harmonic Spectra of Xylophone vs. Marimba

(Tip no. 68 from 100 MORE Orchestration Tips) The reasons why xylophone can hold its own in an orchestral tutti and a marimba can’t are literally carved right into the instruments. Similar to some previous tips, here’s some information about mallet percussion that didn’t make it into 100 Orchestration Tips. Sometimes, really understanding an acoustic phenomenon helps a…
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Percussion: the Right Instrument for the Right Job

Percussion: the Right Instrument for the Right Job

(Tip no. 57 from 100 MORE Orchestration Tips, to be released March 2020) Percussion instruments of similar timbre and attack can be quite different from one another in performance. The orchestrator should factor in range, intensity, and colour in choosing the correct instrument for a specific role. It sometimes takes a while before composers get…
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Orchestration Tip: Harmonic Spectrum of Muted Strings

Orchestration Tip: Harmonic Spectrum of Muted Strings

(Tip no. 95 from 100 MORE Orchestration Tips, to be released March 2020) Compared to a unmuted tone, a muted string tone suppresses the root and dampens the sheen of the tone; but still has a fairly strong body. NOTE: 100 MORE Orchestration Tips features several chapters which diagram the differences between muted and unmuted…
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Orchestration Tip: Bisbigliando is Vewy Vewy Quiet!

Orchestration Tip: Bisbigliando is Vewy Vewy Quiet!

(Tip no. 75 from 100 MORE Orchestration Tips, to be released March 2020) No matter how much a composer might wish otherwise, harpists simply cannot play bisbigliando loudly. Most of the tips in this book and in the original 100 Orchestration Tips are about things you won’t find in orchestration manuals; or about things that…
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Bassoon A Extension Do’s & Dont’s

Bassoon A Extension Do’s & Dont’s

(Tip no. 30 from 100 MORE Orchestration Tips) The use of an A extension may give you an extra half-step lower in a bassoon part, but it’s not without consequence. The lower limits of any orchestral instrument are constantly being challenged. Double basses have had their low E strings turned into extensions down to low…
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Woodwind Octaves, Part 2: Relationships Within Families.

Woodwind Octaves, Part 2: Relationships Within Families.

(Tip no. 4 from 100 MORE Orchestration Tips, to be released in March 2020) Exposed woodwind octaves using members of the same families of instruments can be very effective, so long as the registers are balanced in dynamics and timbre. In my lecture at Azusa University earlier this year, I shared a tip regarding exposed…
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Orchestration Tip: Divisi vs. Double Stops

Orchestration Tip: Divisi vs. Double Stops

(Tip no. 81 from 100 MORE Orchestration Tips, to be released in 2020) Don’t assume that you always need to score double-stops instead of divisi in order to balance strings against other sections. A common challenge for developing orchestrators is deciding when to score divisi and when to score double stops (“non divisi”). It’s not…
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Orchestration Tip: Second Wind Player’s Roles

Orchestration Tip: Second Wind Player’s Roles

(Tip no. 2 from 100 MORE Orchestration Tips, to be released in 2020) Give the solo part to the first player in most cases, whether high or low; and think of the second players’ roles as being supportive in the best way, rather than ignominious. “To what degree should second wind players should be given…
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Orchestration Tip: Saxophone Tonal Similarities and Blending, Part 2

Orchestration Tip: Saxophone Tonal Similarities and Blending, Part 2

(Tip no. 24 from 100 MORE Orchestration Tips, to be released in 2020.) Similarities of timbre mentioned in the previous tip can provide a guide to the saxophone’s use in soloing, substitution, and textural blending. Despite similarities between saxophones and concert instrument counterparts, it’s important to underline that resemblances are not replications! No matter what…
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Saxophone Tonal Similarities and Blending, Part 1

Saxophone Tonal Similarities and Blending, Part 1

The similarities of timbre between saxophone models and orchestral winds and brass should be well-known to the orchestrator. When saxophones made their initial orchestral appearances in the late 19th/early 20th centuries, it was for their uniqueness of timbre, introducing what would have been an exotic sound into the standard ranks of the wind section. Despite…
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