Cello – Sul Tasto

Sul tasto has less limits on cello than it does on viola and violin, and may also be used quite effectively on its two lower strings in combination with tremolo. About a week ago, I uploaded a video that talked about the reasonable upper limit on sul tasto, pointing out problems of fingering too close …

Oboe – Slurring Up vs. Down

Slurring up on the oboe is always simpler than slurring down. The above is a very simple statement for a complex situation. Slurring up implies a certain tightening of the embouchure, while slurring down is the opposite. But as we’ve seen with the horn, it’s much simpler to increase pressure smoothly than it is to …

Video Tip of the Week: The Ceiling on Sul Tasto

A video installment in my daily series of tips. Please follow me on Twitter for the Orchestration Online Tip of the Day at @OrchestrationOL, or join the Orchestration Online Facebook group for feedback, resources, and advice. Tips of the Day for this week: Monday, February 11: The Importance of Marking Bowings Tuesday, February 12: A …

Strings – Studying Bowing on Marked Parts

Study bowing by looking at marked string parts, and look over your own orchestra parts once they’ve been rehearsed and performed. This can be enormously educational for an orchestrator trying to get their head around how bowing works. Even a very experienced composer will occasionally score a phrase with certain assumptions about bowing, and then …

Strings – Shaping Phrases “Vocally”

Use slurs and articulation in a vocal, flexible way for a convincing style of string phrasing. This tip also applies to wind and brass phrasing. A common approach for beginning composers is to use one type of articulation throughout a passage, or one type of slurring across a vertical texture, or to have all instruments …

Strings – Melodic and Rhythmic Bowing

Learn to recognize the the standard approach of bowing as applied to typical rhythmic and melodic gestures. One thing that orchestrators come to understand is that bowing is a lot like breathing, or like waves on the beach. The bow goes up and down – what a simple way of explaining the process – and …

Strings – Skips of Position

Use caution in wide skips of position, especially where a slur is involved. This is another common error for a beginning composer, related to the past two tips. Let’s review quickly: a set of finger positions dictate the pitches to be played; and bowing must be worked out for each passage, if not each note. …

Strings – Finger Positions

A working knowledge of finger positions for string instruments is essential to a working orchestrator. I could spend a whole week talking about finger positions. But the point I want to make today is that this is another big hole in the perception of many beginning orchestrators. It’s that section at the beginning of the …

Strings – Bowing Styles and Markings

The orchestrator should learn to automatically envision what type of bowing is to be used in every orchestral passage, and mark those passages as needed. This is one of those steps on the road to mastery for a professional orchestrator – learning all the different types of bowing, and indicating the appropriate style in the …

Horns – Slurring Up vs. Down

It is much simpler to slur up on a horn than to slur down. Most non-wind and non-brass players don’t instinctively understand this, and it can lead to scoring that is much more difficult than the composer realizes. For a brass player to slur upwards, pressure must be increased and the embouchure tightened. This is …