Harp – Range of Multiple Harmonics

(Tip no. 68 from “100 Orchestration Tips,” Part 4: Harp) Left hand multiple harmonics are only practical up to around middle C. Higher than that, the hand position prevents them from speaking with ease. This is a tip that I’ve not seen in ANY orchestration manual anywhere, period. Most manuals tell you that the right …

Trombone Wars – The Tenor Clef (I – VI – VII)

Few topics on the Orchestration Online Facebook page have incited more controversy and strong feelings than the use of the tenor clef for trombones. There’s a spectrum of history and craft that must be absorbed before one can honestly decide whether the tenor clef should be utilised or annihilated.

Woodwinds – Doubling Pros and Cons

The question of doubling for winds comes up quite often for an orchestrator-in-progress. Strange to say, the simple act of putting two of the same type of wind instrument on the same note can have broad implications for the type sound you want in the orchestra. You should never do it arbitrarily, or by default. …

Woodwinds – Keep a Tight Hold on That Auxiliary!

Let’s say that you’re second oboist for a mid-sized orchestra. You play a lot of cor anglais parts as a result. On one new work, you’re piping away at some very good writing for second oboe – clean, well-supported, and easy to […]

Scoring – Seamless Doubling Isn’t Always Identical

The general wisdom about doubling strings with winds or brass is that for a smooth, combined sound, the phrasing should match exactly in both parts. In other words, the slurs and note durations should be nearly identical […]

Extreme Auxiliary Instruments – Where Is Their Proper Place? Film Music!

For every orchestral family, there are always auxiliary instruments: holdovers from older periods, like the viola d’amore or the oboe d’amore; or extensions of range like the piccolo or bass clarinet. Then there are the extreme auxiliaries, which push the range of the families in strange directions, usually downwards: the bass flute, the baritone oboe/heckelphone, …

Heckelphone/Bass Oboe – The Realities

My recent experiences in booking wind players for my orchestration course has brought up a very important tip about heckelphone and bass oboe, a factor involved in the use of these instruments that you also won’t find in the orchestration manuals. I realise, of course, […]

Cello – Unison With Double Basses

Cellos need not always play octaves with the basses. A very powerful sound can be achieved by doubling the instruments in unison. In most classical scores, double basses in cellos get a single line, and are expected to play that line as written – which means that the basses will be playing an octave below …

Cello – Registers as Defined by Clefs

The three different clefs used by the cello serve as natural boundaries to its three essential registers. The cello has three main registers, which correspond quite well to both vocal ranges and their respective clef signs: bass, tenor, and soprano (actually treble clef). A wise orchestrator recognizes that these clefs do more than just setting …

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 …