Instrumentation Blogs

Percussion

An active member of the Orchestration Online community, Jamie’s distinguished himself with supportive advice for composers, especially regarding his knowledge as a percussionist. He just started blogging about composing for percussion, and his first two posts are phenomenally helpful, clear, and elemental to understanding the ins and outs of composing for percussion. Highly recommended, and now the author had better start writing some more…

Winds

I very recently became aware of Heather Roche’s excellent blog on the clarinet. As a contemporary music specialist, she is quite experienced in communicating the intricacies of her art to composers, and backs up this gift with many descriptions, analyses, and audio/video demonstrations. It’s a priceless resource for every composer.

Harp

This is really a lovely website, by two professional harpists, Miriam Overlach and Sabien Canton. They have an enormously positive attitude toward us composers and our struggles to write playable harp music. They run down the fundamental techniques of the harp with videos, text, and downloadable PDF’s. The underlying philosophy? Clearly stated on its own page, beginning with the sentence “Communication between composers and players means working together, improvising and experimenting with the instrument.” How true that is, and how welcoming this entire site. Brava, Miriam and Sabien!

Just as a footnote: this site was launched last year, but it appears that it’s going a bit slowly since then. My feeling is that composers just aren’t aware of this resource, and aren’t giving these harpists any feedback. I urge anyone who links through from this website to contact Miriam and Sabien and let them know if you’ve found their content useful to your craft. That’s the way these blogs and sites stay alive.

The Sibelius Academy is a great reliable source for basic information about instrumentation. The harp notation section of the site is particularly good – a great backstop for the website above. I’d suggest going through Composing For Harp first, to get a very helpful, humanising primer on harp technique, and then completing the lesson by reading through the pages here, which put things into a more clinical, nicely systematic way.

Strings

Don’t let the scribbled, offhand look of the homepage fool you – the Cello Map is one of the most outstanding of instrumental resources on the internet, bar none. It covers techniques of every kind, supported by numerous videos. Admittedly, there’s a focus on contemporary technique, along with the assumption that the reader has a preexisting familiarity with basic string instrumentation. But the prize for that entry-level knowledge is an even deeper level of understanding. Not to be missed.