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 …

Strings – Mute Changes

Always make sure that that your string players have plenty of time to put on and take off their mutes. Yes, this is a standard caution of orchestration manuals, but there’s more to it: you also have to provide some cover for the minuscule bustle as the players go about the process. Most players have …