Double Basses – “The Vivaldi Problem”

Double Basses – “The Vivaldi Problem”

(Tip no. 99 from “100 Orchestration Tips,” Part 5: Strings) A resonant low note on the basses can reinforce the upper partials of a major harmonic, with good and bad results. This is especially true if the bass is playing an open string a little too loudly. What will happen most often is that the…
Read more…

Double Basses – C-Extension Problems

Double Basses – C-Extension Problems

The C-extension on the double bass’s lowest string is not needed most of the time, even uncharacteristic to the instrument in a way. It’s a common tendency for beginning orchestrators to fall in love with the basement-scraping abilities of the double bass, and score much of their early efforts with that instrument playing almost exclusively…
Read more…

Double Basses – Limitations of Range

Double Basses – Limitations of Range

The double bass has a phenomenal range due to the length of its strings, but there are some limitations. The strongest register, of course, is the first octave and a 5th – the instrument was essentially built specifically to access those notes. The next octave is not so strong – the effort involved in playing…
Read more…

Double Basses – Carrying the Bass Line Alone

Double Basses – Carrying the Bass Line Alone

Double basses can carry the bass part alone, but the tone of their part will be different from cellos alone, or doubling with cellos. One of the great boons of orchestration since Beethoven is the liberation of the double basses from doubling the cellos exclusively. Basses can easily hold down the bottom end while the…
Read more…

Harp – BAD SCORING – CAUTION!

Harp – BAD SCORING – CAUTION!

(Tip no. 70 from “100 Orchestration Tips,” Part 4: Harp) (and if you tl:dr this tip, it’s on your own head) (*ahem*) The harp is NOT a piano! Do not assume what works on a piano will work on harp – much of the time, it won’t! This is the biggest error I see in…
Read more…

Harp – Range of Hand Positions

Harp – Range of Hand Positions

(Tip no. 67 from “100 Orchestration Tips,” Part 4: Harp) The range of the hands is not unlimited: the right hand cannot reach far below C in the bass staff, nor is it practical for the left hand to play complex lines around the very highest strings (due to visibility issues). This is also something…
Read more…

Harp – Fixed Tuning of Highest and Lowest Strings

Harp – Fixed Tuning of Highest and Lowest Strings

(Tip no. 65 from “100 Orchestration Tips,” Part 4: Harp) Some harps do not possess a high Gb string, and both bottom strings of Cb and Db may need to be tuned by hand. The double-action of the modern harp has limitations, as each pedal will essentially create tension on 6-7 strings of varying lengths…
Read more…

Harp – Resonance of Flat Keys

Harp – Resonance of Flat Keys

(Tip no. 66 from “100 Orchestration Tips,” Part 4: Harp) The most resonant sound from the harp occurs when the tuning is set to flat keys. This is because of the double-action harp tuning mechanism. The most relaxed, longest tuning of each string is when the harp tuning pedal is in the up or flat…
Read more…

Harp – “Stomping” Notes

Harp – “Stomping” Notes

Rapidly repeated notes on harp will result in a buzzing sound as fingers touch already vibrating strings. Some harpists call this “stomping.” This is a simple, incredibly important fact which is not in any orchestration manual I own, and it’s especially true with the lower, more widely vibrating strings. The orchestrator may score a harp…
Read more…

Video Tip of the Week: Timpani Tuning

Video Tip of the Week: Timpani Tuning

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. Tip of the Day for this week: Monday, December 31: Proofing by Instrumental Section Tuesday, January 1: Where to…
Read more…