Orchestration Tip: Harmonic Spectra of Xylophone vs. Marimba

Orchestration Tip: Harmonic Spectra of Xylophone vs. Marimba

(Tip no. 68 from 100 MORE Orchestration Tips) The reasons why xylophone can hold its own in an orchestral tutti and a marimba can’t are literally carved right into the instruments. Similar to some previous tips, here’s some information about mallet percussion that didn’t make it into 100 Orchestration Tips. Sometimes, really understanding an acoustic phenomenon helps a…
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Orchestration Tip: Second Wind Player’s Roles

Orchestration Tip: Second Wind Player’s Roles

(Tip no. 2 from 100 MORE Orchestration Tips, to be released in 2020) Give the solo part to the first player in most cases, whether high or low; and think of the second players’ roles as being supportive in the best way, rather than ignominious. “To what degree should second wind players should be given…
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Duration of Double Bass Pizzicato Notation

Duration of Double Bass Pizzicato Notation

(Tip no. 85 from 100 MORE Orchestration Tips, to be released in 2018) Recently, I’ve seen a great deal of concern being focused on the scoring of pizzicato in double bass parts by composers in the Orchestration Online community. Of special focus are the precise nuances of duration. The following example was recently posted asking…
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Timpani Range Qualities

Timpani Range Qualities

(Tip no. 60 from 100 MORE Orchestration Tips, to be released in 2018) The range of timpani pitches has an emotional arc. In Tip 53 of my previous book 100 Orchestration Tips, titled “Timpani Tuning Shortcuts,” I provided a quick and easy way to check the range of possible pitches using the standard four timpani…
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Saxophone Score Placement

Saxophone Score Placement

(Tip no. 21 from 100 MORE Orchestration Tips, to be released in 2018) Score placement is a tricky and evolving thing for visitors to the concert orchestra – especially when that visitor isn’t a soloist, but a general contributor to orchestral texture and function. The saxophone can be particularly puzzling, and not just to developing…
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Harp – Range of Multiple Harmonics

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…
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Trumpet – Auxiliaries

Trumpet – Auxiliaries

(Tip no. 40 from “100 Orchestration Tips,” Part 2: The Brass Section) When scoring for auxiliary trumpets, be aware that considerations of tone are always more important that extensions of range. The trumpet family is similar to the clarinet family in some respects. Both have two main models that are tuned by one or two…
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Trombone Wars – The Tenor Clef (I – VI – VII)

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.

Cello – Unison With Double Basses

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…
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Cello – Registers as Defined by Clefs

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…
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