Horn Wars – Scoring 1/2, 3/4 vs. 1/3, 2/4

Horn Wars – Scoring 1/2, 3/4 vs. 1/3, 2/4

One of the most frequently asked questions in the Orchestration Online Facebook group is “How should I score horns – 1/2, 3/4; or 1/3, 2/4?” This refers to the placement on the standard two-staff layout of horns in pairs. In other words, should horns be scored like the left sample or right sample below? The…
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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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Strings – Bowing Styles and Markings

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…
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Orchestration – Technique and Execution

Orchestration – Technique and Execution

The parameters of technique and execution must be considered in scoring a phrase to an instrument or section. Here’s one last tip about orchestral phrasing before tomorrow’s video about Tchaikovsky. The easiest way to say this is: “one size does not fit all.” But this goes past character, timbre, inflection, and other factors I’ve written…
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Orchestration – Inflection

Orchestration – Inflection

Inflection is often key to matching a thematic phrase intuitively to an orchestral instrument or section. Once again, we have a parallel between language and music. In speech, inflection is defined by a certain shaping of vocal tone to reinforce the meaning of a sentence. The most obvious of these is a rising voice for…
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Orchestration – Deriving Texture from Instrument-Driven Development

Orchestration – Deriving Texture from Instrument-Driven Development

Thematic development which is driven by the character of the instruments should determine the nature of the accompanying orchestral texture. For the past three days, I’ve examined the role of instrumental color in determining the shape of phrasing and the development of themes, empowered by obeying the basic rules of linguistic communication. Today, I’m going…
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Orchestration – Instrumental Color Dictating Thematic Development

Orchestration – Instrumental Color Dictating Thematic Development

The qualities of instrumental color should dictate the development of thematic material in a orchestral score. This, I feel, is one of the hardest things for a beginning orchestrator to grasp. Very often, I’m seeing beginning scores where thematic development is very pianistic, and of course that’s natural as most composers nowadays are pianists or…
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Orchestration – Communicating a Theme

Orchestration – Communicating a Theme

A great orchestral theme should use certain precepts of communication for maximum emotional impact. Yesterday I spoke about the importance of shaping a phrase orchestrally to fit the appropriate instrument. Today’s topic takes this further – not merely shaping a phrase or musical sentence, but an entire theme that’s more like a paragraph – composed…
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Orchestration – Shaping a Phrase

Orchestration – Shaping a Phrase

The ability to shape a phrase orchestrally should be one of the primary concerns of a developing orchestrator, not just thinking vertically. Something I’ve observed in many early orchestrational efforts is the concept that orchestration is mostly about combinations of sound and color. Developing orchestrators tend to think about the big picture a lot, and…
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