Beginner Practicing Orchestration

Xiaddle

New Member
Hi,
I posted before and I was adviced to expand a piano piece into full orchestra to practice orchestration. This is being very difficult for me so I am again looking for advice.
How do I know which notes should be played by which section or group of instruments? Is it good or bad to use many instruments at once? That kind of thing

THank you
 

d.healey

Music Monkey
How do I know which notes should be played by which section or group of instruments?
There are many factors. The simplest is what notes can a given instrument play? A flute can't play the same notes as a tuba for example.

The emotion or feeling you're trying to convey with the music will also play a role. If you want something majestic or fanfare-ish you will probably gravitate to brass. If you want something fast and nimble you might pick woodwinds or plucked strings or percussion. Check out ScoreClub - I think the Orchestrating the line classes are fantastic.

When you're orchestrating chords you'll generally choose instruments based on how well they compliment each other, while being mindful of not riding over the melody.

Is it good or bad to use many instruments at once? That kind of thing
Neither good nor bad. Sometimes you want a lot of instruments sometimes you just want one.
 

JohnG

Senior Member
I am pretty lazy and I found piano-to-orchestra boring and tedious.

Shortcuts / suggestions:

1. Orchestrate just four or eight well-chosen bars of the piano piece -- you don't have to orchestrate a whole piece to learn something;

2. Copy out (or put into your sequencer) four or eight bars at a time, by hand, in concert pitch, not transposed, one of your favourite passages from a score you admire -- The classic scores where many/most of the tricks lurk that film music uses are in the 19th century "huge" scores and in a handful of composers' work (Debussy and Ravel especially) from the 20th century. Respighi's "Pines of Rome" has tricks that have been copied 10,000 times, as does the warhorse "Carmina Burnana." There's also Holst's "The Planets." Almost anything by Richard Strauss or Wagner or even the overtures for other opera composers (Verdi or Rossini or Puccini). When you copy it out, use two staves for winds, two for brass, two for strings, and then maybe two or so for percussion. It's still a lot of staff lines, but far fewer than on one of those big pieces.

Real Players are Key

Alas, the only sure-fire means of learning orchestration is to write for players and see how they respond -- what they find difficult, what they find easy. If you live in a college town you might be able to take an "extended learning" or "adult class" in orchestration or, failing that, contact the music department people and find out if there are students who'd be willing to have a bash at, say, a string quartet or small chamber piece (10-12 players, six-ten minutes long). If you're in a big city you could contact the musicians' union and see if you can hire people at a reduced, "demo" rate.

The Death Spiral

You don't want your first time standing in front of an orchestra to be the first time you've experienced people playing your work. It's just sooo easy to have transposition blunders, notation errors and all that, bleeding away time (and the goodwill of the players) fixing problems that a bit of experience for yourself would have headed off.

Attitude

Musicians will help you if you are well prepared, have few / no copying errors, and you treat them with appropriate respect and courtesy. The latter -- courtesy, respect, zero arrogance -- can help one tiptoe past the unfortunate fact that many players are far better performers than most media composer / conductors. If you behave like some Mighty God Conductor -- you had better be a Mighty God Conductor.

Books / Audio

I still favour Adler's orchestration book with accompanying audio.

Also there's this thread with videos about orchestration: https://vi-control.net/community/threads/videos-about-orchestration.14645/

Good luck!

John
 
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ed buller

Senior Member
Hi,
I posted before and I was adviced to expand a piano piece into full orchestra to practice orchestration. This is being very difficult for me so I am again looking for advice.
How do I know which notes should be played by which section or group of instruments? Is it good or bad to use many instruments at once? That kind of thing

THank you
It's a big subject...but there's a way to get to grips with the basics. Download a simple piece from Pictures at an exhibition by Mussorgsky. I suggest the OLD CASTLE. Download the piano version and Ravel's orchestrated version. They are both here : https://imslp.org/wiki/Pictures_at_an_Exhibition_(Mussorgsky,_Modest)


Look at how the melody gets orchestrated. When it's solo and when there is doubling. there is a SAX in this which is very unusual. The melody starts on a bassoon. There are many examples of standard doubling for melodies. First look at the register. It will be in one of four ranges. As quick as you can try to think like this. Soprano, Alto, Tenor, Bass. This will cover most things.

The Orchestra is

Soprano: Piccolos, Flutes, Oboes, ( high clarinets , eb ) Trumpets , Glocks, Celeste,Violins

Alto: Oboes , Clarinets , Bassoons ( very rare , opening of Rite of spring ) Horns , Violas

Tenor: Clarinets ( there most common role ) Bassoons ( again unusual it's really the bass of the woodwind choir ) Trombones, Celli

Bass: Bassoons, Bass Clarinets, Trombones , Tuba , Basses.

this is a simplified list. Perc is everywhere and the strings swap roles a lot !


So melody's can be doubled at pitch or higher or lower. clarinets and Violas are common doubling for chords. Bassoons and French horns blend well. Violins and Flutes and Oboe's are common doubles.

Look for the span of sound. So if the original piece fits onto the Grand staff (C3 being middle C ) C1 to C5 where would you extend it ?...look for dynamics. Are the instruments you chose playing in the right range for their dynamic ? Controlling the level is hard at the edges of an instruments compass. try and assign parts to the MEAT area of an instrument . However much intensity can be achieved by getting an instrument to play at the top of their range . High celli for example and of course the bassoon in the Rite Of Spring.

What's the mood ? The old castle is Dark, mysterious, Old , Haunting , But Very RUSSIAN !








I highly recommend Mike Verta's Course "PRESETS" !...It's so useful:

https://mikeverta.com/product/online-masterclass-orchestration-3-presets/


this too is a great resource:

http://northernsounds.com/forum/forumdisplay.php/77-Principles-of-Orchestration





Best Of Luck

ed
 
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