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To those who read the "study of orchestration"

merlinhimself

Active Member
I'm going to start at ucla soon, but want to get a head start on studying. I've had this book for awhile and brushed through it, but for those who have gone through it fully, are there any chapters or ways you'd recommend going through it without a teacher?

The reason I ask.is I also have a book on modalogy, I read the entire thing but felt like I didn't understand a bit of it. A friend who went to Berklee saw i had it and said it's impossible to understand without the help of a teacher.
 

JohnG

Senior Member
Hi there,

If you are talking about Adler's book, the answer is a qualified "yes." It's very straightforward and workmanlike. I qualify the answer by saying that you probably will get a lot more out of it if you can read music with some fluency, both bass and treble clef. I assume if you're going to UCLA, you can!

Congratulations and good luck!

Kind regards,

John
 

wst3

my office these days
Interesting question!

Not sure there is an easy answer... but let's try.

I've read "Study of Orchestration", I assume you mean Adler. I had guidance from a teacher, and yeah, it helped, but for me the real key was listening as I read. I think I would have gained some insight without a teacher. It isn't really "out there", it's a pretty basic (well it gets advanced) framework for orchestrating a melody.

There are books that are out there - and a book on modalogy might qualify. Once again I'm not sure everyone must have a teacher to guide them, but it certainly doesn't hurt.

One of the biggest advantages of a classroom setting, formal or otherwise, is that it helps you focus. There are theory books on my shelves that I haven't finished because I didn't find them all that interesting, and no one made me<G>. I've revisited some of them over the years, and sometimes I've discovered I probably should have been a little more disciplined.

My field of study was physics (long story skipped), but I didn't even figure that out till the end of the first year of 'pre-med' studies. In order to try to catch up I tried to read the general physics textbook over the summer. Some folks might have pulled that off, but I needed a teacher to (a) keep me on track, and (b) explain concepts that weren't entirely obvious in the text. I've got a book on quantum physics and another on electricity and magnetism on my shelf. There are, I'm sure, people who could teach themselves with these books, again I wasn't one of them.

I'd guess the number of folks that can learn by themselves from any of those books is very small.

I'd further guess that the number of folks that could teach themselves elementary harmony or basic orchestration is orders of magnitude larger. Among other things the required experiments are more accessible, and I think a little more fun. (Not a lot more fun mind you, some of those physics experiments were a blast!)

So my advice is go ahead, dig in, give it a shot. If you get something out of it you are ahead of the game. BUT, since you have the opportunity by all means work with the teachers too!
 
OP
merlinhimself

merlinhimself

Active Member
Thanks for the reply @JohnG ! Definitely looking forward to starting.

@wst3 oh man such an interesting subject! However I can only understand articles is layman's terms lol, popsci etc.

But yeah I know what you mean, it's more of a "motivate myself to study" kind of thing. I'll start from chapter one and see where I get before school starts, but actually taking notes instead of running through it. But it is always nice having the teacher to answer questions etc.
 

JohnG

Senior Member
would you guys also recommend getting back into transcribing?
I do think transcribing is good. You don't have to boil the ocean though. Even eight bars here and there can reveal a lot.

Of course, Wagner reportedly transcribed all nine of Beethoven's symphonies.
 

Joe_D

Active Member
The Adler book can be very helpful, and I have long recommended it to my composition students. If you don't have them, definitely find and get the CD's that comes with it (or at least used to come with it), and listen to the various examples very carefully over studio monitors and headphones. You can get a lot of useful information on instrumentation and also orchestration from the written text, but you really need to use your ears to grasp some of the details.

And, if you ever have a chance to go to one of Samuel Adler's masterclasses or to take a lesson with Sam, by all means, do it! If not, maybe someone has made a video by now (I don't know). He's a great teacher who has mentored literally hundreds of composers over the decades, in addition to being a very skilled composer and arranger. He's a great human being as well.
 
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douggibson

Active Member
I had the good fortune of being one of his students. When I would ask him a question about the book he would always roll his eyes, and say "I wish someone would ask me about one of my compositions". He is a wonderful, tough and inspiring person. He was a sergeant in the army, and he certainly instills discipline !
He once asked me to set a Psalm - I am not religious - and hated the whole idea. I brought in my work, he looked it over for about 60 seconds, took the paper and ripped it up. Literally ! He said "don't ever write this non sense again"
I laughed with joy. Good .... I never want to set a Psalm again. Leave it to Stravinsky.

Ok.....trip down memory lane aside.

There are three parts to the book. The book, a DVD/Audio examples, and a workbook with tests.
It is worthwhile getting all three, especially if your course will be using them.

I am not really sure of the question. Is your question simply should I read the book before I get to class ?
Sure .... why not ?

Is your question: "Can I just read the book on my own and then I'm good to go ?"

Hell no ! Not even close. At best you would be "just able to be dangerous".

The only way you are really going to learn orchestration is by a combination or "stacking" learning approaches.

You will need:

1. Work with real musicians: Knock on practice room doors, and throw an excerpt on a players stand.
You know all those adds you see around school about "violin teacher available" (fill in the instrument name)
take a lesson with them. Explain you are looking to learn orchestration, and you want one lesson. These are often grad students and at a high level of training. You will never learn the psychology any other way.

2. Attend as many orchestral rehearsals as you can. LA Phil, UCLA, Community orchestras etc. It does not matter.
Try and find out before what pieces will be rehearsed and get those scores and take them to the rehearsal.
Keep a journal and write down any insights you have.

3. Get one on one training with an accomplished orchestration teacher. Really, get a fucking teacher.
Are you going to tell me there is no orchestration teacher in LA ? No one. Gut check time on how serious
you are about wanting to learn.

4. Join an orchestration study group like the AFM or ... I believe Ron Jones (? I am in NYC so don't really know).
Or get a few people who you can tolerate and have a score study group.

5. Write, have it performed with real musicians, then repeat, repeat, repeat, repeat, repeat, repeat, repeat, repeat, repeat, repeat.

Orchestration is not something that is separate to the composition. Orchestration is composition. It is a novice idea otherwise. The context/genre of what you are writing cannot be overlooked, as well as other formal aspects.
Don't get me wrong.... I know plenty of people do, but why concern ourselves with them ?

Both Stravinsky and Beethoven were tremendous orchestrators. Each has their own fingerprint, and the degree to which they integrated orchestration into the composition means you cannot simply surgically remove one.
You could take the opening of Beethoven's 5th and arrange it for Bassoon octet, and I am sure some novel moments will result, but it is not the same affect. Another test would be to take the famous Psycho shower scene and play it on piano. Not the same.

Good luck and all the best wishes for you with your studies !
 

rgames

Collapsing the Wavefunction
I've had this book for awhile and brushed through it, but for those who have gone through it fully, are there any chapters or ways you'd recommend going through it without a teacher?
I've gone through it and the way I recommend is this: play with an orchestra.

As alluded to above, reading a book about orchestration is like reading a book about hitting a golf ball: 95% of what you learn is in actually experiencing it. You can get a lot about music theory from a book but orchestration is much more a hands-on endeavor.

rgames
 

AllanH

Senior Member
As someone without college level formal music training, here are my thoughts: What I especially like about Adler 4 is that just about every concept, technique, articulation etc. has an example associated with it. If I can't imaging how it should sound from reading the score I can check YouTube or the associated online material. For self-study it's an excellent format; and I can only imaging how much more valuable it would be with a trained Orchestrator teaching to the book.

Like all complex subjects, it's going to take deliberate effort to master.
 

JohnG

Senior Member
I think if you read the original question, which is whether he can get something from the book ahead of time, the answer is "yes." You can learn a good bit from Adler on your own in preparation for your studies if you have the book and the audio.

The OP is not proposing to read a book instead of studying or working with players. He's just asking if it's going to be Greek without an instructor. I say it's not impenetrable and in fact fairly workmanlike provided that you can read music.
 
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I studied orchestration with D. Martin Jenni at Iowa, and the first half of the class was going through Adler, the second half sitting in on the advanced conducting class, with the university orchestra. If I had to parse Adler without the benefit of an instructor and orchestra, I might take a section of a score I loved and mock it up. I say mock it up, instead of just listening, because it forces you to take the time to see the score from each player's perspective, and compare that to the whole. This can be done by listening as well, but the mockup will slow down the process and allow questions to arise about each part. Then, when you've got the question, grab the Adler and find the answer. Not that you couldn't read it cover to cover, but I always find specific-purpose-driven learning to be efficient.
 

Morodiene

Senior Moment
+1 on getting a teacher. Books are great, but they can't answer your questions. They can't look at what you've done and tell you what you did wrong, or what can be improved, or warn you of the pitfalls that can happen with certain voicings. And work with real musicians whenever you can.
 

ctsai89

Poem of Ecstasy
I'm a alumni from UCLA undergrad composition program. I had Dr. Carlson (he's a great and i love his compositions, perhaps my favorite amongst current composers) teach us orchestration with that book you mentioned.

What i did not like about the book and what I did not like about having to use that book to learn orchestration at a higher level education university is that it starts out with things that are obvioulsy too basic and easily wielded by common sense (if you played in an orchestra before). By the time I got into UCLA I already knew pretty much what each instruments can basically do but the book really gets too detailed in that regard that it seems like a waste of time just to go over it.

Anyways, since we have the technology nowadays, it would be the best to learn orchestration simply by picking out your favorite orchestral pieces, finding the scores and do a midi mockup of it using spitfire libraries (or vienna, but guarantee you that it won't sound as realistic). This of course, would only work if you're familiar with what each instruments can do and the way the virtual instruments work.
 

agarner32

Active Member
it starts out with things that are obvioulsy too basic and easily wielded by common sense (if you played in an orchestra before).
That's great that you had the knowledge before you entered college, but not everybody does. We all have different skill sets. Furthermore, not everybody coming into college has played in an orchestra.
but the book really gets too detailed in that regard that it seems like a waste of time just to go over it.
It's really a waste of time to thoroughly understand each instrument? Did everybody in your orchestration class know all this stuff already? I doubt it.
Anyways, since we have the technology nowadays, it would be the best to learn orchestration simply by picking out your favorite orchestral pieces, finding the scores and do a midi mockup of it using spitfire libraries (or vienna, but guarantee you that it won't sound as realistic).
So you think that doing MIDI mockups is the best way to learn orchestration? I guess writing for real players is not quite as good. I would suggest there is no "best" way to learn orchestration. Although the tools we have today are certainly great and I wish they had been available when I was studying music in college, there is no replacement for real people playing real instruments.
 
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ctsai89

Poem of Ecstasy
That's great that you had the knowledge before you entered college, but not everybody does. We all have different skill sets. Furthermore, not everybody coming into college has played in an orchestra.

It's really a waste of time to thoroughly understand each instrument? Did everybody in your orchestration class know all this stuff already? I doubt it.

So you think that doing MIDI mockups is the best way to learn orchestration? I guess writing for real players is not quite as good. I would suggest there is no "best" way to learn orchestration. Although the tools we have today are certainly great and I wish they had been available when I was studying music in college, there is no replacement for real people playing real instruments.

yes true everything you said. But Adler's book should've included ways to blend those individual instruments into the full orchestra while going into only that instrument in detail instead of just giving "solo" examples of it and dwelling on it and not actually using it in a "full orchestral" context. -that's only for the first half of the book though. 2nd half of the book is good and has most of the things you need but could've been better.

I might be a bit biased though since I'm no fan of Adler's music at all and am bitter that he's left out many more wonderfully orchestrated pieces from the 19th and early 20th century.

By the way i'm a real string player and I can say (judging from my ears) there are a few library makers who are already making their samples sound as close to when real players can be replaced by simply the sample library.

I highly recommend doing the following mock-ups to thoroughly learn to write for a late romantic-hollywood orchestra:

Scriabin symphony #1, 2, 3, poem of ecstasy.

Rachmaninoff sympphony #1, 2, 3, 4.

Myaskovsky Cello Concerto

kalinnikov symphony #1

Wagner's meistersinger overture

Gustav Holst's planets
 
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agarner32

Active Member
Ctsai89,

Well the Adler is not necessarily my favorite orchestration book and I pretty much have all of the most common ones. But it is quite good in many areas. It's just another resource. They all have strengths and weaknesses. Everybody has their favorite and will defend it.

I'm a pianist not a string player so when I studied out of the Adler, I got a lot out of the string section because for me he covered a ton of stuff I didn't know. Plus, the newer editions have mp3s for the examples which to me is invaluable.

The pieces you mentioned are all great pieces and you're right, doing a mock-up can teach you a lot. I teach music theory full-time at a college and I wish I could have my students do a few mockups because you learn a lot about harmony, voice-leading, textures, counterpoint, articulations, phrase structure etc. In my opinion, just the process of playing in individual lines makes you see and hear a score in a much more detailed way.

I also agree with Mike Verta who encourages transcribing. There's probably nothing more valuable than figuring music out yourself. I'm a jazz musician so transcription is how we learn to play.

As far as Adler leaving out wonderfully orchestrated pieces, well sure, it's impossible to include everybody's favorites. Is Adler's book the best? Probably not, but it's a great contribution to the lexicon of orchestration books out there in my opinion.

At any rate, it's a good conversation.
 

SillyMidOn

Active Member
I'm going to start at ucla soon, but want to get a head start on studying. I've had this book for awhile and brushed through it, but for those who have gone through it fully, are there any chapters or ways you'd recommend going through it without a teacher?

The reason I ask.is I also have a book on modalogy, I read the entire thing but felt like I didn't understand a bit of it. A friend who went to Berklee saw i had it and said it's impossible to understand without the help of a teacher.
Get the cds that come with it, your experience will be much enhanced by doing this. You don't have to read every single page, either, and as always, don't take everything as gospel.

There is a really useful 4 or 5 page guide to instrument ranges at the back. Photocopy and take it with you on the train/bus/whatever and try and memorise it - that would be really useful.
 

Mr Autodidact

New Member
QUOTE="Joe_D, post: 4024175, member: 8214"]The Adler book can be very helpful, and I have long recommended it to my composition students. If you don't have them, definitely find and get the CD's that comes with it (or at least used to come with it), and listen to the various examples very carefully over studio monitors and headphones. You can get a lot of useful information on instrumentation and also orchestration from the written text, but you really need to use your ears to grasp some of the details.

And, if you ever have a chance to go to one of Samuel Adler's masterclasses or to take a lesson with Sam, by all means, do it! If not, maybe someone has made a video by now (I don't know). He's a great teacher who has mentored literally hundreds of composers over the decades, in addition to being a very skilled composer and arranger. He's a great human being as well.[/QUOTE]
 

Mr Autodidact

New Member
Hi,

I read that you have tought students orchestration with Samuel Adler's book and even took lessons with him:) . I am going through his book and workbook as a self learner (fourth edition). However, I would like to check the answers, but Norton won't give me access to the teachers guide.

Do you by any chance as a teacher have access to that and would you be willing to share? That would be extremely helpful to me
 
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