Composing Career Bootcamp

🎻 Is Orchestral Practical or Creative?

🎹 composition Aug 29, 2023

My parents recently got a chance to hear a piece from a live recording session I had with a full orchestra.

After listening, my Mom asked me about how orchestration works as a part of the puzzle of making music. 🧩

Some composers see orchestration as this broad color palette filled with endless possibilities. But often if you speak with a seasoned orchestrator, they’ll see orchestration as a much more practical art form—one with objectively good and bad choices.

I think the answer is that it’s a bit of both.

Orchestration at it’s best is giving the right ideas to the right instruments. βœ…

(A melody above middle C doesn’t work particularly well for a cello, but is better suited for a violin or viola.)

The ability to make those good decisions comes from years of practice, active listening, and experimentation.

But on another level, orchestration is about coloring the story of the composition. πŸ“–

A horn playing the melody could highlight the loneliness a character feels, while a bassoon could highlight pity or despair. A violin ensemble playing a high tremolo chord could feel awe-striking and magical, where a flute ensemble might feel tranquil and innocent.

Beyond the practical choices, orchestration tells a story that’s greater than the sum of any one of the instruments.

And that’s why the study of it is both endless and endlessly inspiring πŸ™‚

πŸ‘‹ Want More?

Join over 3,500 composers reading my 🌎 Compose & Conquer Newsletter, and every week I'll send you free resources and strategies to help you master your composing craft and get paid to do it.