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A Practical Guide To Music Orchestration

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The orchestra is the ultimate ensemble. Musically, it can do almost anything – and it’s capable of expressing every imaginable emotion. But if you’re an inexperienced music orchestrator, or you’re used to writing for virtual instruments, how do you make a real life orchestra sound good?

In this blog, we’ve set out some of the most useful music orchestration tips. But before we get to the techniques, let’s start with an important question:

WHAT’S THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN ARRANGING AND ORCHESTRATION?

Arranging takes the original composition then adapts and develops it. It may be given different instruments or voices, re-harmonization, additions, modulations and paraphrasing.

With orchestration, the musical substance remains essentially unchanged, but the melodic lines are given different voices. Sounds simple?

Actually, one of the main difficulties with orchestration is also one of its greatest advantages: you’re writing for real musicians playing real instruments, and they have limitations. More about this later, because the definition above also brings up the next question.

WHEN WOULD I USE ORCHESTRATION?

You may want orchestral power behind a vocal track, or use it to bring a movie soundtrack or TV ad to life. Whatever you’re orchestrating, because the musical substance doesn’t change, try to have the whole piece in place before you start. It makes the process much easier.

In short, well-composed music will always translate better to the orchestra. It’s worth taking the time to make sure you’re happy with the notes before you start deciding which instruments should play them.

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