Phil G. Goulding, defines orchestration as writing music for an orchestra (1). This means that parts are created for each group of instruments in the assembly, be it a symphony or musical ensemble. Some also use the term to describe adapting an already scored piece of music which was written for a solo instrument. As discussed in previous posts, the orchestrator will need to consider the characteristics of each of the instrument groups, Tone Color, volume, and tempo.
In classical music, composers have historically orchestrated their own music. Only gradually over the course of music history did orchestration come to be regarded as a separate compositional art and profession in itself (2). An exception noted that prior to the Baroque period, most composers did not leave instructions on their scores identifying what instruments were to play which notes. This meant that what the assembled musicians saw was what they all played. Music was also interchanged with other instruments such as substituting a flute for a violin.
Orchestral music is written for the orchestra not for one instrument and then arranged for the orchestra (1). It shows the way instruments are used to portray any musical aspect such as melody, harmony or rhythm.
Orchestrators generally work from a draft, that is, a score written on limited number of independent musical staves. Orchestrators writing for the opera or music theatres, prefer to work from a piano vocal score.
The tool most used by an orchestrator is probably tone color. Changes in tone color provide the listener with contrast and variety. If a melody is played by one instrument and then another, it sounds different because of the differences in each instrument’s tone color. The use of two different instruments may be chosen to highlight a new melody. As mentioned previously, specific instruments can reinforce a melody’s emotional impact.
There are two general kinds of adaptation: transcription, which closely follows the original piece, and arrangement, which tends to change significant aspects of the original piece. In terms of adaptation, orchestration applies, strictly speaking, only to writing for orchestra, whereas the term instrumentation applies to instruments used in the texture of the piece. In the study of orchestration – in contradistinction to the practice – the term instrumentation may also refer to consideration of the defining characteristics of individual instruments rather than to the art of combining instruments.” (2). The following is a sample track adaption from the album “Common Chord” by Daniel Kobialka and David Grisman.
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In commercial music, especially musical theatre and film music, independent orchestrators are often used in commercial music due to the need to meet tight deadlines.
As noted above, the term Orchestration is also used by some to identify what instruments will be assigned to play specific parts of a composition. In the study of orchestration – in contradistinction to the practice – the term instrumentation may also refer to consideration of the defining characteristics of individual instruments rather than to the art of combining instruments (2).
- Phil G. Goulding. Classical Music. 547-49. Fawcett Columbine, New York. 1992