Orchestration (a.k.a. instrumentation) is a large and unwieldy topic that doesn’t always find its way in to music theory textbooks at all. This section of Open Music Theory is going to attempt (rather ambitiously, in a few short chapters) to provide a very quick introduction to some useful principles for creating orchestral scores. We won’t spend much time on basics like all the multi-lingual terms and instrumental ranges because you can find out about them in any number of other contexts, including online.
The three chapters focus on:
- Core principles of orchestral writing, organized into matters of succession (what follows what) and simultaneity (what goes together at the same time).
- Subtle color changes, taking a closer look at some more detailed aspects of those core principles.
- Transcription, beginning with a discussion of how to adapt piano music for orchestra in principle, and then turning to four case studies.
Further, we’re going to focus throughout on:
- Skills and techniques associated with writing effective and idiomatic music for orchestra.
- Enhanced familiarity with and understanding of the orchestral repertoire.
- Repertoire from the 18th century to the present day, with a focus on late 19th- and early 20th-century repertoire, and primarily on tonal music.
Speaking of repertoire, there will be many examples for you to explore. Images will be included to illustrate short, summative ideas; for longer works, there will be links to the relevant page on IMSLP.org. All works receive a full title except symphonies which are often abbreviated by symphony number (upper case) and movement number (lower case): e.g. Beethoven 4/iv.