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Thread: Instrument ranges, doubling and combining instruments?

  1. #1
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    Default Instrument ranges, doubling and combining instruments?

    I have a big problem getting my ideas work throught orchestration, because I lack the knowledge about combining different things in one section and in between sections.

    I often use bass spiccato and cello spiccato, i use violins on high ranges as melody, other violins for ostinato, and i made up some counterpoint style on violas what usually gets solid sound inside strings section, problem comes now when i want also to create brass section to support strings sections, its okay for me to use horns as melody with violins, but bass trombone, tenor trombone, contrabass trombone, im confused with those, and i dont know which instrument to support with trombones, usually using trumpets to support ostinato, or spiccato strings.

    Even bigger problem comes whn i need to add woodwinds, i get lost totaly, despite the fact picolo high range is doing pretty nice as some ostinato that supports strings ostinato, but than clarinet, what to double with it, bassoon what to double with it....

    Some instruments have to be working with particular ones as doubling them right?

    for example flute + first violins + horns for melody...sound great, but now I have a problem with staccato, spicato, sustain chord lines, and if i create each instrument to have own voicing it usually ends up being a bad mess....

    Any advice or book recommendation would be great.

    My english is not great, so if you can understand something feel free to ask.

  2. #2
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    Here are the examples for better understanding:
    Section Strings:
    Section Brass:
    Section WoodWinds:
    All Together:

    It just does not sound good, right?
    I think ranges and instruments combinings is the reason, thats why I asked above.
    So if anyone has some time to help, it would be great.

  3. #3
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    Not exactly sure what you're looking for. Orchestration is quite complex as you've discovered. One thing to keep in mind is to avoid doubling as much as possible - that's what muddies up orchestration more than anything - just ask Schumann! Bassoons added to cello and bass parts somehow clarify and reinforce those parts. Then there's the question of wind doubling: flute and bassoon work well together in ways that oboe and bassoon don't. Trombones don't need reinforcement generally, but adding a Tuba in unison with the bass trombone can work wonders, while having the tuba an octave lower can goof it all up. All depends on what you want. I'd study the Rimsky-Korsakov book in detail, and if you can find it, the Ebenezer Prout book, 2nd volume, which deals with combining groups pretty well. Those old composers had a lot to say that has escaped most modern books on orchestration. Good luck. I've done my share of arranging and orchestrating over the decades and still feel like a beginner next to the likes of Tchaikovsky, Mahler, Puccini and Wagner.

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    Not sure exactly what you are asking...I echo mbhaub's comment that orchestration is complex, and requires much study and listening to develop.
    A common mistake seems to be excessive octave 2bling, and consistently writing instruments in their lower, or lower careful not to load up the bass, mid-range too heavily - this creates a thick, murky, muddy sound, that will obscure much detail....
    I remember reading that one of Schoenberg's [a great orchestrator] guiding principles was to avoid octave doublings as much as possible...
    Don't be afraid to use the full range of instruments - orchestra instruments take on very different tone qualities in their different ranges - bassoon, clarinet, flute are perfect examples of this...this will create a much clearer texture, and a more varied palette of tonal colors.
    there are so many effective combinations, it's impossible to list them all - but listen to the works of the great master orchestrators - Ravel, Shostakovich, Stravinsky, Bartok to hear some great combinations...
    going back further - Wagner, Brahms, Mendelssohn, Tchaikovsky, and of course, Beethoven - great innovator, could be regarded as "revolutionary" re orchestration...
    Haydn was very skilled also - and he is noted for his wonderful combinations of treble-bass combos between strings and woodwinds - we often hear Oboe/cello playing together, or Violin/bassoon... the clear differences of pitch and timbre make these combinations stand right out clearly...

    Big subject, really - I'm sure others will have much to contribute...

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  6. #5
    Senior Member Vasks's Avatar
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    If you are scoring pre-existing tonal music, then study orchestral scores via IMSLP to see how the composers of that time orchestrated. But if you're composing original material then use your ears and imagination for color. All instruments including a wide range of percussion can be utilized in different ways. Doubling is usually avoided by today's composers.
    Last edited by Vasks; Feb-13-2018 at 18:51.
    "Music in any generation is not what the public thinks of it but what the musicians make of it"....Virgil Thomson

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