Instrumentation Is More Important Than Orchestration

Forums Film Scoring Orchestration Instrumentation Is More Important Than Orchestration

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    Evan Evans
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    There are indeed a lot of wonderful things to learn about Orchestration, but the point of my title is that if you take the time to truly know the instruments themselves, deeply, you can create your own ways of combining them and using them, saving the entire world of “Orchestration” for your own creative artistic contribution. This is what Bernard Herrmann meant when he said that you can’t farm-out Orchestration, because Orchestration is the thumbprint of the Composer. Orchestration is the Composition of Instrumentation.

    Think of it, like being a Chef. Learn all the properties of the ingredients, learn the basic types of combinations, then see if you can create something new and tasty and original with that understanding, something you know deep down tastes good and that people will love but that they’ve never tried before.

    The best book on the study of the instruments, is bar none:

    “Instrumentation / Orchestration”
    by Alfred Blatter

    Just to set the record straight, there are hardly any amazing Orchestration tips in here. But what the author does do is give you an understanding of the basic Orchestrations possible, just like a Chef being taught how to make a chicken noodle soup. And then on the Instrumentation side, this book is de facto … giving notation for every kind of instrument and their idiosyncracies and ranges, sound qualities, and all of his rich descriptions of what certain effects will sound like, I can testify are exactly what he says they’ll be. They truly come out as he describes.

    And finally there is no substitute for hands on learning. Make sure you create your share of instrument experiments so you can find out the truth for yourself. But gaining the fundamental understanding of the instruments and everything they can physically do, is going to be far more helpful to you, than learning encompassing Orchestration techniques that you don’t understand at a level that connects to the instruments. Truly, Instrumentation is the first foundation you must assimilate before ascending to either your own Orchestration ideas, or learned Orchestration concepts.

    And remember, Bernard Herrmann wrote 1200+ radio shows before doing his first film (“Citizen Kane”). It’s not supposed to be a piece of cake to just write an Orchestral Film Score. You’re not going to know what to do at first. But after 1200 of them, you should be ready (sarcasm). But seriously, do the work. Get the experience in. Learn the fundamentals.

    🎹 Evan Evans, Film Composer & Mentor,
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