Introducing the Orchestral Sounds Series

Hi Everyone!

I’m very excited to share a blog series that I am starting called Orchestral Sounds. It includes two inter-related tracks – The Musical Found-ation Track and the Musical Sound-ation Track.

  • Musical Found-ation will focus on, as you can quite imagine, musical foundations! I’ll try to address several aspects of writing for orchestra, including understanding the different instruments and sections and how to write for them, orchestral sizing and variations, music theory such as taking a simple melody, or melody + harmony idea, or several layers of counterpoint, and arranging it to achieve different effects, and most importantly, orchestration considerations that one must keep in mind through all of this.
  • Musical Sound-ation on the other hand is all about how to take an orchestrated composition and producing it using just virtual instruments and sounds, or live players, or a combination of both. I’ll go over things like studio and technology considerations one needs to factor in (for various levels of budget), and then try and take ideas I discuss in the Musical Found-ation track and show you how to implement some of those ideas with different kinds of tools (libraries & plugins) that one might have in their pocket.

Disclaimer: I will try and include plenty of images and audio/video examples of concepts to keep the blog text content light wherever I can. However, if the text looks overwhelming at first glance, bear with me and stay the course! I’m sure you’ll find the content enriching!

So, what’s for “Orchestral Lunch” today?

For this first article, let’s talk about the sections in an orchestra. Orchestras are split into the following sections (with instruments in the section listed in order of highest to lowest pitch register):

  • Strings: 1st Violins, 2nd Violins, Violas, Celli and Double Basses. These are the foundation of any orchestra in the world and make what we deem to be “orchestral music” sound that way. Without strings, the music could end up sounding like a marching band, but playing music that was not written for them! 🙂
  • Woodwinds: Flutes, Single Reeds (Clarinets are the most common), and Double Reeds (Oboes, English Horn and Bassoons).
  • Brass: Trumpets, French Horns, Trombones and Tuba.
  • Percussion: All manner of things that can be hit to produce sound! The most well known are Timpani, Drums, Mallet Keyboards (Marimba, Xylophone, Vibraphone, Glockenspiel, etc.), Played Keyboards (Celeste and Piano), Tubular Bells, Cymbals, Chimes & Crotales. I’ll go more into depth on percussion later in the series.
  • Voices: Both solo human voices and groups (AKA choir) have been used widely to with orchestra to create everything from the most beautiful to the most haunting to the most powerful pieces of music you can imagine.

Trivia: There are some instruments that fall into multiple categories or are debated about regularly even today. The most commonly used instruments are Harp & Piano. Though these are technically stringed instruments, players use a percussive attack rather than a bowed action to create the sound hence they’re considered either or both percussive and stringed instruments.


QUIZ: Here’s an image of a very well known orchestra called the Berlin Philharmoniker. Can you identify which section is which? Put your answers in the comments below!


That’s it from me for this post! Post your comments and share what you liked or didn’t like! I’ll try and factor in as much of the feedback as I can as we go along. I hope you enjoy the series! Cheers!

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