How do you go about orchestrating?

And by extension: how did you develop your understanding of it?

Years ago I was going through a copy of Forsyth's 'Orchestration' from the public library, because I'd read Gershwin used it to teach himself (this was my first error: imagining I had talent anywhere near Gershwins!).
Trying to master this was near impossible because I jumped in way too deep, too soon. A bit later I got a copy of Walter Piston's 'Counterpoint' and this served me better and showed me my actual level (not that of an orchestral arranger!).

Going back to basics I spent (and still spend) time just reading scores and learning how other people wrote for ensembles - including string quartets, chamber orchestras and the like. Copying out scores and doing things like transposing them, or using just the bass/melody and inventing new upper/lower parts really helps learning.

I don't often start larger-scale pieces from scratch, but I try them out on a small scale -three or four instruments to create the basis and then add parts from there. Sometimes I then rewrite the whole thing to better fit the chosen forces, even taking parts away that seem superfluous.

How do you go about the process?

Add your thoughts
a year ago
1