COMMON PROBLEMS OF ORCHESTRATION
by Professor Alan Belkin
There are three mini-courses here to start with. If the response is good, we will very probably add more as time goes on.
Each mini-course treats one specific problem in orchestration. Here are the subjects for mini-courses 1, 2, and 3.1) transcribing a piano accompanimentEach mini-course is self-paced: You work through the material at your own rhythm. Each series presents a problem in the first example. The examples following propose various solutions, beginning with poor ones, typical of beginners, and finishing with a professional version. All the examples were done in Finale, with Garritan Personal Orchestra.
2) achieving blended harmony for winds
3) orchestrating a crescendo
It is very important to work *slowly* through this pedagogical progression, so as to really hear the difference in quality between versions. A lot of learning orchestration is really orchestral “ear training”. Listen carefully, more than once, and pay attention to the details, especially in the background. In each case, you should try to solve the problem yourself before studying the given solutions. And once you understand the weaknesses of the earlier versions, you should try making better ones yourself before going on. Unless you have struggled a bit with the material, you will not appreciate what the next version changes or improves.
This method takes advantage of orchestra simulation technology to allow us to hear less than perfect solutions. While good orchestration is easy to hear on commercially available CD’s, films, etc., students need to know *why* specific types of poor orchestration do not work. Being able to hear them and to compare them with better versions is much more effective as a teaching method than studying only “perfect” examples.
It is not hard to orchestrate so it sounds "not bad", but it is much harder to orchestrate really well. If you take the time to go through these examples yourself, and to develop your “orchestral ear”, your own work will improve dramatically.
To get the most out of these lessons, you should already:
In general, the more harmony and counterpoint you know, the more you will get out of these lessons.
- have carefully gone through Rimsky-Korsakov
- have a basic knowledge of instruments and their playing techniques
- know basic harmony.
Professor Belkin does not have time to correct individual assignments for online students. However general questions which are relevant to everyone will get replies.
A few guidelines: We are here to learn so please be courteous to others. Constructive criticism is welcomed - especially if it will improve the course and provide for a better education. Encouragement helps learners much more than unbridled negativity. Try to be helpful to others and avoid demeaning less experienced learners. Please do not flame, name-call, banter or disrupt the learning experience for others. This course is offered as a free service and if you are against it for competitive, philosophical, political, religious or psychological reasons; we would rather you do not participate. Just as in a bricks and mortar class, disruptive behavior may lead to being suspended or expelled.
We reserve the right to make changes if circumstances so dictate. We reserve the right to change the dates, change the structure of the course, or to withdraw any part or the entire course at any time.
Let the Course Begin...
As mentioned above, this is an online experiment. If there is interest and serious demand, much more is possible. Let us know if you find this course of use.
<b><big><big>Remember: These courses are meant for DOING, not just reading!</big></big></b>
About Alan Belkin...
Alan Belkin is a composer of 8 symphonies, as well as of numerous works for smaller ensembles and soloists. Trained at the Juilliard School, he has taught musical composition and related disciplines at the Faculty of Music of the University of Montreal for over twenty years now. He maintains a large website, offering free pedagogical articles and booklets he has written, on various musical subjects. These booklets, based on two decades of teaching experience, offer information and methods which complement and complete those found in standard texts. Examples of Alan Belkin’s music can be heard via his worklist page. To contact Alan Belkin, private message him on this forum or send an email to: belkina (insert the @ sign) yahoo dot com.