Yeah, so I'm very new to orchestration. I'm a guitar player who got started when I wanted to add a little depth to my guitar music about 5 years ago. It all started when I found out I had a virtual piano on my computer and I discovered the staff view in Sonar. From there I slowly began wanting more instruments so I would go on hunts for freeware virtual instruments. Before I knew it I was wanting an entire orchestra. I purchased GPO after a friend showed me a composition he did in it. It was light years ahead of the cheap sounding synths I was using. To this day I've never been a part of any school band and I've never actually played an instrument in an orchestra. The only way I know what instruments sound like is via virtual instruments. (I've been to symphonies before but I learned to distinguish instruments from listening to samples not from playing their real counterparts.)
Occasionally I would create what I called a "combination sound" where I would create a sound by blending different instruments by either putting them in unison or setting one an octave higher, or a fifth etc. I had never heard the terms "textures" or "blended textures" before so I had to create a word for it hence "combination sound". Anyway, because I've never really studied music in school (outside of choir) The only way I've learned to create textures is by ear.
I wanted to share one that I created today. When combining tremolo violas with FF french horn overlay you get quite the tone of urgency. I'm creating a piece to paint the imagery of a battle and I really like the sound. Let me know what you think. I know it's not original, combining french horns and violas but I just really liked the sound so much I thought I would share. I also really dig the sound of flutes an octave higher than trumpets. Heck, flutes an octave higher than anything sound amazing.
I think that's how many people discover what you can do with GPO and other virtual instruments. Let's face it, there are a lot more popular music musicians out there than classical or jazz and they have access to 95% of the listening market.
You should check out Garritan's Instant Orchestra if you want to get cool sounds quickly.
Dane, your post and what you are experiencing is a "classic" (pardon the pun) example of Gary Garritan's original dream with GPO to not replace an army of musicians with samples, but to encourage all levels of musicians with a product that would bring them "back" to the orchestra.
Orchestral music is where practically all music comes from.
I too would like to hear what you are doing with GPO.
with the original instruments you can get a lot of weird sound combinations. Somewhere in the past I used the tremolo contrabasses together with the tremolo timpani (swelling) and it really sounded "scary", as if a completely new instrument was being played. Also, try a woodblock tremolo against a piccolo sustained note. There are thousands of combinations possible getting new sounds without "denaturizing" the original instruments.