Hi there, I just got paid and wanted to invest some money in books for orchestration/instrumentation.

The trouble I have is that there are a lot of good books out there and I can't decide which one to choose, especially because they aren't particularly cheap.

I was hoping to get some suggestions on which book I should buy and maybe get some pros and cons of certain books.

One book that came to my mind was "The Guide to MIDI Orchestration" by Paul Gilreath.
I like composing on Finale but at the end of the day I work much more on Cubase.

The biggest issue I have are the limits of instruments in the Orchestra and what all the possible ways of writing for them are.

It doesn't have to be something specifically for MIDI orchestration since at the end I really just want to learn how to properly write for instruments and how to make them sound interesting instead of writing normal triad chords without inversions for the strings as an example.

I find myself having the biggest issues with brass and woodwinds because of the different color these instruments bring on different octaves.

Anyways, I hope I am not reviving a dead thread on this forum by asking this question.
Also, I want to apologies for writing a huge thread instead of a short and simple one.

Thank you very much in advance for any advice.

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  • Whenever I reply here, I'm usually in muse mode, so sorry if I'm vague.
    There are no rules. There is no right way.
    There. I've said it.
    There are, however, conventions which can create a familiar structure. And most of them work. Tried and tested through decades/centuries of testing.
    I write by hearing my sound. Then I spend days/weeks/months finding out how to recreate that sound.
    I don't think a book can answer you question. However, I would absolutely recommend the following cathartic approach.
    I recently revisited my old music theory books. Grades 1-V. They reminded me of everything I could possibly build upon. But also enhanced my listening of new music, simply because I 'got it'..
    In essence, the most fundamental principles explain everything. As a composer, your job is to create the notes, the harmony and the emotion. Then you must convey that to the performer.
    If your performer is a DAW, that's a different book.
    So, limits of instrumentation.. basics are that woodwind plays 25% louder than a string section, brass is 50% louder, even on their own. As you add dynamics to a score, just tempre your instructions accordingly.
    (Once I'm back at my desk, and without wine, I'll revisit my babbling)
  • Alfred Blatter - Instrumentation & Orchestration. Samuel Adler - Study of Orchestration. A bit expensive though. Tons of stuff on You Tube for free!

    Cheers, Colin

  • Sorry for replying so late. Unfortunately I had a quite a busy week this time.

    First of all I want to thank you guys for giving me suggestions on which books I could buy.
    I heard a lot about Samuel Adler's book and will most probably purchase it. I will have to wait a bit, again, to purchase a book since I will have more expenses this month that I first thought I would. Fortunately I have a great library in my city and will hopefully be able to borrow it.

    Once I get a grip of the book I will let you know my thoughts about it.

    Thanks again for your suggestions.

  • ^^^ Yes, Jon, a disgusting swindle and pricey considering it's a book that's been around for quite some time. 30 years at least, surely. I saw it a while ago. It's quite good but it won't magically make anyone a wonderful orchestrator. It does seem to get tied up in too much technical at times. Rimsky-Korsakov's book published by Dover is probably as good.  

    The only one I had was Gordon Jacob's Orchestral Technique, bought when it cost about a fiver. It's probably available for that on abebooks. New it's even more expensive than the Adler! And for just over 100 pages! However, it suited me as I started out writing in short score and this book is about orchestrating rather than composing for orchestra. It deals with strings first then woodwinds and horns; then chamber orchestra, finishing up with brass and the full monty. It gives enough info on instruments as it goes along - compass, weaknesses, strengths. It was enough. It's big message was study scores until you can sight read - i.e. form the sound in your mind. 

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