Hello Colleagues,

In the last couple of years or so, I've been writing for small classical ensembles (string quartets, wind quintets and the like) to familiarize myself with how they work. I'm also working on an orchestral score based on things I've learned. I previously came to this forum with this piece and asked some questions about adding percussion to the score and got some good suggestions, which I have incorporated into this latest version. Now I have a different question, about doubling. I get that you do it to "thicken" up the sound, but is that the only reason? What are some good general guidelines of when to double and how best to do it? If you are doubling a flute, what instrument do you double it with? More flutes? Another instrument? Both? How about french horn? Don't tell me "it depends on your goal" because I don't know what the goal is yet! Score embedded in the YT and comments invited on anything, not just doubling >

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  • For what it’s worth I’d like to mention ‘upper partials’ in the context of doubling. Good tone on an individual instrument comes from playing in tune but also by providing a good stable base that throws off over- (and under-) tones. The more of these the fuller and more satisfying the sound. So, if you were say to double the trumpet with oboe and if both were perfectly in tune you would achieve a tone full of partials.....partly because both instruments ‘overblow’ at the octave. A particular problem in my experience is to mix clarinet (which overblows at the 15th) in a duet with another instrument that overblows at the octave resulting in mixed partials causing a poor tone overall. There are of course instances where this is a desired effect- but beware of using it inadvertently and puzzling over why ‘it doesn’t produce the effect I was hoping for’.

    A small but important point that might well be expanded upon perhaps.

  • Thanks so much Stephen, I appreciate your comments!

  • Of course I was suffering from a surfeit of Christmas when I wrote the above....the clarinet overblows at the twelfth (not fifteenth) but the principle holds good. :)

    Gav Brown said:

    Thanks so much Stephen, I appreciate your comments!

    Orchestral - Questions about doubling
    Hello Colleagues, In the last couple of years or so, I've been writing for small classical ensembles (string quartets, wind quintets and the like) to…
  • Oklydokly!

  • My humble $.02 worth (much of this has been said already)..

    Doubling can be for thickness, size, or timbre. For example, doubling the middle strings with horns thickens the texture.

    Size is mostly achieved by doubling outward, that is the highs higher and the lows lower. That could be the common doubling of cellos with basses or an octave above the  1st violins in the flutes (and even piccolo if you wanted to go further)

    Timbre is to change the tone color of a line. Clarinet gives a softness to the violins. Doubling an english horn an octave above with flute gives it a little brightness. Sometimes doubling a line can help bring it out, like doubling the violins with oboe.

    If you ever deal with live groups, especially maybe less than top notch ones, doubling is a nice safety net..safety in numbers kind of thing.

    The down side to doubling is that the individual expressiveness is diminished. Think a solo violin vs a violin section.

    I almost never double like woodwinds in unison, such as two oboes playing the same line. Just me as many do it very well, I just don't find they blend like strings or brass.

    Its a deep subject that I'm only scratching the surface of (I have several books I reading/rereading on the subject now...) despite having been at it for about 30 years.

  • Thanks for this input William, and to all! When I next turn my attention to this, I will be coming back to this thread. Quite honestly, I am not sure I am going to double anything yet, only because I have no sense of whether or not it is actually needed.

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