Orchestration Feedback

Hello Everyone, It has been a long time since i have been active on this forum.  Since then I have completed several pieces, but would like to dive into orchestration and theory more.  does anyone have any advice or feedback regarding this piece, Ancient Dream?

I have attatched the score, and a link to the track is below.

thanks in advance!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KGunpcU_NcE

Ancient Dream Score.pdf

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  • Very nice melody!  Quite chinese in flavor, and might work well as a soundtrack to a chinese soap opera, or something like that. :-)

    The score needs work, though. Some notes regarding the score:

    - Clarinets and horns are transposing instruments. They should be notated in transposed pitch, i.e., horns written a 5th above the sounding pitch, and clarinets (presumably in Bb) a major 2nd above the sounding pitch -- along with the corresponding key signature changes, of course.

    - The harp staff should go between the tuba and the 1st violins, not at the bottom of the score.

    - The tuba part should be written in bass clef, not alto clef.

    - Barlines should not be drawn across the entire orchestra; rather, they should be broken between woodwinds and brass, between brass and harp, and between brass and strings. This is to make it easier to scan the page and find the woodwinds, brass, percussion, and string choirs. Drawing barlines through the entire system will make this unnecessarily difficult.

    - What's the purpose of the chord names written over the top of the score? Are they meant to be played by some instrument? Or are they just notes for yourself? If they are just notes for yourself, you should probably remove them before publishing the score. :-)

    - I hear some percussion and vocal parts in the video, but they don't seem to be notated in the score?

    - The video has very nice crescendos, accents, etc., but they are missing from the score.

    - The trumpet part in mm.80-81 is out of range -- trumpets do not go that low. These notes probably should be given to the trombone(s) instead. This might be OK if you're only concerned about computer audio production, but if you want this to be played on a real orchestra, you need to make sure all your parts are within the ranges of the respective instruments.

    - Same thing with 1st violins in mm.80-81: the low Bb is far out of range of a real violin and impossible to play. Also, violins are never written in bass clef, only treble clef.  Your viola part in mm.77-80 is at the extreme top range of the viola; are you sure you didn't mean to give this part to the violins, and the violins' part to the violas?

    - It's unclear how many oboes, clarinets, horns, etc., you have. Again, not a problem if you're only interested in computer audio production, but if you want a real orchestra to play this, you need to write for a specific number of each instrument.  Typical numbers are 2 oboes, 2 clarinets, 4 horns, 2-4 trumpets, 2-3 trombones, 1 tuba. It's unusual to only have one of each of these instruments.

    Unfortunately, I couldn't look at your score in too much detail, because for some reason your pdf renders really slowly on my PC. There are probably more issues than I noted above, which should be addressed if you ever plan to have a real orchestra play this piece.

  • Nice melody and atmosphere. This would work well as background for a video game, movie, etc. However, as a piece of music to be listened to on its own, I think it could do more to hold the listener's interest. For example, I got very tired of hearing the same melody and chord progression repeated again and again without development. In a piece this harmonically simple, even a subtle change to the chord progression (e.g. starting or ending a phrase on a chord other than B-flat minor) could make things a lot more interesting and create more contrast between different sections. The idea of tension and release is important here--the longer you stay away from a particular chord, the more satisfying it is when that chord comes back.

    There's also a lot more you could do with the orchestration. It's nice and atmospheric as it is, but all of the instruments are stuck in very conventional roles and narrow ranges, which gets tiring after a while. Brass and woodwinds can be used for more than melody. The harp can do way more than middle-register arpeggios (in a piece like this, you could use it to add some extra weight to string chords or melodies by occasionally doubling them, or create a kind of floating sensation with soft, faster chords in the high range). And the bass line could do a heck of a lot more than just playing the root of the chord on whole and half notes--even the occasional arpeggio or echo of the melody would make it much more interesting for both the audience and the (hypothetical) performer.

    The score is confusing, because the instruments you marked don't correspond to the instruments that play back (for example, what you marked "ob." sounds like a flute and I'm pretty sure that "Hn." is a clarinet--which is good, because it would be way out of range if it were actually a horn!) This made it difficult to look at the score and provide tips on the orchestration. But as H.S. mentioned above, there are lots of weird things with with the instrument ranges--some notes are much too high or low for the instruments that play them.

    Good orchestration begins with knowing what each instrument is capable of. This applies even when writing for computer playback (especially now that sample libraries are getting more and more realistic). For the basics like ranges and instrument strengths/weaknesses, I recommend the Essential Dictionary of Orchestration by Dave Black--it's cheap and serves as a good reference. Thomas Goss's Youtube courses (http://orchestrationonline.com/training/youtube-courses/) and book 100 Orchestration Tips are also quite good if you haven't checked them out already. Happy orchestrating!

    YouTube Courses - Orchestration Online
    B-flat Transposition Course The B-flat Transposition Course is extracted from my latest Orchestration Training Course, 102: The Wind Section availabl…

  • Thank Both of you so much for such a great detailed feedback!  I will definitely take this all into account on my next revision.  Is it standard then to have the names of the staffs below the staff?  I have mine above, and it seems to have caused some confusion to you both as to what instrument the staff was written for.

    Yes i did not put the percussion parts in or any crescendos etc marking,  starting simple first for me.  thanks again.  I will post a new version when i can. cheers


    H. S. Teoh said:

    Very nice melody!  Quite chinese in flavor, and might work well as a soundtrack to a chinese soap opera, or something like that. :-)

    The score needs work, though. Some notes regarding the score:

    - Clarinets and horns are transposing instruments. They should be notated in transposed pitch, i.e., horns written a 5th above the sounding pitch, and clarinets (presumably in Bb) a major 2nd above the sounding pitch -- along with the corresponding key signature changes, of course.

    - The harp staff should go between the tuba and the 1st violins, not at the bottom of the score.

    - The tuba part should be written in bass clef, not alto clef.

    - Barlines should not be drawn across the entire orchestra; rather, they should be broken between woodwinds and brass, between brass and harp, and between brass and strings. This is to make it easier to scan the page and find the woodwinds, brass, percussion, and string choirs. Drawing barlines through the entire system will make this unnecessarily difficult.

    - What's the purpose of the chord names written over the top of the score? Are they meant to be played by some instrument? Or are they just notes for yourself? If they are just notes for yourself, you should probably remove them before publishing the score. :-)

    - I hear some percussion and vocal parts in the video, but they don't seem to be notated in the score?

    - The video has very nice crescendos, accents, etc., but they are missing from the score.

    - The trumpet part in mm.80-81 is out of range -- trumpets do not go that low. These notes probably should be given to the trombone(s) instead. This might be OK if you're only concerned about computer audio production, but if you want this to be played on a real orchestra, you need to make sure all your parts are within the ranges of the respective instruments.

    - Same thing with 1st violins in mm.80-81: the low Bb is far out of range of a real violin and impossible to play. Also, violins are never written in bass clef, only treble clef.  Your viola part in mm.77-80 is at the extreme top range of the viola; are you sure you didn't mean to give this part to the violins, and the violins' part to the violas?

    - It's unclear how many oboes, clarinets, horns, etc., you have. Again, not a problem if you're only interested in computer audio production, but if you want a real orchestra to play this, you need to write for a specific number of each instrument.  Typical numbers are 2 oboes, 2 clarinets, 4 horns, 2-4 trumpets, 2-3 trombones, 1 tuba. It's unusual to only have one of each of these instruments.

    Unfortunately, I couldn't look at your score in too much detail, because for some reason your pdf renders really slowly on my PC. There are probably more issues than I noted above, which should be addressed if you ever plan to have a real orchestra play this piece.

    Orchestration Feedback
    Hello Everyone, It has been a long time since i have been active on this forum.  Since then I have completed several pieces, but would like to dive i…
  • The usual convention is to put the instrument names on the left of the staff on the first page, and on subsequent pages abbreviations of the instrument names in the same place.  Here's an example from my fireworks contest entry this year. On the first page, you can see each staff labelled with the instrument full names; on subsequent pages, abbreviations are used in order to save some space.

    Note also how, on page 20 for example, the bar lines only run through each choir (winds, brass, strings, etc.) in the orchestra. Also the common convention of bracketing each choir on the left, to make them stand out even more.

  • Incredibly beautiful piece. I was glad to have a chance to listen to this piece.

    Mariza
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