Orchestration 1

Author: Ben Newhouse   •   Course Code: OCWPR-365

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Learn to write and apply traditional orchestration techniques to both sampled performances and live orchestral performances.

Orchestration skills are an increasingly hot commodity. Placement on television, in video games and animation, and other modern revenue outlets require a detailed understanding of orchestral writing and production techniques. In this 12-week course, students will learn traditional orchestration techniques as well as emerging issues specific to today's technology. The course begins by covering the technological considerations required to create modern day orchestral sounds: sample libraries, sequencing techniques, and different types of hardware set ups. From there, students will learn the characteristics and idiomatic writing techniques for each orchestral instrument family: strings, brass, woodwinds, and percussion, as well as approaches for writing for full orchestra.

The course allows students to use the Digital Audio Workstation (DAW) program of their choice, including Digital Performer, Logic, Cubase, SONAR, or Pro Tools, and a sample library such as East West, Kontakt, or Vienna. By the end of the course, students will have the knowledge to orchestrate music and apply this knowledge to both digital and live orchestral performances. This course also provides the next step in practical skill development for students in our Arranging programs, by adding the concept of orchestration using a sample library.

By the end of the course, you will be able to:

  • Understand and apply traditional orchestration techniques
  • Analyze orchestral scores
  • Sequence music for every section of the orchestra
  • Create a full-length piece for full orchestra

Lesson 1: Technological Considerations

  • Samples, Samplers, MIDI, and Sequencers
  • Software Installation and Troubleshooting
  • Signal Flow in a MIDI Orchestration Studio
  • Hardware Installation and Troubleshooting
  • How Sampling Patches Are Constructed
  • Creating Dynamics in Your Sequence
  • On-Velocity
  • Volume
  • Expression
  • Dynamic Layers and Modulation
  • Dynamics Summary
  • Working With Dynamics
  • The Two Rules of MIDI Orchestration

Lesson 2: Musical Considerations

  • Orchestral Sizes
  • Historical Use of Orchestral Resources
  • Clefs
  • Transposition
  • The Score
  • Multiple Parts and Staves
  • Cover Page
  • Transposed and C Scores
  • The Part
  • Notation Programs
  • The Overtone Series

Lesson 3: String Writing I

  • Instruments and Their Ranges
  • Instrument Identification
  • Open Strings
  • Notating String Preferences
  • Double-Stops
  • Viable Triple and Quadruple Stop Triads
  • Sample Types: Sustained
  • Sample Types: Tremelo
  • Sample Types: Staccato
  • Sample Types: Pizzicato
  • Sample Types: Crescendo and Diminuendo
  • Sample Types: Trill
  • Sample Types: Runs
  • Sample Types: Articulations
  • Sample Types: Additional Samples
  • Combining Samples: Alternating
  • Combining Samples: Key Switches
  • Combining Samples: Layering
  • Acoustic Bowing Techniques
  • Bowing and Dynamics
  • Choosing Bowings
  • Sequencing Implications
  • Additional Playing Techniques
  • Reconciling Acoustic Playing Techniques and Sample Types

Lesson 4: String Writing II

  • 4-Part Writing
  • 5-Part Writing
  • Doubling and Divisi Writing
  • Sequencing Divisi Parts
  • Intro to Mozart's 40th Symphony
  • Presenting Melody
  • Violin
  • Viola
  • Cello
  • Bass
  • Octave Doublings
  • Voicing Chords
  • Harmonic Treatment
  • Harmonic Arrangement
  • Incorporating Solo Strings

Lesson 5: Brass Writing I

  • Brass Section Introductions
  • Instrument Ranges
  • The Horn
  • The Trumpet
  • The Trombone
  • The Bass Trombone
  • The Tuba
  • Sample Types
  • Sample Type: Sustained
  • Sample Type: Staccato
  • Sample Types: Crescendo and Diminuendo
  • Sample Types: Articulations
  • Sample Types: Additional Samples
  • Combining Samples: Alternation
  • Combining Samples: Layering
  • Dynamics
  • Sequencing Dynamics
  • Brass Melodic Presentation
  • Horn Melody
  • Trumpet Melody
  • Trombone Melody
  • Brass Mutes
  • Trumpet and Trombone Mutes
  • Tuba and Horn Mutes

Lesson 6: Brass Writing II

  • Brass Section Size and Subgrouping
  • Acoustic Articulations
  • Brass Articulations
  • Glissandi
  • Chordal Voicings
  • Bad Voicings
  • Using Brass for Harmonic Support
  • Using Brass to Create a Climax
  • The Brass Fanfare
  • Brass and String Combinations

Lesson 7: Woodwind Writing I

  • Woodwind Background
  • Woodwind Ranges
  • The Piccolo
  • The Flute
  • The Oboe
  • The English Horn
  • The Bassoon
  • The Contrabassoon
  • The Clarinet
  • The Bass Clarinet
  • Common Sample Types
  • Sample Type: Staccato
  • Sample Type: Trills
  • Sample Type: Runs
  • Sample Types: Crescendo and Diminuendo
  • Sample Types: Legato Articulations
  • Sample Types: Repetition Articulations
  • Acoustic Articulations
  • Woodwind Solos
  • Woodwind Solo: Flute
  • Woodwind Solo: Oboe
  • Woodwind Solo: English Horn
  • Woodwind Solo: Clarinet
  • Woodwind Solo: Bassoon

Lesson 8: Woodwind Writing II

  • Woodwind Doublings
  • Doubling to Create a Unique Tone Color
  • Doubling to Create Growth
  • Doubling to Create a Climax
  • Doubling Woodwinds with Brass and Strings
  • Woodwind Chordal Voicings
  • Creating Blend
  • Chord Tone Spacing
  • Counterlines
  • Textural Flourishes
  • Runs
  • Using Woodwind Runs
  • Restatement
  • Harmonic Arpeggiation
  • Harmonic Support

Lesson 9: Percussion Writing I

  • Instrument Categorization
  • Snare Drum
  • Bass Drum
  • Tambourine
  • Additional Nonpitched Idiophones
  • Pitched Membranophones
  • Writing for Timpani
  • Xylophone
  • Marimba
  • Glockenspiel
  • Tubular Bells
  • Harp
  • Notating Pedal Positions
  • Enharmonic Spellings
  • Glissandi
  • Harmonics
  • Keyboards
  • Celesta
  • Additional Pitched Percussion Instruments

Lesson 10: Percussion Writing II

  • Notation Considerations
  • Notating A Snare Part
  • Percussion Uses
  • Accent Highlights
  • Harmonic Support
  • Builds and Climaxes
  • Dynamic Extremes
  • Solo Statements
  • Doubling for Color
  • Adding Percussion Climaxes

Lesson 11: Expansions of the Orchestral Sound

  • Expanding the Orchestra with Choir and Ethnic Instruments
  • Using Choir Samples to Create Grandeur
  • Choir Parts
  • Ethnic Instruments
  • Drum Loops
  • Saxophones
  • Guitar
  • Overdubbing Soloists

Lesson 12: Full Ensemble Orchestration 

  • Foreground, Middleground, Background I
  • Foreground, Middleground, Background II
  • Foreground, Middleground, Background III
  • Full Piece Listening and Analysis

Ben Newhouse


Ben Newhouse has worked as a music supervisor and composer on dozens of television shows, films, and stage productions for media corporations including ABC, FOX, MTV, and Disney. He has arranged movie themes, sixties pop music, Broadway shows, and scored for several full-length feature films using Digital Performer.

In addition, as an assistant professor at Berklee College of Music, he taught music technology and production and authored the book, "Producing Music with Digital Performer," which is a required textbook at Berklee and other music schools.

As a composer during his college years at Eastman School of Music where he received his bachelor of music degree, his music was performed primarily by Eastman groups and groups along the East Coast. "Heat", a relentless overture for orchestra, received the Howard Hanson Award in the late 90s and was premiered by the Eastman School Symphonic Orchestra.

Presently, in addition to pursuing a MBA in Entertainment from USC Marshall School of Business, Ben works as a freelance music composer and post-production specialist for the music industry in Los Angeles, Boston and New York City.

Learn more about Ben Newhouse at www.bennewhousemusic.com

Phillip Sheeran


In his 30-year music career, Phil Sheeran has been a composer, a guitarist, and a recording/mixing engineer, but composing and producing world music–inspired compositions has always been the heartbeat of his work. Phil established himself as a renowned Brazilian-Latin jazz guitarist, co-leading the Seattle-based Brazilian jazz group Beija Flor with vocalist Samia Panni. Phil has recorded 10 CDs (internationally released) and two Latin House Club Mix LPs. His albums have hit No. 17 on Billboard's Contemporary Jazz chart and charted top five in the nation for airplay. On the jazz side, he has shared the stage with Bela Fleck, Andy Narell, Greg Karukas, and worked in the recording studio with Tommy Brieklein, Brandon Fields, Harvey Mason, and Brazilian musicians Nico Asumpçao and Carlos Goméz, just to name a few. He has also received NAMA nominations for Best Jazz Artist, Best Jazz Recording, and Best Electric Guitarist.

Phil works in Los Angeles, arranging and orchestrating compelling, edgy music for film trailers, television, and multimedia projects. His work can be found in numerous productions by Miramax/Disney, A&E, Fox Sports, Warner Bros Entertainment, Sci-Fi, Biography, MTV, and Telepictures. He holds a BFA in music from Cornish College of the Arts. He is trained in classical and jazz studies with Gary Peacock (bass), Ralph Towner, and David Burgess (guitar), as well as composition/orchestration, arranging, and performance. He studied extensively with Brazilian guitarist Romero Lubambo in Rio de Janeiro.

Marc Jovani


Marc Jovani is an active composer and acoustic engineer. He graduated from the University of Southern California's Scoring for Motion Pictures and Television Program and was taught by, among others, Bruce Broughton, Christopher Young, Jack Smalley, and Eric Schmidt. One week before finishing the program, he was hired to compose the music for the feature film The Perfect Student starring Natasha Henstridge. From then on, Jovani has been working on dozens of projects, ranging from TV shows (NBC, Fox) to films (Tom Skerritt) and trailers. His music has been recorded by orchestras in Warner Bros, East West, and other studios in Hollywood. As an acoustic engineer, Jovani has built and designed the acoustical treatment for different rooms such as David Buckley's and at Wavecrest Studios (Harry Gregson-Williams).

Recently, Jovani joined forces with a team of musicians and filmmakers to create a production company based in both Los Angeles and Spain, which keeps him busy working on both continents.

For more information on Marc Jovani, visit:


D. J. Sparr


D. J. Sparr recently completed his tenure as the 2011-2014 Young American Composer-in-Residence with the California Symphony. The San Jose Mercury News described his work as "shimmers and moves in waves, turns iridescent and wondrous…grows, pulses, leaps to its pop-Romantic apex and ends like a lullaby." His music has been commissioned and performed by groups such as the Albany Symphony, the Berkshire Symphony, Cabrillo Festival of New Music, Chicago Youth Symphony Orchestra, Dayton Philharmonic, Eighth Blackbird, Houston Grand Opera, Los Angeles 'Debut' Orchestra, Pittsburgh New Music Ensemble, and the Washington National Opera. Sparr was awarded the grand prize in the orchestra category of the BMG/Williams College National Young Composers Competition and has received awards and recognition from BMI, the American Music Center, Eastman School of Music, George Washington University, the League of Composers/ISCM, and New Music USA. He holds composition degrees from the Eastman School of Music (BM) and the University of Michigan (DMA).


Completion of any DAW sequencing course such as: Producing Music with Logic, Pro Tools 101, Producing Music with Cubase, and Music Theory 301 or Music Theory and Composition 3 or equivalent knowledge and experience is required.

Students must have:

  • an intermediate competency in the sequencing program of student's choice with an ability to record multiple tracks and create an MP3 of the final mix
  • ability to read music, including treble and bass clef

Required Textbooks

None required

Software Requirements

  • Sequencing program such as Digital Performer, Logic Pro, Cubase, SONAR, or Pro Tools
  • Sampling library such as Kontakt, any Vienna Symphonic Library, East West Quantum Leap, or Garritan collection
  • Notation software such as Finale or Sibelius (full version) is recommended. Students who can produce scores in their sequencing (DAW) software or by hand can use their current technique

Mac Users

  • OS X 10.9 Mavericks or higher (click here for system requirements)
  • Latest version of Google Chrome

Windows Users

  • Windows 7 or higher (click here for system requirements)
  • Latest version of Google Chrome

Hardware Requirements

  • 2 GB RAM (4 GB recommended)
  • 500 MB hard drive space
  • Speakers or headphones
  • Webcam
  • Internet connection with at least 4 Mbps download speed (http://www.speedtest.net to verify or download the Speedtest by Ookla app from your mobile app store)


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