Orchestration 1


Authored by Ben Newhouse


Course Code: OCWPR-365

Next Semester Starts
Jan 10, 2022

Level 3

Level 3

3-Credit Tuition


Non-Credit Tuition


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.

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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
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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


Prerequisites and Course-Specific Requirements 

Completion of any Digital Audio Workstation (DAW) sequencing course (Producing Music with Logic, Pro Tools 101, Producing Music with Cubase, etc.) and Music Theory 301 or Music Theory and Composition 3, or equivalent knowledge and experience is required.

Students must have:

  • an intermediate competency in their DAW of choice with an ability to record multiple tracks and create an MP3 of the final mix
  • an ability to read music, including treble and bass clef

Required Textbook(s)

  • None required

Software Requirements

  • DAW/sequencing software suitable for orchestral mock-up production (Logic Pro, Cubase, Pro Tools, Digital Performer, etc.)
  • Orchestral sample library (Komplete, Vienna Symphonic Library, East West Quantum Leap, etc.)
  • Notation software such as Finale or Sibelius is recommended. Students who can produce scores in their DAW or by hand can use their current technique

After enrolling, please check the Getting Started section of your course for potential deals on required materials. Our Student Deals page also features several discounts you can take advantage of as a current student. Please contact support@online.berklee.edu for any questions.

General Course Requirements

Below are the minimum requirements to access the course environment and participate in live chats. Please make sure to also check the Prerequisites and Course-Specific Requirements section above, and ensure your computer meets or exceeds the minimum system requirements for all software needed for your course. 

Mac Users

PC Users

All Users

  • Latest version of  Google Chrome
  • Zoom meeting software
  • Webcam
  • Speakers or headphones
  • External or internal microphone
  • Broadband Internet connection


Ben Newhouse

Author & Instructor

Ben Newhouse's commercial music has been used in more than 3,000 episodes of television, including projects for ABC, CBS, NBC, and most major cable networks. Newhouse's music is the soundtrack for the Disney DVD logo, several independent films, and Las Vegas stage shows. Newhouse was awarded the BMI Pete Carpenter Fellowship in 1999.

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The University Continuing Education Association awarded his Orchestration 1 course "Best New Online Course" in 2009, and Berklee awarded Newhouse a "Distinguished Faculty Award" in 2015. Newhouse has also guest lectured at Pescara Conservatory in Pescara, Italy and Sydney Conservatorium of Music in Sydney, Australia. He authored Producing Music with Digital Performer (Berklee Press), which has sold 15,000 copies. He has been quoted in multiple publications, including Electronic Music magazine and acousticmidiorchestration.com.

As a composer during his college years at Eastman School of Music where he received his bachelor of music degree, and graduated magna cum laude, 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 1990s and was premiered by the Eastman School Symphonic Orchestra. Newhouse is also a full-fellowship master's degree alumnus of the University of Southern California, completing an MBA and a Business of Entertainment graduate certificate program with the School of Cinematic Arts. Read Less

Phillip Sheeran


In his 30-year music career, Phil Sheeran has been a composer, guitarist, and recording/mixing engineer, but composing and producing world music–inspired compositions has always been the heartbeat of his work.

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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 internationally released albums 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, Gregg 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.

Arranging and orchestrating music for film trailers, television, and multimedia projects, Phil’s work can be found in numerous productions by Miramax/Disney, A&E, Fox Sports, Warner Brothers Entertainment, Super Bowls XLV and XLVIII, Sci-Fi, Biography, MTV, and Telepictures. He holds a BFA in music from Cornish College of the Arts. Read Less


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