This is the third volume in my series of online books on musical technique. The others cover Counterpoint, and Harmony. All are based on my own experience as a composer and teacher.
I have also written “Musical Composition: Craft and Art” published by Yale University Press.
A pdf version (without audio) is available here. The French version, including the audio examples, can be found online, here. A Spanish version is also available in pdf format, as is a version in Italian, a version in Dutch and one in German.
Students may find the supplementary explanation of score reduction useful. They may also be interested in my online mini course in orchestration.
This series is dedicated to the memory of my teacher and friend Marvin Duchow, one of the rare true scholars, a musician of great depth and sensitivity, and a man of unsurpassed kindness and generosity.
Note concerning the musical examples:Unless otherwise indicated, all the musical examples are my own, and are covered by copyright. To hear other examples of my music, please visit the worklist page.
Score examples are notated in concert pitch, athough octave tranpositions (piccolo, double bass, etc.) have been maintained, to avoid excessive ledger lines. Scores have been reduced, and occasional detailed performance indications removed, to save space. I have also furnished examples from the standard repertoire (each marked “repertoire example”). Unfortunately, copyright issues make it prohibitive to supply scores and audio for these: It would be impossible to continue supplying this work free of charge.
© 2001, Alan Belkin


Introduction: Why this book?
Preliminary considerations

  • Remarks on instruments
  • What is poor orchestration?

Basic notions, part 1

  • Orchestration and form
  • Rate of orchestral change
  • Degree of continuity/contrast
  • Interpreting the phrasing
  • Orchestration and dynamics
  • Register
  • Color
  • Sustained vs. dry sound
  • Fat vs. thin sound; unison doubling
  • Balance: simultaneous and successive

Basic notions, Part 2

  • Musical lines vs. instrumental parts
  • Planes of tone
  • Contrapuntal orchestration
  • The tutti

Orchestral accompaniment
Summary: What is good orchestration?
Appendix: some pedagogical ideas

  • Examples from a character glossary
  • Outline sketches as a teaching tool
  • Learning orchestration from the repertoire
  • Scales of contrast

Conclusion, acknowledgements, bibliography
Character glossary