DAW Orchestration vs. Real Life Orchestration

Just because you write orchestral music does not mean that you can orchestrate when it comes to working with a real ensemble. I’ve come across many composers who write excellent music in DAW with virtual instruments and really do a good job there balancing everything realistically, who think once they get to work with a real ensemble they are prepared for this because they know how to handle the sounds of the instruments etc.

This assumption however usually is wrong. Orchestration is not just “transfering the midi events into score sheets” but actually much more than this and takes a lot of experience. Besides all the things that work great on virtual instruments but are very tricky or impossible on real instruments, the plain question of how to notate something for real musicians so you get the result you want might differ from what you think it needs to look like. The decision by many composers to orchestrate on their own because “How hard can it be?” has brought many orchestral sessions close or beyond being a complete disaster.

If you are going to work with a real orchestra without ever having done that before, get an orchestrator. Even financially it might be better than you might think. Delaying a session by wrong or problematic notation will cost way more than what an orchestrator would charge. If you still want or need to do it yourself, invest a lot of time at least learning the basics of orchestrating on *Score Sheets*, not in a DAW, not in your head or anywhere else. Eventually you need to deliver score sheets and parts and especially for sight reading sessions, they need to be as flawless as possible.

1 Comment

  1. Rick Balentine

    Yep. This is spot on. Would not go into the studio without an Orchestrator’s touch. That would be a waste of a lot on the clients money. Good tip Robin.


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