News & Views Thursday, December 18, 2014

Composers and arrangers, take heed! Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Do you get called upon to make arrangements for instrumental and/or vocal solos or groups.  Do you know all the ranges, technical considerations and the idiosyncrasies of each instrument and voice.  A string quartet or SATB chorus may not be a problem, but how about if it’s for a quintet consisting of Lyric Baritone, Oboe D’Amore, Alto Trombone, Troubadour Harp and Slide Whistle.  Or maybe you’re wondering what special effects for violins you could incorporate into your writing or the best way to notate specific percussion parts.  Now there is a concise source for all this information and more -  Alfred’s Essentials of Orchestration – A Practical Dictionary by Dave Black and Tom Gerou.

This is not a book on how to write orchestrations, it is a quick reference book that presents complete and practical ranges of all voices and instruments, both well known and obscure, as well as all applicable instrumental transpositions.  There is also general information on each voice and instrument, and the unique characteristics of each, as well as description of the dynamic and tonal qualities of every register.  Helpful tips on scoring for vocal and instrumental groups are also included.  In addition, it has sections on specific string techniques, guitar and percussion notation and brass mutes and articulations. This practical book also describes a plethora of percussion instruments, pitched and unpitched.  An alphabetical index will lead you to the exact instrument or voice that you are seeking.

00-32757[1]It’s intriguing just to look through and find such obscure instruments as slide trumpet and reco-reco or discover the difference between “staccato volante” and “saltando” bowing for strings (now you’ll have to get the book to see what these all mean!) but on the utilitarian side, Alfred’s Essentials of Orchestration – A Practical Dictionary is a very handy guide for quick reference on details you will need when doing any kind of orchestration.  It should be on the bookshelf of every composer and arranger from amateur to professional.

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