How to Build Your Own Instrumentation

Building your own instrumentation is a process called orchestration. In orchestration, you learn how to combine instruments to create a desired sound or effect. While the study of orchestration is an in-depth concept to address, there are some basic techniques that can make your building of instrumentation more effective. The key is to knowing the effect you want to create with your music and the types of instrument combinations available.

Step 1

Learn about the instruments available in the different instrument families. Brass instruments include trumpets, trombones, horns and tubas. Woodwinds include flutes, oboes, clarinets and bassoons. Percussion instruments are any sort of instrument that is hit or struck with a stick or mallet. Strings include violins, violas, cellos and basses.

Step 2

Decide on the type of sound you want for your music. If you desire a majestic sound, use brass instruments. For a light and colorful sound, select woodwinds. For loud, rhythmic pieces, use percussion instruments, and for music that is highly sustained and with a wide note range, choose strings. You also can combine different instrument groups to create a custom sound.

Step 3

Build your instrumentation by using the appropriate number of instruments for the task. An orchestra will have many more instruments than a chamber group. A rock band or woodwind ensemble typically only will have one instrument per part, and brass ensembles typically will have several players per part. Study the different types of ensembles to get a feel for the proportions of instruments needed in each ensemble.

Step 4

Learn how instruments work in combination with each other. When a string instrument blends with a woodwind instrument, the two types of instruments will take on each others characteristics. An oboe in conjunction with a violin will have the combined sound of a continuous sound mixed with a nasal, grainy quality. Take an orchestration and instrumentation course to learn about the several instruments available.

Step 5

Include instruments from each octave range to ensure you will have a full sound capable of playing from low to high. For example, use a violin, viola, cello and bass in a string piece. For brass pieces, you would use a trumpet, trombone, horn and tuba, and for woodwinds, you also would want to include one of each instrument. If you want everything to be high or low, then use instruments from that range.

Step 6

Learn how different instruments sound together. Brass instruments generally do not blend well with other instruments except for saxophones; whereas, woodwinds and strings blend extremely well together.


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