MUS 470 - GUIDELINES for SCORING
Wind Ensemble Project
To achieve a successful orchestration for your 470 Wind Ensemble project...
* Write for the instruments in their best sounding ranges
* Balance the parts within the individual families
* Double the melody first, the bass voice second, and the inner voices
last and evenly
* Use percussion to reinforce the important features of the music
* Write for Band and Orchestra Grade III difficulty level.
I. Balance - the relative levels of instruments in different
Factors that influence balance (other factors being equal):
1. Numbers - how many instruments are on a note (or part).
Equal numbers of like instruments produce an even
e.g.: An SAT homophonic texture for 9 clarinets,
3 on a part, will be balanced
2. Family representation - instrument families balanced within themselves
will balance overall
Brass e.g.: Horn 1-2-3-4 (SATB), Tpt 1-2-3 (SAT),
Trombone 1-2-3 (ATB), Euph 1-2 (SS 8vb or BB), Tuba 1-2 (BB)
Woodwind e.g.: Picc (S) Fl 1-2 (SS), Oboe 1-2 (SA)
English horn (T), Bassoon 1-2 (BB)
Eb Clarinet (S), Clarinet
1-2-3 (SAT), Bass Clarinet (B)
Alto Saxophone 1-2 (SA),
Tenor Saxophone (T), Baritone Saxophone (B)
Mixed families must be balanced. Brass and percussion
instruments are stronger.
It takes 2 or 3 clarinets to balance one trumpet
(other factors being equal)
e.g.: 6-9 Clarinets 1-2-3 (SAT) = 3 Trumpets
3. Register - instruments in strong areas of their range will over
e.g.: oboes and saxes are stronger in the low registers,
flutes and picc are stronger in their upper registers
4. Playing requirements - the way the instruments
e.g.: fluttertounging is usually loud, mutes diminish
the volume, percussion rolls are stronger than natural decay
5. The relationship of parts to one another
The top line will be heard the most easily (even
if it is not the melody)
The bottom voice (usually the bass) will be the
Inner voices are least heard. (The melody can be
lost if it is an undoubled inner voice)
6. Spacing - the farther away a part is from others the more likely
it will be heard.
7. Activity - active parts stand out.
Lines will be more discernible if...
a. They move faster than others (8ths or 16ths in
a quarter or half note pulse)
b. They move in different directions (contrary motion)
c. They are diverse - have a different rhythm or
d. They are of a different articulation
8. Dynamic markings - the LEAST effective way to balance instruments
Asking flutes to play louder against soft trumpet
parts will NOT substantially improve the balance.
However, raising the flutes an octave above the
trumpets will help.
9. Octave doubling - adds to the fullness of sound
Allows instruments to sound in their best sounding
Considerations: Flutes 8va, Tuba - 8vb
II. Blend - how the instruments sound when combined.
How much two or more instruments sound like one.
It is difficult to distinguish between instruments that blend well.
Factors that enhance blend
1. Instruments are in the same family or subgroup (like double reeds)
2. Instruments (of different types) play adjacent voices in the texture
a. juxtaposition - e.g.: flute 1, flute 2,
oboe 1, oboe 2 (S-A-T-Svb or B)
b. overlapping- e.g.: flute 1, flute 2 AND oboe
1, oboe 2 (Tva-S-S-A)
c. interlocking - e.g.: flute 1, oboe 1, flute
2, oboe 2 (S-A-T-Svb or B)
d. enclosure - e.g.: flute 1, oboe 1, oboe 2, flute
2 (S-A-T-Svb or B)
3. Instruments play similar parts or have similar treatment (articulation)
4. The Instruments are evenly balanced
Blend and balance are often inseparable components
5. There are mostly consonant intervals between parts
Unlike instruments playing dissonant intervals blend
6. The timbre of the instrument does not attract attention
e.g.: an oboe playing in its low register can stick
out of an otherwise balanced mix
III. Function - how the instrument is employed within the composition:
Homophonic texture: melody (soprano), inner harmony (alto and tenor),
harmonic bass, accompaniment figures
Contrapuntal texture: melody (subject), countermelody (counter subject),
Highlighting: embroidery (flourish), splash of color, cadence support, stengthening the orchestral crescendo
Rhythmic support: pattern and ostinato, harmonic rhythm
Structural support: "hooks," cadence support, modulation support
IV. Texture - density and use of instruments.
1. How the instruments are employed in homophonic and contrapuntal
styles (see function).
2. The number of the instruments used and the relative density of instrumental
e.g: Tutti ensemble
Instrument group choirs (woodwind choir, brass choir,
or percussion ensemble)
Family groups (clarinets, saxes, trumpets, mallet
Mixed family combinations (flutes and double reeds,
trombones and tubas, clarinets and bassoons, etc.)
Solo with ensemble (solo trumpet or euphonium with
woodwinds, solo oboe or saxophone with low brass, etc.)
N.B.: The contrast
of color of the solo instrument with the accompaniment ensemble helps its
Unlike instrument combinations (a solo quartet of
clarinet, horn, euphonium, and bassoon for instance)
N.B.: These are the
most difficult to balance
V. Form - how the instrument combinations relate to the structure
of the total composition.
Consider the elements of form that bring about unity and variety
1. Identity - repeating elements
Melodies, motives, harmonic and tonal patterns,
can have instrumental colors or texture associations
2. Change - new formal elements.
Use changes of texture or color to coincide with
changes of structure such as new melodic material
3. Contrast - varied repetition
Use changes of texture or color to provide interest
to sections which are repeated
VI. Context - subjective considerations of instrumental combinations
(and difficult to predict).
1. Timbral effect - brilliant, bright, somber, dark, muddy
e.g.: adding piccolo and xylophone or orchestra
bells can increase the brilliance of a passage
N.B.: Instruments that blend well tend to confuse
the perception of the timbre (instrumental colors).
For a melody to stand out, consider using a contrasting color, e.g.: oboe melody accompanied by clarinet choir
or using a brass instrument solo accompanied by woodwinds
2. Emotional context - joy, sadness, humor, terror
3. Articulation - affects timbre
Slow attacks can confuse perception of the timbre
Sharp attacks help to clarify the instrumental colors
VII Scoring Considerations for Wind Ensemble
1. Flat keys are easier to play in than sharps. Consider Eb, Bb, F and C major and their relative minors for Grade III.
2. Transcriptions of orchestral works should attempt to cover the dynamic
range of the strings.
Clarinets alone cannot achieve this (their chalumeau
register is soft and diffuse and the altissimo is difficult to control).
Look for how the strings are used, then assign instruments
that will best achieve this effect.
3. Saxophones are powerful instruments and serve well as a bridge between
brass and woodwinds.
When used with those families, they soften the brass
and strengthen the woodwinds.
4. Saxophones can add power to the lower registers of the clarinet
5. Doubling flutes and clarinets in unison in the upper register can
create pitch problems
6. Use the whole family of saxophones alone as an homogenous group.
7. Flutes and clarinets are better at doubling trumpets up an octave
than in unison.
8. It is typical of band parts that the more difficult passages are
given to the lead stands of players.
9. Solos for "color" instruments are often cued in other parts.
e.g.: an oboe solo may be cued in soprano saxophone
10. Brass can easily overpower woodwinds in bands.
It is prudent to use octave doublings of woodwinds
in tutti passages.
VIII. HELP! A list of things to AVOID! -- some grading criteria!
N.B.: The objective of the project is to have a good sounding score
- with only one rehearsal!
1. Horns and Tubas too high
2. Flutes, Piccolo, Oboes and Saxes too low
N.B.: Most all instruments sound good when written
WITHIN their staff.
High instruments (flutes) are better a little above,
low instruments (tubas) a little below.
3. Overwhelming percussion. Unless the percussion is featured,
subtlety is best.
4. Unidiomatic treatment of instruments.
Extremes of range, agility or unusual treatment
of instruments should be avoided.
A Band and Orchestra grade 3 difficulty level is our objective.
5. Parts that are unnecessarily difficult.
6. Uninteresting parts.
7. Repetitious are otherwise fatiguing passages. (The "O Holy Night"
8. Parts with too little rest or breathing places.
9. Tacet parts
10. Poor manuscript (pickup rests!, missing fermatas, no rehearsal
marks or enough measure numbers)
11. Untaped parts and scores
12. Parts without page turns
13. Key - winds generally sound better in flat keys. Consider key signatures with 1, 2 or 3 flats for Grade III
The key of your original may NOT be best for Wind
Look at the range and characteristics of the melody.
What key and register sound the best for the instruments chosen?
14. Tempo. Give a tempo marking in the score and parts. Dont make the conductor guess!
15. Dynamics. A dynamic marking MUST be written in each part every time the instrument enters or reenters after rest.
16. Articulation. Slurs and articulation markings are vital in determining the true character or flavor of the music.
17. Phrasing. Wind instrumentalists must breathe. Plan and indicate where all phrases begin and end.