Introduction

In this lesson, we are going to learn the basics of how to orchestrate for a symphony orchestra. First, we'll explain the concept of layer and how we create separation between them or unify elements into a single one of them.

Then we'll explain how to achieve balance, not only by weighting well the different layers but helping to create separation between them. Finally, we will talk about voicing for the orchestra and see a few examples to understand the bigger complexity that implies to have now the full ensemble.

At the end of the lesson you will have learned:

  • The concept of layer
  • How to help to unify and separating layers through orchestration
  • How to balance the different sections in the orchestra
  • How to use separation to help to balance layers
  • How to voice following the harmonic series in a symphonic context



Distributing musical ideas (layers) and balancing them is the art of Arranging.

In an Orchestral Mockup Production context (ie. orchestrating using sample libraries and virtual instruments), we sometimes wrongly associate "professional sounding orchestral mockup" with "mixing techniques". In other words, we think that what's gonna make our music sound better is the reverb plugin that we use, or the synth layer below the double basses to extend the low end, or the multi-band compressor for the percussion stem, etc. And that maindset is completely wrong! ;) 

Arranging using sample libraries (aka synthestration) is way more important than all the mixing and mastering techniques associated to orchestral mockups. In fact, the "Arranging" part is gonna define 80% of your mockup's final sound. Mixing and Mastering will enhance its sound, but it's just the last 20% or so.

Think of it this way: Mixing and Mastering will not fix any Arranging mistakes. So, arranging is the most important part of the orchestral mockup production process and it hapens WHILE you're composing because when you're sequencing a mockup, composing/orchestration/arranging is sort of the same process and it happens at the same time.

We've included an Orchestral Mockup Production BONUS Module at the end of this course. Check out the Layers: Distributing your Musical Ideas topic for more info.