Is becoming an orchestrator right for me?
The first step to choosing a career is to make sure you are actually willing to commit to pursuing the career. You don’t want to waste your time doing something you don’t want to do. If you’re new here, you should read about:
Still unsure if becoming an orchestrator is the right career path? Take the free CareerExplorer career test to find out if this career is right for you. Perhaps you are well-suited to become an orchestrator or another similar career!
Described by our users as being “shockingly accurate”, you might discover careers you haven’t thought of before.
How to become an Orchestrator
Becoming an orchestrator involves a combination of musical education, practical experience, networking, and a deep understanding of musical composition. Here is a guide to help you pursue a career as an orchestrator:
- Musical Education: Obtain a solid foundation in music through formal education. Consider pursuing a Bachelor's or Master's Degree in Music or Music Theory and Composition, with a focus on orchestration.
- Learn Instrumentation and Orchestration Techniques: Develop a comprehensive understanding of orchestration techniques and instrumentation. Study the characteristics and capabilities of various instruments within an orchestra, as well as their unique timbres, ranges, and expressive possibilities.
- Master Music Theory: Enhance your knowledge of music theory, including harmony, counterpoint, and analysis. A strong theoretical foundation is crucial for effective orchestration, allowing you to make informed decisions about chord progressions, voicings, and overall musical structure.
- Instrument Proficiency: While not mandatory, having proficiency in playing one or more instruments can be beneficial. It provides practical insight into the physicality and nuances of each instrument, aiding in the orchestration process.
- Study Existing Scores: Analyze and study existing orchestral scores, both classical and contemporary. Pay attention to how different composers have orchestrated their works and observe the techniques they employ to achieve specific effects.
- Gain Practical Experience: Seek practical experience by working on orchestration projects. Collaborate with composers, fellow musicians, or student filmmakers to gain hands-on experience in adapting and orchestrating musical compositions for different contexts.
- Networking: Network within the music industry, attending concerts, workshops, and industry events. Connect with composers, conductors, and other professionals who may provide opportunities for collaboration or mentorship.
- Build a Portfolio: Create a portfolio showcasing your orchestrations. Include examples of your work, such as orchestrated excerpts, full scores, and recordings if available. A strong portfolio is essential when seeking opportunities in the field.
- Take Orchestration Courses: Consider taking specialized orchestration courses or workshops to further refine your skills. Many educational institutions and online platforms offer courses focused specifically on orchestration techniques and practices.
- Join Professional Organizations: Join professional organizations related to music and orchestration, such as the American Society of Music Arrangers and Composers (ASMAC) or the Society of Composers & Lyricists (SCL). These organizations provide valuable resources and networking opportunities.
- Attend Masterclasses: Attend orchestration masterclasses conducted by experienced orchestrators or composers. These sessions offer insights, feedback, and additional learning opportunities to refine your craft.
- Explore Diverse Genres: Be open to orchestrating for various genres, including classical, film, theater, and contemporary music. Versatility enhances your skill set and widens your range of potential collaborations.
- Seek Mentorship: If possible, seek mentorship from experienced orchestrators or composers. Learning from professionals in the field can provide valuable guidance and insights into the intricacies of orchestration.
Orchestrators can benefit from a variety of resources to enhance their skills, stay updated on industry trends, and connect with the broader music community. Here are some helpful resources:
Books on Orchestration:
- "Principles of Orchestration" by Nikolay Rimsky-Korsakov
- "Orchestration" by Samuel Adler
- "The Study of Orchestration" by Samuel Adler
Online Courses and Platforms:
- Berklee Online - Orchestration Courses: Berklee College of Music offers online courses in orchestration, providing insights into techniques and practical applications.
- MasterClass - Hans Zimmer Teaches Film Scoring: A comprehensive course by renowned composer Hans Zimmer that includes orchestration insights for film.
- American Society of Music Arrangers and Composers (ASMAC): ASMAC provides resources, networking opportunities, and events for music arrangers and orchestrators.
- Society of Composers & Lyricists (SCL): SCL offers resources, seminars, and networking events for composers and orchestrators in film, TV, and multimedia.
Online Forums and Communities:
- VI-Control: An online forum where composers and orchestrators discuss virtual instruments, sample libraries, and orchestration techniques.
- Composer's Forum: A community for composers and orchestrators to share knowledge, ask questions, and collaborate.
Score Study Platforms:
- Newzik: A digital platform for musicians to study, annotate, and share orchestral scores. Useful for deepening understanding through score analysis.
Orchestral Sample Libraries:
- EastWest Hollywood Orchestra: High-quality virtual instruments for orchestration and composition.
- Spitfire Audio: Offers a range of orchestral sample libraries, including collaborations with renowned composers.
Conferences and Workshops:
- ASCAP Film Scoring Workshop: An annual workshop that provides hands-on experience in film scoring, including orchestration techniques.
- ASCAP "I Create Music" Expo: An event featuring workshops, panels, and networking opportunities for music creators, including orchestrators.
- Orchestration Online: A website and YouTube channel by composer Thomas Goss, providing tutorials and insights into orchestration techniques.
- Scoring Notes: A blog and resource hub covering various aspects of music notation, scoring, and orchestration.
Composer and Orchestrator Websites:
- Explore the websites of established composers and orchestrators to access their portfolios, insights, and resources. Examples include Hans Zimmer, John Williams, and Thomas Newman.
- Check the orchestration programs and resources offered by reputable music schools and conservatories, such as Berklee College of Music, Juilliard School, and Eastman School of Music.
Score Libraries and Archives:
- Platforms like IMSLP (International Music Score Library Project) offer a vast collection of public domain scores.
- Library of Congress - Performing Arts Reading Room: The Library of Congress provides access to an extensive collection of scores and resources for orchestration and composition.
- Alex Moukala: A composer and orchestrator who shares insights into orchestration, music production, and composition on his YouTube channel.
- Daniel James: A composer and orchestrator with tutorials on orchestration and virtual instruments.