Customer Review

7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A gem of a book, 17 Aug. 2012
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This review is from: Essential Dictionary of Orchestration: Ranges, General Characteristics, Technical Considerations, Scoring Tips: The Most Practical and Comprehensive R (Essential Dictionary Series) (Paperback)
Although I am a musician, my knowledge of some orchestral instruments is patchy.

I bought this book because I need to arrange computer MIDI and SoundFont files for real orchestral instruments for real people to play. I also need to score some piano and ensemble pieces for full orchestra.

Instruments' ranges are very important. This book shows you what the written range of each instrument is is (i.e. the notes you'd write when you are scoring), and what the actual sounding range is - when writing for transposing instruments. Also covered, for each instrument, is the range that is practical vs. the range that is achievable usually only by the professional musician. This is excellent and makes a huge difference when you are scoring for schools and colleges vs. writing for very experienced players.

This books indicates which ranges, of each instrument, convey what qualities (e.g. the use of adjectives like: dark, warm, focussed, bright, sonorous, nasal, Etc); in which range the instrument sounds best, where it is better combined with other instruments vs. where it should solo (and what with); what it's good for and what to avoid asking it to do.

Characteristics of the ranges are covered right down to the string level. For example you will be told the characteristics of each of the cello's individual strings.

The natural and artificial harmonics of strings are also covered in detail.

The tips for scoring, which appear throughout the book, detail, for example, what [brass] pedal notes are reliable, what [strings'] double, and treble stops are feasible, what keys instruments prefer (e.g. Bb vs. A clarinet), what the musician decides and what the composer/arranger should decide - both in terms of choice of instrument and, for example, when to insist on spiccato or staccato; what clefs to use, when you should expect to change clef; which instruments prefer ledger lines, which don't, when to use 8va and so on.

Percussion is covered in depth, and room has been found for the inclusion of non-traditional orchestral instruments such as bagpipes and electric guitars.

If you have an insatiable appetite for in-depth knowledge of, and insider tips on, orchestral instruments then you should buy this book. It is physically small (approx. 10.5 x 14 cm), but don't let that put you off. It is brilliantly written and beautifully and consistently typeset.

As a musician and composer I recommend this book to you.
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