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on 2 June 2017
A really useful book for dipping into if you need reminding of the range of an instrument or something simple like that. Don't expect too much though - it's only a small inexpensive affair, but nevertheless useful.
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on 5 May 2015
This little handy book is very useful if your composing and covers many technical aspect of each instrument indicating the range(s), the different styles of play and what (obviously very general and subjective) instruments go well with another or what setup. It doesn' t have any pictures, but its written easy to understand and inspiring to flick through for ideas. Very handy and practical
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on 4 March 2017
Very well-organized, useful, and convenient for all musicians and students.
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on 17 August 2012
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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on 18 February 2014
This book consists principally of a list of instruments and their ranges. It unnecessarily repeats similar information for each instrument - for example it will describe the tonal qualities of each string on a cello and then say much the same about each string of every other member of the string family.

It does not discuss the combination of instruments, doesn't for example mention dove-tailing a chord, and has nothing to say about orchestrating music.

I expected it to be a comprehensive dictionary of the topic and not just a list of instrument ranges.
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on 25 September 2010
I bought this because I lost my Walter Piston volume on the same subject, and wanted reminding of a few things. And for that, I can well recommend this little book. Its size is really handy - it fits easily into a jacket pocket or handbag (well, you couldn't carry a Blatter, Adler or Piston around with you really). It also gives some helpful little tips, like the relative dynamic ranges in each instrument. It's not meant to be a textbook, and so if you're looking to learn orchestration for a modern outfit you'd be better off with something like the Blatter or Adler (which has a set of workbooks).

So all in all, it's a cute little handbook, with a friendly presentation (nice paper, crisp print, thoughtfully laid-out, etc). Great for dipping into as and when you can or need to, and small enough to carry around with you to rehearsals, seminars or perhaps working (with Sibelius, Finale, Notion etc) in a confined computer space.
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on 11 March 2013
This little book (14cm x 10.5cm) is packed full of information that is really useful when a composer is orchestrating a composition. It uncovers the mysteries of string bowing for non-string players and delves into the most remarkable set of different instruments - over 150 from the string, woodwind, brass and percussion families..

There are full details of the pitch, range and power of each instrument and describes any transposition required. If you wish to include a heckelphone (a form of bass oboe) a mellophonium (alto horn) or an almglocken (a set of swiss cowbells) this little book is for you.

It loses a star because all the information needed is there but it is so succinctly summarised it is tricky to unravel and nuderstand. Maybe this is down to my advancing years!
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on 17 August 2002
A good little dictionary giving you comprehensive information about Weston, often orchestral instruments. Information includes instrumental devices, ranges and what within music that instrument is best suited. However, the writers do warn it is in pocket-dictionary style which means it should be used as a quick reference. They suggest studying a larger book for detailed analysis about each instrumental grouping. This book is about the instruments, not necessarily about how best to orchestrate particular difficulties, for example, or about collective writing… The essential dictionary of Orchestration is a pocket dictionary giving you practical, easy-to-understand advice for the beginner or the un-familiar. The illustrations clearly show how certain types of effect should be ideally written with useful illustrations depicting meaning. This is a very useful book, with a great deal of instruments (from violin to the harp, percussion to the bass flute…). It also explains the basics of MIDI. For the price – you can’t really go wrong!
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on 11 February 2014
If you're a serious orchestrator, then you're going to be reading Rimsky Korsakov's treatise on orchestration. Most of us do. But this little book, about the size of a pocket dictionary, will keep you company for a long time. It goes into some detail (despite its size) and the layout is very clean and easy to read. Absolutely essential for the student.
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on 23 March 2014
It's a little treasure trove of information, this. Even if you're unlikely to need to notate all the instruments in here you (assuming you're interested in the mechanics of music and orchestration of course) will probably find yourself dipping in and out of this little book out of curiosity.

The only downside is the book itself is a little flimsy - the glue in the spine of mine is already cracking and the pages are becoming loose. Nevertheless, can't fault it for content.
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