Musical theatre workshops and productions

Arranging, orchestrating and instrumenting….Part 2

WHY am I writing so much these days about orchestrations?  First, because I am working with the orchestrator now for NUMBERS NERDS – the new musical I am producing.  And secondly, because I am learning so much!  I owe a big thank-you to my friend, Lucinda Lawrance, for giving me so much clarification and explanation, and for sharing so many great ideas.

First, Linda tells me there is a difference between arranging, instrumentating and orchestrating.  (Frankly, they were lumped together in my brain).  She admits the terms overlap some and apply differently in various uses, but there is a difference.

Arrangements or arranging music – we “arrange” music horizontally for structure over time.  Often the composer’s work needs to be “extended” to fit a theatrical need.   It becomes clear that a song prompts applause; you need an added measure to accommodate that.  You realize that, at this moment in the show, the song offers an opportunity for a “big finale.”  So parts must be assigned to different singers, dynamics may need to be adjusted, transitional harmonies may be helpful, and the final notes may be extended for an additional measure or two.  We still can tell that it is the composer’s music.  But the arrangement has helped it fit the concrete context.

Instrumentation – deciding which instruments/singers should play/sing each segment of music.  Changing the instrumentation can make a huge change in the feel of the music.  For example, one song in my show always sounded odd to me, when it was sung to a piano accompaniment. But when the accompaniment was given to an acoustic guitar playing arpeggios and a keyboard playing violin-like chords, the whole thing came together gorgeously!

Orchestration – we “orchestrate” vertically, deciding which role each instrument should have in the song, then adding staffs devoted to each of those instruments, and refining chord voicings by way of how they are distributed among the instruments.

Clear as mud, right?  I think it makes sense.  Think about all of this when you listen to THE SOUND OF MUSIC. Ahhhhhhhh.

Thanks again to Lucinda – you are a great resource to our audience.

Any thoughts?  Love to hear them.

Larry Little

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