A Deeper Look into Orchestral Art

Every orchestrator has a unique way of looking at the “mechanics” of orchestration—the art of choosing which voices or instruments carry melody and which carry harmony.  With a hypothetical, 30-piece orchestra, there might be four separate lines of music just for violins; each violin part would have a number (e.g., first violin, second violin, third violin and fourth violin).  When played together, the sound should be rich and full, each line supporting, harmonically, the others.  If the orchestrator decides to let the first violins carry the melody for a period of time, then the other three parts should harmonically support the first violin’s line of music.

However, it may be that the melody is sung by the soprano or tenor, and the violins provide harmonic accompaniment.  Given the nature of harmony, the orchestrator must decide how many violins are needed in total and more importantly, how many should be allocated to each of the four parts.  These types of decisions will affect the harmonic outcome.