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Orchestration: PART 1 - Woodwinds - Exercises

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Guest QcCowboy


Exercise 1:

Take the following phrase and place it in both the strong and weak registers of each woodwind. You may transpose as needed (N.B. if you transpose, you must transpose the entire phrase, not just a few notes).


Exercise 2:

Compose a short monophonic melodic phrase (no more than 4 measures) and create a doubling of any two woodwinds utilizing the strong/weak range relationship. Explain the effect you are attempting to create.

For example, flute and oboe one octave apart, or clarinet and flute 2 octaves apart, or clarinet and flute in unison.

Exercise 3:

orchestrate a single chord (either major or minor) for a woodwind ensemble, including any (realistic) combination of the instruments we have discussed here up to, and including:

  • piccolo
  • 2 flutes
  • 2 oboes
  • cor anglais
  • 2 clarinets
  • bass clarinet
  • 2 bassoons
  • contrabassoon

Tell us what "mood" that chord is supposed to convey (happy? sad? scary? woodsy? artsy? fartsy? etc...)

The goal of this exercise is not to "compose" a chord that renders the feeling you are looking for, but to take a simple 3-note chord and ORCHESTRATE it to render that feeling.

(as per the instructions, a MAJOR or MINOR chord.. in other words, a simple 3-note chord. Do not get "creative" and toss in a cluster or other dissonant harmonic construct. This exercise is meant to force you to consider the TIMBRE of the instruments you are using, to understand that you can give different "feelings" by allowing certain of those instrumental timbres to dominate a texture.)

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Guest QcCowboy

exercise 4:

We have a melody with string accompaniment.

You cannot touch the accompaniment, just leave it as is.

However, what I want is for you to arrange the melody for woodwinds by twos (2 flutes, 2 oboes, 2 clarinets, 2 bassoons).

Don't use ALL the woodwind all the way through. Consider register and volume.


Try to keep the register for the melody as close to the original as possible. You can add octave doublings, or even double octave doublings, but avoid changing the register TOO much. Keep at least part of the woodwind section in the original register at all times.

One important detail when setting a melody is to be sure to respect the melodic contour.

If the melody creates a rising phrase, do not orchestrate it to give the impression of a descending phrase!

For example, in this melody, the final measure is obviously in a higher register than what just preceded.. so do not orchestrate it in such a way as to defeat this purpose.

I'd appreciate Finale files as much as possible for this homework.

Oh, and do keep to the written dynamics.

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Guest QcCowboy

Exercise 5:

compose an 8-12 measure phrase for woodwind section (a woodwind section contains a minimum of 2 of each instrument: 2 flutes, 2 oboes, 2 clarinets and 2 bassoons).

note: you may NOT write a 4-part harmony setting then orchestrate it "a due" unison for each pair of instruments (ie: flutes in unison, oboes in unison, etc...).

Even within the confines of so brief a phrase, you are to look for ways of varying the texture, the tonal colour, the density.

AVOID the unison of similar instruments for prolonged periods. The goal of this course is to get away from that practice. While the unison is a valid tool, it should NOT be the "norm" when orchestrating.

You are not required to use all the forces of the ensemble at all times, but the goal is to demonstrate the ability to use the woodwind section successfully in an orchestral context.

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Guest QcCowboy

Exercise 6a:

Using the same woodwind phrase as in exercise 5, add parts for two horns, applying the principles of resonance.

Exercise 6b:

Using the same woodwind phrase as in exercise 5, re-orchestrate, adding parts for 4 horns, sharing resonance duties between different woodwind parts and the horns.


In exercise 6b, extreme care should be taken to create a smooth sense of linearity. The addition or removal of instruments should be done with great care to emphasize the dynamics of the phrase.

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