The University of Southampton

MUSI2129 Orchestration

Module Overview

This orchestration module teaches you to orchestrate for ensemble forces of all sizes typically found in the classical and contemporary repertoires, from string quartet to symphony orchestra. It also makes you aware of the different orchestration aesthetics developed by composers from the classical to the contemporary era. Importantly, the module also introduces you to current applications for orchestration, including professional practice.

Aims and Objectives

Module Aims

Expand your knowledge of instruments and their idiomatic usage ? Introduce you to some of the methods and techniques of orchestration in classical and contemporary music idioms ? Give you the skills to work as a professional orchestrator

Learning Outcomes

Knowledge and Understanding

Having successfully completed this module, you will be able to demonstrate knowledge and understanding of:

  • how to handle instruments in large and small ensembles to provide well-balanced textures
  • how to transcribe from piano music to orchestral format
  • how to orchestrate in the style of a variety of composers, from classical to contemporary and popular
Learning Outcomes

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • plan and execute orchestration clearly, showing your method of working from initial research, through drafts to final version
  • plan the use of orchestration in terms of layers and section contrasts to clearly articulate musical forms
  • mix musical colours, in appropriate textures to bring out melodic lines as necessary
  • achieve orchestral textures of different types
  • conceive, think through and execute a large creative task
  • present publishable copies of musical scores, printed with the aid of a music software


As the module progresses, you will learn to orchestrate for ensembles of increasing sizes, from string quartet at first to large symphony orchestra in styles ranging from Haydn’s to Debussy’s, and you will master classical two-dimensional orchestration as well as more elaborate three-dimensional contemporary orchestration. In the process you will study most orchestral instruments in terms of timbre, basics of range, technical abilities, and how to combine them. Beyond the traditional nature of orchestration, current applications of the discipline in professional practice will be studied with amongst others, the film music of composer John Williams.

Learning and Teaching

Teaching and learning methods

On day one, the class will de divided into smaller teams. On the individual level, you will be expected to prepare for certain lectures by studying preliminary documents hosted on Blackboard, allowing to make the subsequent lectures interactive. On the team level, you will prepare an orchestration work to present to the class on paper, and on your instruments. A typical lecture will mix the delivery of essential information from the lecturer with individual and team activities. Therefore the overall course will combine theoretical knowledge and practical hands on applications depending on the orchestral make up of the class.

Preparation for scheduled sessions20
Practical classes and workshops4
Completion of assessment task50
Wider reading or practice28
Total study time150

Resources & Reading list

Petrucci Music Library (Online).

Samuel Adler (2002). The Study of Orchestration. 

Walter Piston (1978). Orchestration. 

Nikolay Rimsky-Korsakov (1964). Principles of Orchestration. 

Ertugrul Sevsay (2013). The Cambridge Guide to Orchestration. 

Dave Black, Tom Gerou (1998). Essential Dictionary of Orchestration. 


Assessment Strategy

Include details of the proportion and weighting of coursework as well as the number, type and duration of examination(s). You must specify which element will be taken as the final assessment.


MethodPercentage contribution
Individual orchestration 25%
Individual orchestration 50%
Team orchestration 25%


MethodPercentage contribution
Individual orchestration 25%
Individual orchestration 50%
Team orchestration 25%

Repeat Information

Repeat type: Internal & External


Costs associated with this module

Students are responsible for meeting the cost of essential textbooks, and of producing such essays, assignments, laboratory reports and dissertations as are required to fulfil the academic requirements for each programme of study.

In addition to this, students registered for this module typically also have to pay for:

Books and Stationery equipment

Black, Dave. Gerou, Tom. Essential Dictionary of Orchestration (Alfred, 1998) (around £5)

Please also ensure you read the section on additional costs in the University’s Fees, Charges and Expenses Regulations in the University Calendar available at

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