The University of Southampton

MUSI3135 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 analyse a musical syntax (elements of a style – form, harmony, texture, instrumentation and so forth) in a range of different styles and ensembles
  • how to reduce material to a short score for effective re-arrangement; and how to enlarge a short score
  • how to adapt and alter a given piece of music to transform its syntax into a new, different style, The module will include concert, popular and folk traditions
Transferable and Generic Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • Conceive, think through and execute a large creative and adaptive task.
  • Analyse, research and reflect on the details of what makes (a) Style work, and discipline yourself to its limitations
  • Ask practical questions confidently
  • Using certain types of notation short-hand (e.g. chord symbols, contractions and beams) to draft musical material effectively and speedily.
  • Work with and handle technologies (Logic, Sibelius)
  • Present publishable copies of musical scores, appropriate for a concert or recording scenario, printed with the aid of a computer notation programme for music software (e.g. Sibelius)
Subject Specific Practical Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • Adapt melodic material to fit a new style but retain comprehensibly the same identity
  • Transform one type of musical accompaniment into another in terms of macro details; varying time signature, tempo, tonality, harmonic style
  • Handle micro-details of texture within a style and a formal template: e.g. to identify, select and manipulate the technical elements of the accompaniment in terms of content, gesture, rhetoric etc of bass, chord, non-melodic pitched line, countermelody, and un pitched material.
  • Lay out scores to a professional standard by hand or in computer-set notation
Subject Specific Intellectual and Research Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • create a rationale: make an informed and intelligent set of decisions when confronted with a brief that requires big choices to be made
  • control an overview: plan an arrangement so that its formal structure is coherent within a given style, and effectively maintained as a piece of rhetoric
  • own a process: research, draft and execute a specific arrangement clearly, from conception to final version; sticking to those earlier decisions
  • ask (yourself and others) the right professional questions; to know what these are, and when and how to ask them


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.

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

Resources & Reading list

Samuel Adler (2002). The Study of Orchestration. 

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

Petrucci Music Library (Online).

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

Walter Piston (1978). Orchestration. 

Nikolay Rimsky-Korsakov (1964). Principles 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 50%
Individual orchestration 25%
Team orchestration 25%


MethodPercentage contribution
Individual orchestration 50%
Individual orchestration 25%
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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