Orchestration Analysis

Just as it is possible to perform a harmonic or a structural analysis of a composition, one can perform an orchestration analysis. The following inquiries are useful to determine the composer’s intent and purpose in constructing an orchestral score. Information about the use of instruments can be correlated with harmonic and structural analysis to provide a greater understanding of the music.

1. Identify all the instruments and their transpositions.

2.  Determine the date of composition as it relates to the development of instruments, particularly valved brass.

3.  Compare the orchestral style with other pieces from the period, taking into account standard instrumentation, grouping of choirs, and doublings.

4.  Distinguish the primary lines or events from accompanimental parts, rhythmic patterns, coloration, and supporting harmony. Identify each instrument’s role.

5. Consider the nature of the texture and the density of figure-ground relationships, and note how changes in texture are controlled.

6.  Study the dynamic contours and levels, the weight or intensity of sections of the work compared to one another.

7.  Identify the composer’s principal sonorities, and examine how the chords are spaced.

8.  Explain special effects, score directions in any language, articulations, and other diacritical markings.

9.  Comment on how the form of the piece is elucidated by varied instrumental colors and textures at structural points.

10.  Name any unique, interesting features of the score that are peculiar to it and help differentiate it from other compositions.

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