How To Fake An Orchestra

The classical orchestra can provide some of the most evocative and expressive sounds available to the modern producer; however, the cost of hiring even one classically trained performer may be prohibitive for most project studios. Nonetheless, there are ways of adding a bit of symphony without breaking the bank…

Symphony In A Box

orchestra practice
Creative Commons License photo credit: NaN

There are plenty of software packages that aim to emulate classical instrumentation; popular choices would be Garritan Personal Orchestra, or Native Instruments Kontakt, for which there are (in addition to its own ample sample banks) a wide range of third-party bundles available.

No matter how hard you try, you are never going to truly replicate the depth of expression achieved by a virtuoso human performer, but with a bit of judicious tweaking and some deft arrangement, a respectable emulation can be achieved.

Putting It All Together

A knowledge of the instruments available to you is a good starting point. The Vienna Symphonic Library provide a useful overview of typical orchestral instruments in four main sections – woodwinds (flutes, oboes…), brass (trumpet, trombone…), strings (violin, cello…) and percussion (timpani, xylophone…).

However, knowing your instruments is not enough – being able to put them together effectively is the key. Although competent orchestral arrangement requires extensive expertise and skill, a basic knowledge of arrangement techniques can greatly improve even the simplest project. This guide to MIDI orchestration might provide a good starting point for budding bedroom Salieris…


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