Orchestration: Composers Reveal Tricks of the Trade Dave Holland



Dave Holland
Photo by Laurence

When I arrange for an ensemble, I think both about the instruments and the specific players. I might choose a certain instrumentation but then I think about the personal sound each musician makes and consider that when I am orchestrating. I also like to write to feature the style and sound of a musician.

When I am orchestrating I consider what instrument(s) and player(s) in the band would be the best suited to express that musical idea. Certainly, there are times when a musical line is best expressed by a certain instrument. Sometimes the melody is conceived for a particular instrument and/or player. Other times, I consider various possibilities before making a decision.

For the big band I wanted to have the classic sections of trumpets, trombones, saxes, and a rhythm section. I wanted to make the band big enough to achieve the powerful sound of a big band, but small enough to give it flexibility and versatility. I want all the musicians to be featured in a personal way. Within the big band there are many possible combinations from 1 to 13. I like to be able to vary the combinations. I’m still learning about the possibilities. Having such a great group of musicians to write for is a wonderful thing. They make such a great sound individually and collectively.