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  • Writer's pictureKelsey Le Roux

How Does a Film Composer Work With an Orchestrator?

Updated: Mar 23, 2023


As a composer, one of the most important tasks is to bring your musical ideas to life. However, when it comes to orchestrating your music, it can be challenging to know where to start. That's where an orchestrator comes in.


Conductor and Wind Band at a Cinemagic Scoring recording session
Cinemagic Scoring's Orchestrator and conductor during a Wind Band recording

An orchestrator is a highly skilled musician specialising in arranging and adapting musical compositions for an orchestra. They work closely with the composer to bring their ideas to life in a way that's both musically and technically sound. They have a vast amount of knowledge about the capabilities of each instrument in the orchestra.


With the advancement of technology, the role of an orchestrator is less defined than in the past. Previously a composer would create a piano sketch, and the orchestrator's job was to turn that sketch into a fully orchestrated work.


With the popularity of mock-ups (demo versions of cues), the orchestrator's role is less defined. However, the role of an orchestrator is still critical. Things that are possible “In the box” sometimes don’t translate well onto the scoring stage. Things like a woodwind or brass player needing to breathe, orchestral balance, and the weight of different dynamics and tonal qualities are all things that are sometimes overlooked when a cue is created primarily in the box.


Here are some ways in which a composer works with an orchestrator:


Collaboration

The first step in the process is to establish a collaborative relationship with the orchestrator. This involves discussing the composer's vision for the piece and sharing any sketches, demos or other ideas that the composer has. The orchestrator will then work closely with the composer to bring these ideas to fruition, using their knowledge of orchestration techniques and instrumentation to help shape the music.


Instrumentation

The orchestrator's primary responsibility is to determine the instrumentation for the piece. They will carefully consider the composer's intentions, the style of the music, and the available resources of the orchestra to determine which instruments will be used and how they will be employed.


Score Preparation

Once the instrumentation has been decided upon, the orchestrator will begin preparing the score. This involves creating a detailed plan for how the music will be arranged and notated on paper. They will need to consider the range and capabilities of each instrument, as well as the music's phrasing, dynamics, and tempo.



Revisions

Throughout the process, the orchestrator will work closely with the composer to make informed decisions and necessary revisions to the score. This may involve adding or removing parts, adjusting the orchestration to suit the music better, or changing the tempo or dynamics of the piece.



Performance

Once the score has been finalised, the orchestrator's job is not entirely done. They will need to work with the conductor and the musicians at the scoring stage to ensure that the music is played correctly during the recording sessions and that the intended mood and emotion are conveyed to the audience.




Conductor during a Cinemagic Recording Session
Cinemagic Scorings director, orchestrator, arranger, and conductor John Walton

Orchestrators are the unsung heroes of the film composing world. Working with an orchestrator is an essential part of the composing process. It allows the composer to bring their musical ideas to life in a technically and artistically sound way. By collaborating with an orchestrator, composers can create inspiring and memorable music.


Take your project to the next level by contacting Cinemagic Scoring via the booking form, where our orchestrators can help your music come to life.



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