Module Catalogue 2022/23

MUS2068 : Orchestration

  • Offered for Year: 2022/23
  • Module Leader(s): Dr Christopher Tarrant
  • Owning School: Arts & Cultures
  • Teaching Location: Newcastle City Campus
Semester 2 Credit Value: 20
ECTS Credits: 10.0
Pre Requisites
Code Title
MUS1002Applications of Music Theory (Sem2)
MUS1004Applications of Music Theory (Sem1)
Pre Requisite Comment

Conversance with common-practice staff notation is necessary in order to engage with the content of the module.

MUS1002 or MUS1004

Co Requisites
Co Requisite Comment



This module aims to develop students’ theoretical and practical skills in terms of reading, understanding, and creating orchestral scores. By the end of the module, students will have studied orchestral music in a range of styles and will have the skills to analyse orchestral scores and apply what they have learnt in a series of creative tasks. The art and craft of orchestration is a separate skill from composition and it is necessary to teach it in its own context. That said, the module is not only aimed at students interested in composition, but is designed to benefit a wider cohort of performers, conductors, historians and analysts, as well as creative practitioners from diverse backgrounds.

The module aims to complement students’ other activities as composers and performers as well as their wider academic work. Core skills such as score reading, score presentation, knowledge of instruments and transposition are covered alongside more creative skills to do with timbre, texture, and interpretation.

Outline Of Syllabus

The module introduces the topic of orchestration and provides students with a framework for approaching the subject and some of the basic skills of score analysis. The module will typically involve a series of segments (normally of 2 weeks each) , which cover a different composer and draw attention to different aspects of orchestral style. These individual segments will typically cover topics such as:

Classical orchestration: natural brass instruments, pairs of wind instruments, register and tessitura, combinations of instruments within a family, combinations of families within the orchestra, translation of pianistic textures into orchestral ones, accompaniment textures, orchestral energy levels, piano vs orchestra in concertos, writing for limited forces, the role of the sustaining pedal.

Romantic orchestration: writing for trombones, using 4 horns, ‘dramatic’ orchestral effects, blending effects, soloistic writing.

Colouristic orchestration: writing for tuba, piccolo, untuned percussion and cor anglais; creative doubling and special effects.

Twentieth-century orchestral styles: special orchestral effects, translation of idiomatic piano textures, use of unusual instruments, combinations of sustained and percussive sounds, use of the harp.

Learning Outcomes

Intended Knowledge Outcomes

1)       Students will gain an understanding of changing style of orchestration through history (approximately 1750 – 1930)
2)       Students will gain a working knowledge of the technical capabilities and ranges of different orchestral instruments.
3)       Students will gain a working knowledge of transposition, extended techniques and the limitations of various orchestral instruments
4)       Students will gain a working knowledge of the aesthetic and practical relationships between keyboard and orchestral textures.

Intended Skill Outcomes

1)       Ability to read and understand complex orchestral scores.
2)       Ability to present original orchestrational work in full score.
3)       Ability to demonstrate command of writing for specific instruments and combinations of instruments.
4)       To demonstrate an ability to respond creatively in scoring to a variety of stylistic requirements.

Teaching Methods

Teaching Activities
Category Activity Number Length Student Hours Comment
Guided Independent StudyAssessment preparation and completion164:0064:00N/A
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesLecture112:0022:00PIP lecture or online lecture material with associated tasks in case of lockdown.
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesSmall group teaching111:0011:00Seminars - PIP or online and synchronous in case of lockdown.
Guided Independent StudyIndependent study1103:00103:00N/A
Teaching Rationale And Relationship

The student learning pattern is built around a series of alternating lectures and seminars in which a series of orchestral and thematic archetypes and their associated technical components are introduced and practised. The early stage of the module establishes foundational ideas and techniques on which students can draw as the module progresses through case-studies that introduce more complex themes and techniques.

Reading Lists

Assessment Methods

The format of resits will be determined by the Board of Examiners

Other Assessment
Description Semester When Set Percentage Comment
Portfolio2A100Portfolio of orchestration work presented in full score.
Assessment Rationale And Relationship

Students are presented with a choice of excerpts of piano repertoire which they are required to orchestrate. Work has to be presented in full transposing score observing the normal conventions of the common practice era.
There will typically be fortnightly exercises on which students will receive formative feedback. The skills built up across these individual pieces of work are cumulative, and contribute towards those necessary for the completion of the summative portfolio assignments.


Past Exam Papers

General Notes


Disclaimer: The information contained within the Module Catalogue relates to the 2022/23 academic year. In accordance with University Terms and Conditions, the University makes all reasonable efforts to deliver the modules as described. Modules may be amended on an annual basis to take account of changing staff expertise, developments in the discipline, the requirements of external bodies and partners, and student feedback. Module information for the 2023/24 entry will be published here in early-April 2023. Queries about information in the Module Catalogue should in the first instance be addressed to your School Office.