TIPS FOR IMPROVING ORCHESTRAL SCORES

• Apr 27, 2020 - 15:20

Hello everyone, today I'm going to enumerate some tips that can improve your orchestral scores (or other big agrupations like concert bands, marching bands...):

ADD BRACKETS AND SHARE BARLINES IN INSTRUMENT GROUPS

A common mistake is to use the score as default. Adding correct brackets per instrument group and enlarging the barlines in them is the best way to make the score look more professional.

ADD EXTRA-SPACE BETWEEN INSTRUMENT GROUPS

This is also a feature that can make a sheet music more readable. Just select the first instrument in each group, right click -> staff/part properties -> extra distance above staff, and add 1 or 2 space. You will see that the the score look better now.

USSING THE CORRECT STRING INSTRUMENTS

A mistake I found in 90% of orchestral scores in Musescore.com is that people use Violin, Viola, Cello... instruments when the correct ones for orchestra are Violins, Violas, Cellos... For use the correct strings instruments you need to swap Common -> Orchestra in the instrument list. You will see that the strings sounds are much better than before.

MIXING THE INSTRUMENTS IN THE MIXER

The mixer have a lot of posibilites. First is to change the volume of the instruments for make it more realistic. Considering a normal orchestra, this can be a good example:
* Woodwinds, Piano and Percussion should have 80 of volume
* Brass and Timpani should have 90 of volume
* Strings should have between 90-100 of volume

Also remember to pan the instruments like this for example:
* Flutes, Clarinets, French Horns and 1st Violins as 44 of pan
* Trumpets, Timpani and Cellos as 54 of pan
* Trombones, Percussion and Violas as 74 of pan
* Oboes, Bassoons, Tuba, 2nd Violins as 84 of pan
* Piano as 34 (left) or 64 (soloist in the center)
* Contrabasses 94 (right) or 54 (behind to 1st violins)

And finally you can add a litte of reverb (between 20-30 in each instrument).
With this the score will sound really better also in Musescore.com and more realistic.

REDUCING DYNAMICS SPACING

The default dynamics and crescendos is to big for orchestral scores. Is better to reducing from 4 spaces to 2.5 spaces. This can be changed in Format -> Style... -> Text Styles -> Dinamics -> Offset -> Y. For the crescendos and diminuendos you need to add one first, go to View -> Inspector and change the offset also to 2.5 spaces and then click on the S in the right to make it default for all the ones in the score.

FERMATAS IN EVERY INSTRUMENT

In small ensembles this is not necessary but in orchestral scores and in the parts we need to add the fermatas in every instrument. And if a instrument/s don't play in that specific measure, add the fermata in the silence/s. That looks better in the score and later in the parts will appear too and you don't need to add it later.

CENTERING AND CHANGING THE SCALING

First, you need to use a correct scaling in your score. This can be changed in Format -> Page Settings. For example, if your score have 16 instruments, you can use a scaling of 1.4 or 1.3. If you have more you need to use a small scaling. Later, you will see that in the pages 2 and the next pages, usually there is a big black space in the bottom of the page. In other programs we have a autocentering tool but here we have to options:
* If we not hide the empty staves, we can center all the staves going to Format -> Style... -> Page, and increasing the Music Top Margin. The first page will not be affected because of the Title. If we wan to center the first page, we need to change Vertical Frame margin instead in the same window.
* If we hide the empty staves, we need to center every stave by hand at the end of the scoring. Just go to Frames & Measures in the palette and add Vertical frames to correct the spaces in the score.

Well, that is all that I have think so far. Do you have any more tips to improve orchestral scores? I think this type of tips and others should be included in the Musescore 3 handbook. What do you think?


Comments

These are great ideas, I will definitely use them in my scores!
I also like to incrase the size of the time signature changes, and make it so there's only one per part, and that one spans multiple staves. I do this by making the size of the time signature 10 X 2.5 in the inspector, making all of them invisible, then going through and making the ones positioned the way I want visible. This adds a professional look that I really like. There are some other posts on this website that probablly explain this better. The scren shot attached explains it as well.
I also like to make the tempo changes bigger, as you can see in the image. One thing I haven't been able to fugure out though is how to put a second BPM marking in the middle of the page. This is common in most conductor's scores, but I haven't been able to do it in musescore. If anybody has figured it out I would love to hear what they did!
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