The Orchestra: A User's Manual is one element of The Sound Exchange, a pioneering web development by the Philharmonia Orchestra. The aim of the user's manual is to provide information about the orchestra, orchestration, composition and instruments, for the benefit of anybody with an interest in the subject. Unlike conventional text-based orchestration manuals, this features movies of players explaining relevant aspects of their instruments and technique, audio clips and samples of the instruments, and illustrative music from the repertoire drawn from the Philharmonia's postwar recorded archive. The Philharmonia is the most recorded orchestra in history and from its birth in 1945 has been associated with new technologies. This use of the internet to convey information is entirely consistent with its desire to open up access to all areas of orchestral life and music-making.
The User's Manual will be useful to anyone with an interest in orchestras and orchestral music. It will also have a specific relevance to composers, orchestrators, students, and anyone learning to play an instrument. By asking players themselves to explain the nature and technical limitations of their instruments it is intended that a realistic picture of the orchestra will emerge. A recurring feature of the video clips is that, while certain techniques are a theoretical possibility, in practice they are often limited or even unsatisfactory. By acquainting the orchestrator with these, it is hoped that much time-wasting in rehearsal can be avoided! In addition, illustrative clips from the archive give actual sounding examples of good practice in orchestration.
To navigate this site, use the drop-down menus above. Clicking 'Introduction' will return you to this page. 'Orchestration by instrument' takes you to the individual instrument pages, including movies, audio clips, and player's tips and tricks. 'Orchestration by section' gives illustrative archive clips with comments. 'Resources' and 'Historical' contain links to online resources and downloadable or printable materials. To view movie clips, you will need the (free) Quicktime plugin.
icon will launch a Quicktime
movie of a Philharmonia musician.
A4 is assumed to be 440 Hz: the 'A' to which British orchestras tune. It should be noted that some European orchestras tune to A=442 and other pitches.
In this manual: Middle C = C4. (The MIDI standard varies, and middle C may be variously defined as C3, C4 or C5, depending on instrument manufacturers). The note numbers change incrementally every octave at C, so the octave above middle C is called C5. The octave below middle C is C3. All notes between middle C and the octave above are given a 4, thus: Db4 D4 Eb4 E4 ... C5, and so on. The lower range descends to C0, then uses minus numbers (C-1, C-2, etc).
The Orchestra: A User's Manual was conceived and written by Andrew Hugill in 2002-4 during a sabbatical period from De Montfort University. The project was commissioned by the Philharmonia Orchestra with funds made available by the Arts Council of England. Many people from both De Montfort University and the Philharmonia contributed to the creation of the manual, as follows:
Recording: Philip English
Hugill would also like to thank the following for their support and
The literature on orchestration is vast, and the user wishing to find a full bibliography of manuals is referred to the one in Alfred Blatter's Instrumentation and Orchestration. The Orchestra: A User's Manual is unusual in that it treats the orchestra as a living entity to be explored. Nevertheless, several books were used during the creation of the manual, as follows:
Blatter, A. (1997)
Instrumentation and Orchestration New York: Schirmer
Another recommended online resource is Alan Belkin's Artistic Orchestration
This User's Manual always prefers to show the orchestra as it is rather than as it could be, as is most clearly the case when considering 'extended techniques'. There are several books which set out to catalogue the available extended techniques on each instrument, and these are referenced as appropriate. However, a viewing of the video clips on the various instrument pages will reveal an enormous variation in player abilities and attitudes to these techniques, ranging from enthusiastic engagement to downright hostility. This manual is perhaps unusual in that it simply reflects these limitations as they are encountered, rather than trying to be comprehensive about the available techniques regardless of the player's opinions.
To cite this manual in an academic paper or any other publication, please use the following formula:
Hugill, A. (2004) The Orchestra: A User's Manual. Available at: http://andrewhugill.com/manuals (accessed <date>)
There is a repository entry with URI at https://www.dora.dmu.ac.uk/handle/2086/5659