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Instrumentation (music)

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This notation indicates differing pitches, dynamics, articulations, instrumentation, timbre, and rhythm (durations and onsets). Created by Hyacinth (talk) 12:57, 22 May 2014 (UTC) using Sibelius.

In music, instrumentation is the particular combination of musical instruments employed in a composition, and to the properties of those instruments individually. Instrumentation is sometimes used as a synonym for orchestration. This juxtaposition of the two terms was first made in 1843 by Hector Berlioz in his Grand traité d’instrumentation et d’orchestration modernes, and various attempts have since been made to differentiate them. Instrumentation is a more general term referring to an orchestrator's, composer's or arranger's selection of instruments in varying combinations, or even a choice made by the performers for a particular performance, as opposed to the narrower sense of orchestration, which is the act of scoring for orchestra a work originally written for a solo instrument or smaller group of instruments (Kreitner et al. 2001).

Instrumental properties

Writing for any instrument requires a composer or arranger to know the instrument's properties, such as:

  • the instrument's particular timbre, or range of timbres;
  • the range of pitches available on the instrument, as well as its dynamic range;
  • the constraints of playing technique, such as length of breath, possible fingerings, or the average player's stamina;
  • the relative difficulty of particular music on that instrument (for example, repeated notes are much easier to play on the violin than on the piano; while trills are relatively easy on the flute, but extremely difficult on the trombone);
  • the availability of special effects or extended techniques, such as col legno playing, fluttertongue, or glissando;
  • the notation conventions for the instrument.

See also


  • Kreitner, Kenneth, Mary Térey-Smith, Jack Westrup, D. Kern Holoman, G. W. Hopkins, Paul Griffiths, and Jon Alan Conrad (2001). "Instrumentation and Orchestration". The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, second edition, edited by Stanley Sadie and John Tyrrell. London: Macmillan Publishers.
  • Randel, Don (1986). The New Harvard Dictionary of Music, pp. 397, 575-577. Cambridge: Harvard University Press. ISBN 0-674-61525-5 (hc).[full citation needed]

Further reading

  • Instrumentation by J. Addler
  • Instrumentation and Orchestration, second edition, by Alfred Blatter. New York: Schirmer Books, 1997.
  • Practical Manual of Instrumentation by Gaston Borch. The Boston Music Company, 1918.
  • Treatise on Instrumentation by Hector Berlioz and Richard Strauss
  • A Treatise on Instrumentation: A Practical Guide to Orchestration by Ebenezer Prout, 1877.