Hello all, I'm starting a new article series featuring short tips in orchestration. Here's a quick sampler!
Digital Orchestration Tip #02 - Creating Movement in Background Harmony
This short article serves as a quick tutorial in finding active alternatives to typical static "pad" writing when scoring a harmonic background.
In Bar 1 of the example, we see a relatively simply voiced "Static" G major triad. Violin I and Violas are in divisi, with Violas playing open strings for added sonority and the glassiness of strings played without vibrato. This is a perfectly acceptable solution and it sounds good. It definitely serves its purpose.
However, an alternative, more "Active" solution to a harmonic background is presented in Bar 2. The content is nearly identical, with key differences being:
1. Violin I is still playing divisi, but with the 2nd part arpeggiating the 3rd (B) and 5th (D) of the chord in order to add some movement and flesh out an entire G major triad.
2. Violin II is now playing an unmeasured trill on its original note (G), which subtly introduces the added 9th (A) of the chord to lend a slight sophistication to the harmony. This also occasionally creates an interval of a major 2nd with Violin I, creating a hazy effect.
3. Violas are playing the same notes (G and D), still on open strings, but creating movement by undulating slowly between them..
In essence, we have used variety of measured and umeasured (slow and fast) ornamentations of the original notes to "excite" the harmonic background of the music, without creating a new rhythmic feel or adding any counterlines.
As always, though, you should use your ears to determine when such a technique is necessary, and to what degree. Sometimes all you really need is a pad.
This article is part of a series I'm starting on my website. If you're interested, I will be archiving the articles here: