Orchestration #5 – Tutti Voicings

Comparing Gil’s tutti voicings with other composers

So a true analysis of the vertical sonority can take place the examples in this post are taken mostly from tutti moments containing little or no counterpoint.

Audio examples below.

Springsville – bar 130 (end of shout chorus)


This climactic voicing in Springsville is very bright and dramatic. The trumpets are placed high up in the voicing so much so that the clarinets aren’t easy to hear. It is common in jazz to place the trumpets at the top of the voicing but this tradition arose when saxophones weren’t frequently replaced with flutes, oboes and clarinets. As I mentioned in an earlier post the brass dominates the timbre of the music as a whole, due to their sheer power and their greater numbers. In this example, its is 8 v 5 in favour of the brass. Thinking of timbre in this way helps us to understand that the music is generally brassy with woodwind used to colour or to contrast.Orchestra5d




Note how different this voicing from Beethoven’s 5th Symphony Mvt.1 is compared to the Springsville example. The woodwind is placed well above the brass and strings. This ensures that the voicing has a natural balance. The woodwinds out number the brass by 8 v 4.



Blues for Pablo – bar 55

This voicing from Blues for Pablo has a few interesting features.

1.The melody is doubled by several instruments 2 octaves apart. On the highest voice (melody) there are 2 trumpets and 1 flute. Two octaves below this the Alto sax doubles the melody right in the heart of the sonority. It is interesting here that the 5th trumpet doesn’t double the melody an octave below which would be a more standard big band voicing. A reason for this could be the fact that Gil usually doubles the melody at the octave with a different timbre (See this post about doublings).

2. The trombones are placed in their higher register to balance with the power of the trumpets and add to the brilliance of the timbre.

3. Again, the woodwinds are placed comparatively low in the overall voicing.


Stravinsky and Debussy

Debussy – La Mer Mvt.3

This beautiful voicing is interesting for the fact that there are no doublings in the woodwind section at all. The voicing of the woodwinds here is very broad and even overlaps with the upper part of the brass. Other than that, it is a very well balanced chord. Note how much higher the flutes and woodwind are placed over the brass.


Stravinsky – Symphonies of Wind InstrumentsOrchestra5e


This example is from the final chord of Stravinsky’s Symphonies of Wind Instruments. It is an amazing piece. Stravinsky has ended this piece with a beautifully balanced and distinctive chord. Its interesting features include: 1) The triad of flutes at the top of the chord that are each doubled by one other woodwind instrument. 2) The 3 octaves of “B’s” from the clarinets and 3) The well placed horns that blend the lower part of the sonority with the whole.




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