I have recently finished writing an intermediate level piece for piano duet, and think it would sound pretty good when played by a full orchestra. Only problem is I don't know any one who can arrange it, and I myself am only a pianist. I don't play any strings, winds, or horns. Any advice? Oh, and the piece is in G major.

Update: I have just finished editing the piano duet version, and will posting it to Youtube shortly.

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    I suppose you either take a few years off and learn to orchestrate and conduct or you work with a composer/conductor? And yeah, an orchestra. Mar 31, 2015 at 20:47
  • Do you have a computer or arranger keyboard you could use to sequence an arrangement on? Mar 31, 2015 at 21:36
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    You can definitely take a stab at it yourself and have fun a learn a lot but I agree you want some software. If you have a Mac Logic Pro X for $200 is a good deal with all the basic orchestral sounds and even a score view of midi. Or you could get some cheaper base software like Reaper and add an orchestral library. Mar 31, 2015 at 22:34
  • @topomorto, I have a Yamaha P105 Keyboard, and access to the Sibelius 6 program (through my college). Apr 1, 2015 at 19:20
  • I would echo what others are suggesting - get a book on orchestration and have a go yourself on the computer. You're probably aware of what Sibelius can do for you.... but your Yamaha can also be connected to a computer (if you have one..?) Apr 1, 2015 at 20:42

3 Answers 3


You don't need to play an instrument in order to write for it. After all, the vast majority of people don't play every orchestral instrument (at least not well; music ed majors typically have to learn a bit of everything but they're not expected to achieve anything close to mastery). It's just important that you know how every instrument works so that you can write for it effectively. It's surprisingly easy to write something insanely difficult without even realizing it.

Pick up a book on orchestration. There are lots of good ones, and one of the standards is the Rimsky-Korsakov Principles of Orchestration, which is public domain. A few bits are outdated (don't write for alto trumpet) but you won't do anything too bad if you stick to the guidelines there.

Most importantly, run your parts by good musicians (or just post here) to make sure nothing is terrible.

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    That text was okay in 1880s but, as you mentioned, pretty out of date now. Instruments / aesthetic are different now and information is better / relevant / more practical. Apr 1, 2015 at 5:39
  • I'm not sure I agree with the "read a manual, write a score" approach. Orchestration is a fine art, it takes a lot of time to learn to produce an acceptable score. I read R-K's manual myself and it helped me a great lot in understanding what I hear and in piecing together sequenced pieces, but I would never attempt to write a score and give it to an orchestra. It would be helpful in coming up with a decent rough sequencer draft, but it will need attention by a composer anyway. (If you are Hans Zimmer, the composer will be credited as copyist, but that's another matter) Apr 1, 2015 at 7:27
  • @Interwebs - you gotta start somewhere. Where else would you start?
    – MattPutnam
    Apr 1, 2015 at 15:53
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    From there, sure. Nobody got ever fired for reading R-K. By the way I intended the OP's question, she has an actual piece and she actually wants to arrange it for an actual orchestra. Like, for real. So in my eyes it's not a matter of "where to start" but "how to realistically get it done", and I don't think there is a DIY way, although having a sequencer draft ready and a general idea of how it's done will help when working with the actual orchestrator/conductor. Apr 1, 2015 at 19:12
  • I myself don't play any bowed string instruments or have much knowledge on what double stops are hard and which ones are easy, but I still write and arrange both for duets with string instruments(my incomplete Cello Sonata in F for example) and more often, a string quartet(I'm working on an arrangement of K 545 for a string quartet right now and I have reached the second movement).
    – Caters
    May 11, 2019 at 17:23

As the poster above me mentioned, Rimsky-Korsakov's book is a great resource, along with Kent Kennan's Technique of Orchestration, and Samuel Adler. There's many orchestration books out there, and be sure to do some research on voice leading and counterpoint. Watch some videos showcasing each instruments' ranges, timbres, and qualities. Also, get yourself some kind of Notation software or DAW. While it's important that you don't rely on software for orchestration alone, it can be helpful to hear how your orchestration sounds.

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    What do you mean "possibly Samuel Adler"? - his orchestration book is required reading for practically everyone. Apr 1, 2015 at 5:38
  • Good point. I edited my post.
    – mmango
    Apr 1, 2015 at 7:33

I think you would have fun learning to orchestrate and using your piano duet as a "guinea pig" test case!

However, if you want results sooner rather than after a long process of learning to do it yourself, do a Google search on "Orchestration Services." You'll find a slew of people willing to do it for you. For a fee of course. If you happen to be located in the Pacific Northwest, or know somebody who is, you might try contacting RPM music services in Seattle. Robert Puff there (the owner) is a very knowledgeable guy, and can help point you in the right direction.

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