Why Orchestration Always Takes Longer Than You Think It Will

8:30am  I need to complete the percussion part for Act One Scene Seven, and then double-check the first part I wrote two weeks ago, for Act One Scene One.  Oh, and proof-read last night’s effort on Act Two Scene Two. 

8:45am  Is it too simple?  Do I need more counterpoint in the strings, or am I just worrying because these guys will be great players?  I’m giving them nothing but semibreves, but complex isn’t necessarily good, is it?  I hear a lot of modern operas with busy, busy parts and frankly, it just makes the lyrics harder to hear and understand.  I want to hear these words.

9am  Fourth coffee.

9:15am  Yeah, I should do big boxed rehearsal numbers, I really should.  The conductor will be glad of it; I know I would be.  Letters?  No, numbers, big boxed numbers.  How do I do those on Sibelius?  It’s been a while.

10am  Why aren’t the individual percussion parts displaying the names of the instruments?  I don’t want to put them on separate pages unless the percussionist asks me to.  At this stage it makes more sense to have all the instruments on one part.  Where are those bloody instrument names?

10:30am  Ah, crap, I made pdf files of those instruments without realising the title wasn’t at the top.  Why isn’t the title at the top?

11am  Must remember to change the melody in the original vocal score to match this fully orchestrated score.  The old melody sounded like I was quoting Bernstein, and I was, but not on purpose.

11:30am  This is good, because Act One Scene Seven is the longest thing in the world and it’s nearly done.  If I could finish by 2pm, I could duck out to Officeworks, print the whole thing off, and Express Post it after I pick the kids up from school.  Nah, there’s no way that’s gonna happen.  I could never finish by 2.

12:15pm  Yay! The part that requires me hear things is over, and now it’s all just visual formatting.  What cast recording to play?  Ragtime.

12:45pm  That bit in “Success” where J P Morgan introduces himself still sticks out like dog’s balls. 

1:45pm Should I print this off at home?  I’d use up all the toner.  Hmmm, it’s about $130 for a new toner cartridge, and about $85 to refill the existing one.  It’ll be cheaper at Officeworks, around 8 cents a sheet.  And they’ll have that really dark laser print.

1:54pm pdf files on flash drive.  Into the car, flash drive in hand.

2:10pm Two drab girls behind the printing desk at Officeworks ignore me.  A haze of cement dust is in the air from the nearby construction worker with the enormous grinder between his legs.  A sign reads, “We cannot take any new bookings, and cannot undertake any immediate printing tasks.  We are down to limited services between March 12 and 16.  We apologise for any inconvenience.”

2:25pm  Man at nearby Other Printing Place:  “We could print that, but I first need to work out how many pages it is.  Then we decode the data and send it to our machine.  It’ll print really quickly, but it’ll take about half an hour to work out how many pages it is.  Probably about 30 to 50 cents a sheet.  Leave your details.  You know, I’m not sure Officeworks would have been able to help you.”

2:50pm  Dude at Cartridge Refilling Place:  “What sort of paper have you been using?  ‘Cos look at this fluff stuck in here, that’s gonna makes your copies really shitty.  Yeah, I can have it done by 4.”

3:20pm  Take kids to Erindale, buy paper.  No, there are plenty of treats at home, you don’t need any now. 

3:50pm Ten minutes too early for refilled cartridge.  Alright, kids, you can have a drink.

4:01pm  Hand over $85.

4:10pm Same rule as always, guys.  Afternoon tea, then homework, then TV.  Now let me put this new cartridge in the printer.

4:13pm  Darker, dammit!  Darker!  Use that bloody toner, it cost enough, I want to see it on the page.

5:00pm  Well, too late to post anything today, but it looks good.

5:30pm  That’s half a ream of paper, and only 17 minutes of opera.  I can’t believe there are pussies who don’t print and collate their own individual instrument parts, and I’d join them gladly if I could find someone else to do it.


 9:30pm Oh, look at that.  I didn’t label the instruments when the oboe switches to alto sax for four bars.  I’ll fix it in the morning.


2 thoughts on “Why Orchestration Always Takes Longer Than You Think It Will

  1. Doesn’t Sibelius give you the shits when you can’t remember how to do stuff you were all over a few months back? I did heaps of scores on it there for a while and then nothing for about a year. Had to relearn the whole bloody thing again.

    GL with the opera, btw.

    • Thank you. It was so simple, too. Just display the individual part, go to House Styles, then Engraving Rules, then Instruments, and choose for it to display the Longer Instrument Name on the first stave, and Shorter Instrument Name thereafter.

      Any fool can remember that.

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