Orchestral Textures (Page 1)

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Simple Melody-dominated Homophony

Don’t make your orchestrations too complicated!

Many classical textures just take simple quartet (and even trio) textures and add a mixture of doublings (e.g. the flute plays the same as the first violin) and harmonic filler (e.g. horns play reinforcing chords). Keep it simple at first then you can start being more adventurous by, for example, creating a string texture plus a melody in the woodwind etc.

As well as the two pages here there is a Further Orchestral Examples PDF plus a wealth of examples HERE on Moodle.

Stamitz, Trio Symphony in E, Trio from the Minuet

This is the simplest possible string orchestra texture from the late Baroque and early Classical period. The two violins play in thirds or sixths (depending what fits best), the cellos play a bass line and the texture is filled in by a continuo keyboard. The keyboard part would have been improvised from the bass line, but here it has been written out by an editor.


Filtz, Symphonie Periodique No. 2, Minuet

The basic string texture is similar here, although the violin parts are even simpler, playing in unison (as they do in fact in much of the rest of the Stamitz). Note that:

  • the bass part is doubled by the viola
  • the melody is doubled by the flute (Flauto)
  • the horns (2 Corni in A) fill in the harmony, mostly with simple chords


Haydn, Symphony 104, ‘London’, Minuet

  • Flutes, oboes and violins play the melody doubled in thirds
  • Cellos and bassoons play the (pedal) bass line (reinforced by timp.)
  • Clarinets, horns and trumpets fill in the harmony


Stamitz, Symphony Op. 3 No. 2, Andantino

At the beginning of the second movement there is a simple string texture with the melody in the first violin.

  • The bass part plays quavers, alternating between the root and third of the chord from bar 3
  • The second violin mostly plays in tenths with the bass, except for the second bar, where it doubles the root
  • The viola either doubles the bass part or fills in the harmonies
  • The recording also features a continuo keyboard part that is not shown


A little later, the same music returns decorated and reorchestrated.

  • The melody (a little more elaborate this time) appears in the two oboes (third line down) in thirds (and sixths where necessary)
  • The second horn doubles the bass part and the first horn plays very simple filler (a D all the way through!)


Dvorak, New World Symphony, Adagio

This much later example is a more colourful sonority but the basic texture is very simple

  • The melody is on the distinctive larger cousin of the Oboe – the Cor Anglais (doubled at the end of this phrase on the Bb Clarinet in thirds)
  • The strings are low in their registers and violas and cellos are both divided to create a richer sound


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