Orchestration and Arrangement: Creating the Broadway Sound

Dominic Symonds

in The Oxford Handbook of The American Musical

Published in print November 2011 | ISBN: 9780195385946
Published online September 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks

Orchestration and Arrangement: Creating the Broadway Sound

More Like This

Show all results sharing these subjects:

  • Music
  • Musicology and Music History



The article deals with the main stages involved in orchestration. One of the stages is arranging that involve fitting a song to a dance pattern, the composition of introductions, interludes, modulations, codas, and other special material needed for the dance. The next step is to take a decision on the vocal keys and the type of accompaniment for a voice. Another step is orchestration that involves the translation of this “arrangement” into sound by writing notes on pages of score. The last stage is extraction that involves the copying of the individual parts for the various instruments of the orchestra from the score. The Broadway style developed a compromise between the European and vaudeville sounds. Robert Russell Bennett's work represents the epitome of one characteristic style of Broadway. The vocal line is doubled by a melody instrument, reflecting a tendency toward softer vocals. A countermelody offers a chromatic counterpoint to the diatonic melody. The carefully spaced families of sounds (strings, winds, brass for effect) produce a rich harmonic balance and a combination of bass and offbeat “oom-pahs” provide the rhythm, typically from the harp or piano. Balance had always been a key element of orchestration, and the orchestra had been a brilliant tool for both fortissimo climaxes and sensitive underscoring beneath which dialogue could be heard.

Keywords: vaudeville sounds; orchestration; dance pattern; modulations; vocal keys; Broadway style; vocal line; diatonic melody

Article.  6311 words. 

Subjects: Music ; Musicology and Music History

Full text: subscription required

How to subscribeRecommend to my Librarian

Buy this work at Oxford University Press »