What are orchestrations?
In the musical theater, orchestrations are the musical concepts, as conceived in detail by the orchestrator, which form the actual accompaniment that actors sing to in the live theater on a nightly basis. The Orchestrator's job is to take the music supplied by the composer and, without altering the basic composition, expand and enhance the music by notating on score paper all the parts that the theater musicians will play as they accompany the onstage entertainment. The orchestrator frequently adds additional layers and embellishments to the music, even those not found in a composer's piano part. Part of an Orchestrator's skill is being able to conceive a "sound" in his/her inner ear and to be able to notate it on paper, all without changing the intent of the director, composer or lyricist.
What is music copying?
Music copying is the preparation of musicians' parts for rehearsal and performance. In the musical theater, this means taking the Orchestrator's scores (which consist of all the musicians' parts) and notating, by hand or with the aid of computers, each part a musician will play on a separate piece of paper.
When do I need to hire an orchestrator and/or music copyist?
If you are producing any phase of a new musical, from a reading to a workshop to a full production, you may need a music copyist, an orchestrator, or both.
Do I really need an orchestrator or music copyist if I'm just producing a workshop?
Even if a musical is presented in workshop only, a clearly notated piano/vocal score is considered essential for efficient rehearsals with the actors and musical director. If your composer has not supplied a piano/vocal score, you may need to hire an orchestrator or music copyist to create one. Also, some workshops have small orchestras; in that instance, an orchestrator would be a valuable addition to the creative team at that point.
What if my composer has put the whole score on tape, but no written score exists?
A recording can be helpful to actors and to a musical director trying to learn music for the first time, but clearly notated vocal and piano parts are essential. An orchestrator or music copyist can be hired to transcribe music from a tape.
Let's say my composer has notated all of the vocal and piano parts, do I need an orchestrator then?
When you are ready to produce any phase of a new musical with more than just a pianist, then you are in a position to hire an orchestrator.
How do I budget for orchestrations and music copying?
Orchestrators and music copyists charge differently, so think of them as two separate budgets. The Musician's Union has different scales for different categories of music performance: Broadway , movies, TV, recordings, etc. Orchestrators charge by the score page, based on the size of the orchestra; the larger the orchestra, the higher the page price. An orchestration page is defined as four measures of music, so if a show is 2000 measures long, that would equal 500 orchestrator score pages.
What about copyists?
Music copyists create individual instrumental parts from the Orchestrator's score, which are charged for on a per page basis. The copyist's tasks also include proofreading, editing, and binding of the final parts, as set forth by the Musician's Union contract.
What other charges are there?
In addition to the total of the labor costs, there are payments to the American Federation of Musicians Employers Pension Fun and the Local 802 Health Benefits Plan. The purchaser also pays for printing, materials, deliveries and facilities expenses.
So if I know the length of my composer's score, and the size of the orchestra, shouldn't I be able to budget for orchestration and music copying down to the penny?
Almost, except for the fact that there are usually rewrites. Sometimes in the course of the rehearsal of a new musical, completed orchestrations have to be replaced by new ones because changes to the show have been made by the writing team or director. A producer needs to be prepared to pay for all the orchestrations created during the course of rehearsal, not just the final ones that end up in the show. But if the measure count for the show is accurate and if no major changes are planned during rehearsals, both a copyist and an orchestrator should be able to provide a fairly accurate estimate of the final bill.
Does every orchestrator get paid union scale?
No. The union scales for orchestration represent only the minimum amount that an orchestrator can charge. Experienced orchestrators, may charge prices well above union minimum scale. Also, the minimum scales for orchestration are based on the composer providing a "complete sketch" for the orchestrator to work from. But if only chords are provided, or even if the piano part is very simply written and requires enhancements, the orchestrator will charge "over-scale" pay, because of the amount of additional creative thought and labor involved in orchestrating that kind of music.
What is a "new use" payment?
Orchestrators and music copyists are entitled to new use payments if their work gets used in a medium other than live theatrical performance - for example, if the same work is used on a cast album recording or on television.
What about royalties?
Orchestrators routinely receive royalties for their work for every week that a show is running, at a rate similar to that of the designers of a show (costume, lighting, and set designers.) Royalty agreements are often part of the initial negotiation with the orchestrator or with his or her agent. Music copyists, however, do not receive royalties.
So if I produce a show, and it's successful, and a cast album gets recorded, do I end up paying double for orchestration and music copying?
No. In the case of cast albums, the signatory to the American Federation of Musicians National Phonograph Agreement (usually the record label) is responsible for new use fees to orchestrators and music copyists. And because cast albums typically do not include every piece of music in the show, and because there is no new use payment for the "time work" (library work, copyists' revisions, etc.), you do not pay double.
How is instrumentation for a show decided upon?
The decision about which kinds and how many instruments make up the orchestra of a particular show is very much an artistic decision within the economic boundaries of the production. The decision is made collectively by the composer, orchestrator, producer and music director.
What about dance and vocal arrangements? Are those part of the orchestrator’s job?
They can be. Orchestrators can fulfill those functions for a production, although time may not permit it. Dance arrangers work closely with choreographers to create piano music to accompany dance. Vocal arrangements can be created by either the composer, musical director, or additional person hired for just that purpose. Both dance and vocal arrangers add a creative element to the music the same way orchestrators do, but the final step in getting the orchestra parts written and on the music stands is the domain of the orchestrator and copyist.
But isn't the word "arrangement" also used to describe an orchestration?
Arranging and orchestrating are two words often used interchangeably. Arranging has sometimes been defined as a more creative variation of what orchestrating is, but in the theater this may not be the case. Composers, when they notate their piano parts, are "arranging" their own music; directors, when they ask for a slow-tempo song, for example, to be "rearranged" in a faster, funkier style, might be addressing the composer, the dance arranger, the orchestrator, or all three. Musical directors sometimes may be asked to "arrange" a song differently by changing keys and adding new vocal parts for the chorus to sing. So the word "arrange" gets used a lot in the theater and may apply to the activities of many members of your creative team.
How much time does an orchestrator or copyist need to work on a show?
Because shows vary in both their measure counts, complexity of the music, and the sizes of their orchestras, it's hard to say exactly, but four to eight weeks is a normal window. Orchestrators and copyists are accustomed to producing a significant amount of work in a short period. In order for any production to achieve the highest possible musical results, it is best to contract for music preparation services well in advance of deadlines, and to insure that the flow of music (from the musical director and composer to the orchestrator and then to the copyists) remains unimpeded during the weeks leading up to a show's opening.
Site development: view times two