Writing for an Orchestra

musicians in orchestra set up

Key information:

Course dates:
Wednesday evenings, 27 September–1 November 2023
Course times:
Art form:
5pm, Friday 22 September 2023
Level of study:
Short Courses & Summer Schools (ages 18+)
Mode of study:
Guildhall School of Music & Drama
Autumn Courses (September–November) | Evening Courses

Course info

This course has now started. Join our mailing list to hear about future dates and new courses.

Ages 18+

Course Dates & Times

Wednesday evenings on 27 September, 4, 11, 18, 25 October, 1 November 2023


The course also includes a one-to-one session with the course tutor (15 to 30 minutes). Dates and timings of the session will be confirmed during the course, the one-to-one session will take place online. 

About Writing for an Orchestra

This six-week evening course will introduce you to the fundamentals of orchestration and the pivotal role it can play in the communication of musical ideas. You will learn how to write idiomatically for the instruments of the orchestra, as well as how to balance and blend them with one another.

The topics and techniques discussed during the course will be illustrated with excerpts from the orchestral repertoire, demonstrating some of the ways in which the orchestra can be used to create atmosphere, drama, and emotion.

Who is the course for?
  • Aspiring composers and musicians with a passion for orchestra
  • Participants who would consider themselves to be beginner level composers
  • Minimum level of ABRSM Grade 5 Theory (or equivalent)

A basic understanding of music notation is required, but participants need not have had any prior experience in writing for orchestra.

What can I expect?

You can expect:

  • An in-depth look at the orchestra, illustrated with examples from the orchestral repertoire.
  • An introduction to the fundamental techniques of orchestration, drawing upon examples from a wide range of orchestral pieces.
  • Examination of some of the different approaches that composers have taken to orchestral writing, and the role that orchestration can play in enhancing the impact of a work/s.
  • Orchestration assignments that encourage you to carefully consider the capabilities of the instruments that you are writing for, whilst also thinking about the combinations of musical colours most suited to bringing notes to life.
  • A one-to-one session with the course tutor (approx. 15 minutes) outside of the course times (more information will be sent during the course)

You will be encouraged to complete (optional) short, weekly assignments in response to the subjects covered during the sessions.

You will also receive a one-to-one session with the course tutor (approx. 15 to 30 minutes). Dates and timings of the session will be confirmed during the course, the one-to-one session will take place online. 

Do I need anything for the course?

A pencil and music manuscript paper are the only resources needed to carry out exercises for the course, although participants with access to music notation software (such as Sibelius, Finale or Dorico) may prefer to use this instead.

“Best composition tutor I've ever had, even after having studied music both at undergraduate and postgraduate levels.”

– Amy, participant on Writing for an Orchestra, Jan–Feb, 2022

Course Fee

This course has now started. Join our mailing list to hear about future dates and new courses.


  • For everyone aged 18+.
  • Participants should have knowledge of music notation and should have attained ABRSM Grade 5 Theory (or equivalent).
  • Participants must have sufficient English language skills to cope with course demands.

About the Course Tutor

The course is taught by Peter Longworth.

Peter is a composer, teacher, music copyist, conductor and cinephile whose music has been performed internationally. Described by the Glasgow Herald as "dazzlingly atmospheric", his work has been commissioned by ensembles including the London Mozart Players, the Edinburgh Quartet, the Hebrides Ensemble and the National Youth Orchestra of Scotland. He has also had compositions workshopped publicly by the Royal Scottish National Orchestra and the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra.

An alumnus of both the London Philharmonic Orchestra's Young Composers' Programme and the Royal Scottish National Orchestra's Composers' Hub, Peter is currently reading for a PhD in composition at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland. As a professor on the Electronic Music course at Guildhall School of Music & Drama he teaches modules on Orchestration and Conducting.

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