A Practical Handbook: From Piano to Strings - PDF eBook

SKU OrchPrac-PianoToStrings-PDF


  • Product Delivery:Digital Download (download links expire 30 days after purchase).
  • Download Size:About 16 MB compressed / 16 MB decompressed (1x zip file containing PDF eBook).
  • Author:Joseph Wagner, Peter Lawrence Alexander
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The main Professional Orchestration. series of books contains the techniques you need to know to effectively score your music. By comparison, Professional Orchestration's A Practical Handbook series is applied orchestration where you apply the techniques with real pieces of music, scoring them first for strings, then woodwinds, then full orchestra.

You might find it helpful to go through Professional Orchestration Volumes 1 and 2A alongside this Handbook, but it's not required. You can jump right in with From Piano to Strings, where you'll learn 13 broad techniques for turning piano parts into full scale string ensembles.

Background To The Handbook Series

Around 1922, Maurice Ravel finished his astonishing orchestration of Mussorgsky’s Pictures at An Exhibition. Sometime after that, someone talked the publisher of Ravel’s orchestration into adding the piano part at the bottom of the score so students could see how Ravel went from piano to orchestra.

In 1928, Arthur Edward Heacox, building on this simple idea, created the pocket-sized bok Project Lessons in Orchestration which taught orchestration by showing students how to go from piano to orchestra.

About 31 years later, in 1959, came Joseph Wagner, conductor, founder of the Civic Symphony Orchestra of Boston, and teacher of orchestration at Boston University. Dr. Wagner took Project Lessons in Orchestration to the next step by re-organizing Heacox’s material and creating the Reference Chart of Keyboard Idioms which organized piano techniques by comparable orchestral devices.

With this approach, Wagner put the piano part at the bottom of the score with his orchestration above it which, like Ravel’s score, enabled students to see how Wagner, using the same examples throughout the book, went from piano to strings, then piano to woodwinds, and finally, from piano to orchestra.

On the 50th Anniversary of Dr. Wagner’s magnum opus, this new edition of Professional Orchestration: A Practical Handbook - From Piano To Strings, was released as the first of three Handbooks, revised by Peter Lawrence Alexander. Also available for separate purchase is the accompanying Workbook and for the very first time - a MIDI/Audio Examples Packge containing MIDI files of the piano and string examples and audio recordings of the piano examples in From Piano to Strings and audio of the piano examples used in the Workbook, (the same piano examples will be used in the forthcoming Handbooks From Piano to Woodwinds, and From Piano to Orchestra when those Handbooks are released).

About From Piano to Strings

From Piano to Strings is the first Handbook in the series. It teaches you 13 broad techniques from Joseph Wagner's Reference Chart of Keyboard Idioms for turning piano parts into full scale string ensembles. Each example contains the original piano part and the string ensemble orchestration above it, along with text explaining the background to the orchestration. Newly added text examines MIDI mockup issues.

If you purchase the separately available MIDI/Audio Examples Packge you can import the MIDI files of the piano and string parts into your sequencing software. The piano examples have also been exported from Sibelius and recorded as MP3 audio for you to listen to as you study the Handbook.

Score Example: From Piano To Strings

Score example from the book A Practical Handbook: From Piano to Strings

Included for additional study is Grieg's Holberg Suite for Piano and his separate orchestration for string ensemble. See how Grieg used these very techniques to create his remarkable score.

Techniques Covered in From Piano To Strings
  1. Broken Intervals
  2. Broken Chords
  3. Melodic Lines and Figurations
  4. Implied Bass Parts
  5. Single-Note, Interval, Chord Repetitions
  6. Two- and Three-Part Music
  7. Spacing Problems in the Middle Register
  8. Contrast Problems Conditioned by Dynamics
  9. Voice Leading
  10. Obbligato or Added Secondary Parts Arranged From Harmonic Progressions
  11. Antiphonal Effects
  12. Tremolo Types
  13. Dance Forms

From Piano to Strings: 146 pgs.

Study Approach

First, you study the examples by category in the From Piano to Strings Handbook, which are organized by specific scoring techniques.

Second, if you have the Workbook, which has piano excerpts organized by the techniques covered in the Handbook, score the example by the specific technique taught.

If you have the MIDI/Audio Examples Package, listen to the examples, from both the Handbook and Workbook then study.

Once you’ve scored your examples (for which there are often a dozen or more possible solutions), you'll ideally record them using either the orchestra package that comes with your notation program, or by doing a MIDI mockup using your sequencing program. Doing this will help to build your skills in MIDI editing and recording.

For Further Study: How Ravel Orchestrated: Mother Goose Suite

To further enhance your studies, also available from Alexander Creative Media is How Ravel Orchestrated: Mother Goose Suite. This newly engraved score follows Wagner's teaching method by including the condensed piano part at the bottom of the orchestral score, to show how Ravel went from piano to orchestra. This book also includes a brief analysis of each movement, and the complete short story each movement was based on.
Click here for How Ravel Orchestrated: Mother Goose Suite


A Paperback edition of From Piano to Strings is available to order from Amazon or through most major bookstores using the information below:

Title: Professional Orchestration: A Practical Handbook - From Piano to Strings
Author: Joseph Wagner / Revision Author: Peter Lawrence Alexander / ISBN: 978-0-939067-12-1

Free Lesson! How to Study With From Piano To Strings

The four training videos below, were produced by Peter Lawrence Alexander, author of the Professional Orchestration. series, for the initial launch of From Piano to Strings and the Workbook in 2009. Since Peter's passing, some of the information on the launch of these books has become outdated, but because Peter demonstrates how to learn with the book and Workbook the videos have been preserved as a study guide for you.

After the four training videos you'll find YouTube videos of Grieg's Holberg Suite performed on the piano and then rescored for string ensemble.

Important Note! Please do not go to the Truespec website mentioned in these videos as it is now owned by another company. The Truespec site was closed down and replaced by alexanderpublishing.com.

Can't see the YouTube Videos? If you can't see the YouTube videos on this page, pleace accept cookies to view and play the videos.

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

Reminder! Please do not go to the Truespec website mentioned in these videos as it is now owned by another company. The Bourree Fantasque challenge examples that were scored by 6 composers are no longer available for download. This was part of the initial 50th Anniversary Promotion in 2009, but you can still have a go at scoring this example yourself. You'll find it in the Workbook.

Grieg's Holberg Suite

Included in From Piano to Strings is the piano work and string ensemble score to Grieg’s Holberg Suite demonstrating the techniques taught in the book. Below, you'll find YouTube performances of both.

Grieg, Holberg Suite: The Piano Piece

Grieg, Holberg Suite: The String Ensemble Arrangement

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