Effective arranging and sequencing in your DAW

This is the first part of our composing series

If you haven’t read the past chapters of this manual, it might be a good idea to go back and have a look at the two previous posts looking at how to design the perfect template for you, and three hacks to further optimize your template’s efficiency

But for now, onwards.

Arranging orchestral mockups

The arrangement plays a major role in defining how good your mockup will sound. More importantly, it is vital to get the arrangement right because you won’t be able to fix any arranging mistakes later on in the mixing or mastering.

A common mistake is to add too many tracks to make your music sound bigger, more complex, or louder. But the truth is that you will start losing clarity the more tracks you add.

You don’t need 100 tracks to be playing at the same time for a trailer track to sound big and epic. What you need is a good arrangement and the right balance.

Take a look how I arranged this trailer and you’ll see how even the busier parts don’t have more than 20-30 tracks at the same time.

Remember this: every note must have a purpose.

Something I recommend is asking yourself if the instrument in that passage is serving any specific purpose. If it is not, delete it. That will save you a lot of problems.

For example; you may blend cellos and basses playing in octaves with bassoons and contrabassoons because the double reeds will add extra definition and character to that melodic line. However, you may decide not to have a tuba there.

Or you may actually use basses, tuba, and cimbasso for playing some low staccatos, but decide to keep the bassoons out. The cimbasso provides the aggressive and brassy sound, the bass adds some extra low end, and the tuba blends the two of them together. But the bassoon may mellow the sound, which you don’t want.

Therefore, it is vital that you decide the purpose of arranging a passage a certain way. 

Think about timbre when adding or layering instruments

Next, think about timbre. We will think about frequencies when we are mixing, but during the composing step, when you are arranging, think in terms of timbre.

I have read in so many forums, “you should not put this and that instrument together because they conflict in frequencies”. This is a common mistake. While that statement may be partially true for other styles of music, in orchestral music we have an inheritance. There are some common blends of instruments that create specific sounds. We have to use them if we want to create a certain sound (i.e. muted trumpet with oboe, soft tremolo timpani with low strings, high woodwinds and strings in octaves, etc.).  

In the past, composers, musicians, and conductors did not have EQs, reverb, or other digital effects, so they used what they had for creating new textures or enhancing sounds. The instruments evolved in a certain way, as did the orchestras, so they could serve a better musical and sonic purpose. 

There is no such thing as “you should not put this and that instrument together because they conflict in frequencies”. In orchestral music, we do not talk about frequencies as much as timbre.

*TOP TIP* You should have a clear idea for every passage. Decide what is most important and what will play a supporting role. Define the purpose of everything you add. Think about timbre when adding or layering instruments. Delete everything that does not serve a purpose.

Look out for more cool tips in the next post where we will be focusing on a practical approach to finding inspiration on a deadline. 

AUTHOR - Orlando Perez Rosso

Orlando is Colombian composer based in Los Angeles. He is a classically trained composer with a profound education in popular music and Sound Engineering. His work can be heard in worldwide trailers, national commercials, and worldwide distributed films. In 2016, Perez Rosso co-founded the Music Agency LoudMono in Los Angeles, CA.




  • Fred Karlin, On the Track: A Guide to Contemporary Film Scoring, 2nd edition, 2004.
  • Richard Davis, Complete Guide to Film Scoring: The Art and Business of Writing Music for Movies and TV, 2000

Last but not least

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