SmartMusic Finale Garritan MusicXML

Course Introduction


Welcome to the Interactive Edition of “Principles of Orchestration” based upon Nikolay Rimsky-Korsakov’s celebrated text. Rimsky-Korsakov’s genius for orchestration is unsurpassed and there may be no better source to learn about orchestration than to learn from what the great Russian master himself taught.

A well-crafted orchestration is a thing of beauty. It is important for a well-rounded musician to possess a basic knowledge of orchestration. Orchestration is essential for film scoring, composing for interactive games, backgound tracks, arranging, editing, critique, copying (notating), conducting, orchestral performance, score reading, teaching and many musical endeavors.

In this revised internet edition, we have attempted to remain faithful to the original translated text which was written nearly a century ago. In the original written text, the musical examples are referenced and provided in score form taken from Rimsky-Korsakov’s own works, but what was lacking was the ability to hear the examples of his works.

To offer a well-known course in orchestration, present it with interactive real-time examples is something we are excited about.

Hear and see the scores with real-time examples

One of the most effective ways to learn orchestration is by listening and simultaneously seeing it on the score. Live playback of the score examples impart an added dimension, conveying concepts far more clearly and immediately than simply viewing what’s on a printed page. Rimsky-Korsakov himself recommended: “The best plan is to study full-scores, and listen to an orchestra, score in hand.” 

In this Interactive Edition, we have provided exactly that facility: Score excerpts which allow the learner to simultaneously listen and visually follow. Starting with Lesson No. 1, there are bout 275 audio-enabled scores that are embedded within the relevant portions of the text. In a few cases, a substitute or supplemental example was provided if it could better highlight what was being conveyed.

Many of the illustrations were taken from the classic text. We also replaced the complex “Rimsky-Korsakov algebra” with easily understood graphics and added various illustrations for clarification and color. Also, wesupplemented the text with dozens of our own exercises to apply the principles and concepts that were taught.

The ability to hear various orchestral realizations of the different examples from Rimsky-Korsakov’s works, on-demand, is invaluable; and books alone cannot provide this level of instruction.


Rimsky-Korsakov’s “Principles of Orchestration” remains a leading orchestration text in many colleges and universities. It is assumed the learner has some necessary basic musical skills including some knowledge of music theory and instrumentation. This course is not for the casual learner or beginning learner and requires a serious commitment.

It is a pre-requisite that you are able to read music. This course requires following scores and being able to read treble, bass, and alto clef.

Rimsky-Korsakov assumed the reader had a basic knowledge of the instruments of the orchestra. Instrumentation is only briefly touched upon in the General Review chapters. There are excellent courses and books available if you require additional knowledge about the instruments of the orchestra. This course will not cover the later chapters dealing with choir, opera and voice..

If you are unsure about your level of proficiency, it will not hurt to try some lessons to see if they are right for you. Learn at your own pace and try to supplement your knowledge in areas that are lacking.

The course is offered free of charge and there is no obligation to buy anything. Although every example was done with Garritan Personal Orchestra, GPO is not required to benefit from this course but it will help with the exercises.