What Instrument/s to use for various musical applications

Hello, I was wondering if there is any material on which instruments are best used for different applications. For example, what instrument/s are good for playing expressive lines, or emphatic/heroic melodies, harmonic patterns, base foundations, etc.

Not sure how else to explain my question. I guess I get stuck in my compositions when I know it needs something but I’m not sure what instrument to use. Any general guidelines y’all might suggest?



There are various “introduction to the orchestra” sites around, and I remember seeing some videos that present the instruments and their limitations and capabilities, but can’t remember where off the top of my head… Did a quick search, and found one that seems to briefly explain the typical roles of the instruments:

Beyond that, the general recommendation is pretty much to learn from the masters (past and present) by listening analytically, and (when given the option) reading the scores. Basically, whenever you hear something interesting, try to reverse engineer it! Figure out how and why it works, and how it’s done.

That said, I believe one should be careful not to get stuck in “best practices,” and instead learn to analyze and understand the actual sounds and behaviors of the instruments, and how they work together in terms of “layering.” The has the advantage of also being applicable to unusual ensembles, synths, sound design, mixing etc, which makes it easier to bring in interesting timbres, and actually make them work in context.


Read and analyze actual scores to see how composers use instruments. Listen to and analyze your favorites and make a list of the reasons why you like any of the orchestrations.

If you want to read a good book on the subject that gives a very easy to understand breakdown, I suggest Johnathan Peters’ books on orchestration.


If you follow rules you will make the same music already done thousands of times… Trust yourself. Play, experiment with new instruments, effects, techniques, be creative trying all sorts of things… Pay attention, listen, and feel… Chase the feeling !!!. When you feel you know you have it. Keep searching.

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This is a good introduction: https://www.vsl.co.at/en/ACADEMY

Thank you everyone for your insightfulness and suggestions. I greatly appreciate the time you took to respond.