When a student studies orchestration, it’s almost standard that the instructor starts with the string section. It is essential and helps the student understand scoring in greater detail. In most cases, students will never have their music played by an orchestra, so should they still score their composition?
How often, as home orchestrators composing in our DAW, have we studied all the articulations in our orchestral libraries and what they sound like? Some people probably have. I knew I hadn’t until I tried this exercise. Write out a four-bar melody using your available articulations, save each articulation as an audio file, and save it to a playlist you can listen to in the car at night when watching the cat play with a ball of yarn.
Listening to and remembering what each articulation sounds like will enable you to reach for the sounds you want when you need them and provide you with a greater pallet of textures and sounds. The better you know your orchestral library, including articulations, how to notate them and what it’s capable of, the more your orchestrations will improve.