Adapt musical ideas into sheet music for film orchestras.
picture of Orchestrator

Quick Stats

Salary Range
$22,000 – $85,000

Data from U.S. Department of Labor

What do Orchestrators do?

The world of film is full of great partnerships. Batman and Robin. Bonnie and Clyde. Turner and Hooch. Keanu Reeves and bad dialogue. If you love movies, however, you’d be remiss to forget one of cinema’s most important — and underrated — duos: the Film Composer and the Orchestrator.

An Orchestrator works with a Film Composer to arrange and prepare written music so that a live orchestra can perform it. If the Film Composer is the right brain, working with the Director to develop the film’s musical motifs, you’re the left brain as the Orchestrator, in charge of adapting them into practical arrangements.

As much as anything, therefore, your job is translation and transcription. Acting as the Film Composer’s third hand when his other two are busy, you take a written musical score and rewrite it for the individual Musicians in an orchestra. Essentially, the Film Composer writes the music, then entrusts you with deciding which instruments will play which notes, as well as things like tempo and texture. Your goal: Make sure the final performance sounds its best and remains true to the Film Composer’s original idea.

In addition to films, you might orchestrate music for plays, recordings or even live symphonies. Sometimes, you’ll simply transcribe music; other times, you’ll alter music by interpreting and arranging it. Always, however, you’re in charge of turning musical ideas into final products, which requires good ears, a small ego and the willingness to complement Keanu’s next line — no matter how hackneyed — with a brilliant violin solo.

Should I be an Orchestrator?

You should have an associate's degree or higher and share these traits:
  • Trustworthy: You are known for your personal integrity and honesty.
  • Reliable: You can always be counted on to do a good job.
  • Detail Oriented: You pay close attention to all the little details.

  • Also known as: Maestro, Orchestra Director, Orchestra Leader

    How to become an Orchestrator

    We recommend at least an Associate's degree. Check out these schools offering Orchestrator-related education!
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