Archive for May, 2009

Free online version of Rimsky-Korsakov’s Principles of Orchestration

Posted on May 5, 2009 at 3:04 pm, by Ben is currently hosting Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov’s classic work Principles of Orchestration in digital format as a free online course in orchestration.

Though Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov is best known today for his piece The Flight of the Bumblebee and his brilliant symphonic suite Scheherazade, his knowledge of orchestration also heavily influenced and saturated the music of his students, among whom were Respighi, Glazunov, Prokofiev and Stravinsky (whose biggest strength was orchestration, in my opinion).

Principles of Orchestration is replete with selections of sheet music by Rimsky-Korsakov and others (most notably Tchaikovsky) illustrating the principles being described, whether it be woodwind doubling, stacking strings and brass, carrying a melody with the cello section or knowing when to use percussive accents.

The course also includes a number of very helpful charts and graphs that show instrument ranges, orchestra seating and other helpful data that can be nice to have on hand as reference when composing.


In the past, an orchestration manual on its own has been of limited use because you can’t hear what’s being described, but solves this problem by creating Garritan Personal Orchestra renditions of every piece of sheet music found in the book, which can be played live as they are viewed on the web page.

When I went through the book/course a couple years ago I was not expecting it to teach me much about composition, but it did — I was surprised by just how applicable all this instruction is to the composition and orchestration of music for today! Sure, the book is over 130 years old and had to be translated from the original Russian, but the foundational structures and patterns that make “music” what it is (the “laws” or “constants” of music, so to speak) are the same, so many of the principles that Rimsky-Korsakov touches upon (such as mixing differing tone colors, understanding the relationship between melody and harmony, isolating and accentuating the primary musical elements, etc.) are for the most part just as relevant to orchestration today as they were in the 1870s.

I give this book 5 out of 5 stars, and I wholeheartedly recommend that anyone interested in the fields of composition and orchestration follow the link and check out the material.

Kudos to Gary Garritan and the team at for making this book available as an easily accessible resource!

Welcome to

Posted on May 3, 2009 at 2:46 pm, by Ben


This is the site of composer and music theoretician Benjamin Botkin.

Here you can find samples of his compositions as well as articles, analytical reviews and commentary on the theory, philosophy, theology, history, mechanics, science, technology and future of music. Benjamin Botkin is a Christian composer dedicated to taking the realm of music captive to the obedience of Christ by the continual reforming of ideas, presuppositions, and actions in accordance with Biblical principles.

Ben started composing for film and visual media in 2005, and has since composed music for several nationally broadcast TV documentaries, and lectured on film scoring at the Christian Filmmakers Academy and the San Antonio Independent Christian Film Festival, as well as composing music for various other projects. He is entirely self-taught in composition, arrangement, and orchestration.

Benjamin is the grateful son of the best parents in the world, Geoffrey Botkin and Victoria Botkin, through whom Christ has worked and continues to work mightily for the edification of many. He currently lives in San Antonio, Texas, where he and his two brothers run a post-production studio.