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Orchestrators transcribe musical compositions into scores and assign specific passages to particular instruments to add desired variations of sound. Arrangers rewrite original musical scores in different musical styles by changing the rhythm, harmony or tempo.

  • Avg. Salary N/A
  • Avg. Wage N/A
  • Minimum Education Varies
  • Outlook N/A
  • Employed < 1500
  • In Demand Lower
Also Known As

Music Arranger

NOC Codes

In Canada, the federal government groups and organizes occupations based on a National Occupational Classification (NOC) system. This alis occupation may not reflect the entire NOC group it is part of. Data for the NOC group can apply across multiple occupations.

The NOC system is updated every 5 years to reflect changes in the labour market. Government forms and labour market data may group and refer to an occupation differently, depending on the system used. Here is how this occupation has been classified over time:

  • 2006 NOC: Arrangers (5132.3) 
  • 2006 NOC-S: Conductors, Composers and Arrangers (F032) 
  • 2011 NOC: Conductors, composers and arrangers (5132) 
Interest Codes
The Orchestrator/Arranger is part of the following larger National Occupational Classification (NOC).

Interest in selecting instruments and voices to obtain desired style and effect by using knowledge of range, characteristics, limitations, key and talents of individual performers, and in transposing music from one medium to another


Interest in synthesizing effects of combinations of instruments, voices, harmonic structures, rhythms, tempos and musical dynamics to create arrangements


Interest in precision working to play musical instruments to become familiar with compositions to be adapted; and in transcribing compositions and melodic lines to modify them for arrangements

Reading Interest Codes
A Quick Guide

The interest code helps you figure out if you’d like to work in a particular occupation. 
It’s based on the Canadian Work Preference Inventory (CWPI), which measures 5 occupational interests: Directive, Innovative, Methodical, Objective and Social.

Each set of 3 interest codes is listed in order of importance.

A code in capital letters means it’s a strong fit for the occupation.

A code in all lowercase letters means the fit is weaker.

Learn More

Updated Mar 11, 2016

After studying an original piece of music, orchestrators and arrangers experiment with it and choose various combinations of instruments to produce desired effects. Arrangers also may add vocal parts. The difference between orchestrators and arrangers is in the degree to which they change the original music. Orchestrators and arrangers use music notation software to copy their music and prepare performance scores and parts.

Orchestrators assign specific passages of a score to particular instruments to produce the desired tonal colour (variation of sound) but often do not make other changes to the original composition. Then they create each individual musical part on score paper. Often the composer of the piece is also the orchestrator, or the composer provides an orchestral sketch and the orchestrator uses music notation software to prepare all of the instrumental parts in detail.

Arrangers make changes in the original piece of music to accommodate the requirements of a particular medium (band, orchestra, choral group, solo artist, film score, radio jingle). They may work on new arrangements of old hits (for example, arrange an old gospel tune in a jazz style) or arrange new compositions for different mediums or in different styles.

Arrangers often use synthesizers and computers to experiment with musical sounds. During recording sessions, arrangers may act as musical directors, selecting songs, scoring charts, rehearsing musicians and conducting the performance.

Many orchestrators and arrangers notate their own scores, although they may hire music copyists to copy musical parts.

Working Conditions
Updated Mar 11, 2016

Orchestrators and arrangers generally determine their own working environment and working hours. However, they may be required to work long hours to meet tight deadlines.

  • Strength Required Lift up to 5 kg
Skills & Abilities
Updated Mar 11, 2016

Orchestrators and arrangers need the following characteristics:

  • the ability to work with a wide variety of people
  • good communication skills
  • the ability to work under pressure and still produce scores that are clear and neat.

They should enjoy being creative and using instruments and computers to perform tasks requiring precision.

Educational Requirements
Updated Mar 11, 2016

Arrangers and orchestrators generally begintraining in music theory, history and performance at an early age.Most play at least one instrument and understand the ranges and techniques of other instruments and the human voice. In general, they must have:

  • strong abilities in reading and writing music
  • a thorough understanding of various styles of music
  • a good ear for hearing individual parts in songs
  • extensive knowledge of music theory, harmony, counterpoint, composition and orchestration
  • a working knowledge of related technologies such as musical instrument digital interface (MIDI) software and music notation programs.

Most post-secondary music programs include courses in orchestration.

Related Education

The following schools offer programs or courses that are related to this occupation but are not required to enter the field.

Ambrose University

Concordia University of Edmonton

For a broad list of programs and courses that may be related to this occupation try searching using keywords.

Certification Requirements
Updated Mar 11, 2016

Certification is not required, as there is currently no legislation regulating this occupation.

Employment & Advancement
Updated Mar 11, 2016

Orchestrators and arrangers are almost always freelance artists; there are virtually no full time positions. They usually are hired by composers or performers or work on commission. In large music centres in Canada, they also may work with:

  • music publishers to score or arrange pieces (particularly educational music)
  • wired music services (for example, Muzak) to produce packages of music tapes
  • television and film studios to create soundtracks
  • musical ensembles (for example, small bands, groups, studio orchestras)
  • songwriters.

Most orchestrators and arrangers also work part time in related fields such as composition, teaching, producing and performing. Experienced orchestrators and arrangers may move into fields such as music publishing or artist management.

Some orchestrators choose to specialize in one type of music (for example, choral works or pop music). However, the ability to work in several different mediums and music styles is a definite asset when looking for work.

Orchestrators and arrangers are part of the larger 2011 National Occupational Classification 5132: Conductors, Composers and Arrangers. In Alberta, 89% of people employed in this classification work in the following industries:

The employment outlook in this occupation will be influenced by a wide variety of factors including:

  • trends and events affecting overall employment (especially in the industries listed above)
  • location in Alberta
  • employment turnover (work opportunities generated by people leaving existing positions)
  • occupational growth (work opportunities resulting from the creation of new positions that never existed before)
  • size of the occupation.

Employment turnover is expected to increase as members of the baby boom generation retire over the next few years.

Wage & Salary
Updated Mar 11, 2016

The American Federation of Musicians of the United States and Canada (AFM) pay scales for orchestrators vary with the number of lines on a page, the length of the piece and the medium. Most fees are negotiated between the client and the orchestrator. It is not absolutely necessary for orchestrators and arrangers to belong to the AFM; however, some employers, particularly in film and television, hire only union members.

In some instances, arrangers negotiate royalty agreements for pieces of music they have arranged or recorded, in addition to their fee.

Orchestrator/arrangers are part of the larger 2011 National Occupational Classification 5132: Conductors, composers and arrangers.

According to the 2015 Alberta Wage and Salary Survey, Albertans in the Conductors, composers and arrangers occupational group earned on average from $29.46 to $33.20 an hour. The overall average was $32.85 an hour. More recent data is not available.

Related Post-Secondary Field of Study
  • Fine Arts and Performing Arts
Other Sources of Information
Updated Mar 11, 2016

American Federation of Musicians of the United States and Canada website:

Cultural Human Resources Council website:

For more information on career planning, education and jobs call the Alberta Supports Contact Centre toll-free at 1-877-644-9992 or 780-644-9992 in Edmonton, or visit an Alberta Supports Centre near you.

Updated Jun 01, 2009. The information contained in this profile is current as of the dates shown. Salary, employment outlook, and educational program information may change without notice. It is advised that you confirm this information before making any career decisions.

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