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Orchestrators adapt musical compositions involving few instruments into more complex scores involving many instruments, and assign specific parts to particular instrumental sections. Arrangers adapt and rewrite existing musical scores into different musical styles by changing the instruments, rhythm, harmony or tempo.

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

  • 5132.3: Arrangers

2006 NOC-S

  • F032: Conductors, Composers and Arrangers

2011 NOC

  • 5132: Conductors, composers and arrangers

2016 NOC

  • 5132: Conductors, composers and arrangers

2021 NOC

  • 51121: Conductors, composers and arrangers

2023 OaSIS

  • 51121.02: Composers
Updated May 19, 2021

After studying an original piece of music, orchestrators and arrangers experiment with it and deconstruct then reassemble the piece using various combinations of instruments and musical variation to produce desired scores. Arrangers also may add vocal parts. The difference between orchestrators and arrangers is the degree to and method by which they change the original music.

Orchestrators distribute a musical composition’s parts among a larger group of instruments, assigning specific elements (passages) of a piece to particular instruments or sections to produce the desired tonal colour (variation of sound). Often, they do not make other changes to the original composition. Then they create each instrumental musical part on score paper. Often the original composer of a piece is also the orchestrator. Alternatively, the composer provides a general orchestral concept, and the orchestrator uses music notation software to prepare all of the instrumental parts in detail.

Arrangers make stylistic changes to the rhythm, genre or tempo of 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, they may arrange an old gospel tune in a jazz style. Alternatively, they may arrange new compositions for different media, 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.

Orchestrators and arrangers use music notation software to copy their musical interpretations and prepare performance scores and parts for individual musicians or orchestral sections.

Working Conditions
Updated May 19, 2021
  • Strength Required Lift up to 5 kg

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.

Interests & Abilities

In Alberta, this occupation is part of 1 or more 2006 National Occupational Classification (NOC) groups. If there are multiple related NOC groups, select a NOC heading to learn about each one.

Interest Codes

Interest Codes for This NOC Group

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

Your Interest Codes

To identify or change your interest codes, complete the Interests Exercise in CAREERinsite.

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 for this NOC group 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 About Interests


Typical ability expectations for this NOC group
Your abilities

To fill in or change the values for your abilities, complete the Abilities Exercise in CAREERinsite.

Mental Abilities

General Learning Ability

Verbal Ability

Numerical Ability

Visual Abilities

Spatial Perception

Form Perception

Clerical Perception

Physical Abilities

Motor Coordination

Finger Dexterity

Manual Dexterity

Understanding Abilities

A Quick Guide

You are born with abilities that help you process certain types of information and turn it into action. These abilities influence which skills you can learn more easily.

The abilities or aptitudes shown for this NOC group come from the General Aptitude Test Battery (GATB). The GATB measures 9 aptitudes. It groups them into 3 categories: mental, visual, and physical.

The abilities scores range from 1 to 5, with 5 being stronger.

Learn About Abilities

Traits & Skills
Updated May 19, 2021

Orchestrators and arrangers need:

  • Knowledge of musical notation and a solid background in musical theory
  • Knowledge of a variety of instruments and their sounds
  • Communication skills
  • The ability to work with a wide variety of people
  • 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 May 19, 2021
  • Minimum Education Varies

Arrangers and orchestrators generally begin training in music theory, history and performance at an early age. Most play at least 1 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.

To expand or narrow your search for programs related to this occupation, visit Post-Secondary Programs.

Completing a program does not guarantee entrance into an occupation. Before enrolling in an education program, prospective students should look into various sources for education options and employment possibilities. For example, contact associations and employers in this field.

Certification Requirements
Updated May 19, 2021
  • Certification Not Regulated

There is currently no provincial legislation regulating this occupation in Alberta.

Employment & Advancement
Updated May 19, 2021

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

  • Music publishers, to score or arrange pieces (particularly educational music)
  • Media service companies, to produce prepackaged music solutions
  • Television and film studios, to create soundtracks
  • Musical ensembles, such as small bands, groups or studio orchestras
  • Songwriters
  • Video performers (who often perform alternative versions of popular music to entice followers/subscribers)

Most orchestrators and arrangers also work part time in related fields such as composition, teaching, producing and performing (for more information, see Composer, Songwriter or Private Music Teacher). Experienced orchestrators and arrangers may move into fields such as music publishing or artist management.

Some orchestrators specialize in 1 type of music, such as choral works or pop music. However, the ability to work in several different media and music styles is a definite asset when looking for work.

Industry Concentration

This section shows the industries where the majority of people in this occupation work. The data is based on the 2016 Census.

In Alberta, this occupation is part of 1 or more 2016 National Occupational Classification (NOC) groups.

In the 5132: Conductors, composers and arrangers occupational group, 97.2% of people work in:

Employment Outlook

Employment outlook is influenced by a wide variety of factors including:

  • Time of year (for seasonal jobs)
  • Location in Alberta
  • Employment turnover (when people leave existing positions)
  • Occupational growth (when new positions are created)
  • Size of the occupation
  • Trends and events that affect overall employment, especially in the industry or industries from the previous list

In Alberta, the 5132: Conductors, composers and arrangers occupational group is expected to have an above-average annual growth of 3.1% from 2021 to 2025. In addition to job openings created by employment turnover, 13 new positions are forecasted to be created within this occupational group each year.

NOC groups often include several related occupations. Although there is labour market data for the larger NOC group, this occupation makes up only a part of that group. It means data for this occupation may be different than the data shown. For example, only some of the new positions to be created will be for this occupation. It also applies to other data for the NOC group such as number of people employed.

Source: 2021-2025 Alberta Regional Occupational Demand Outlook

Wage & Salary
Updated Sep 29, 2022

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 essential 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.

Orchestrators/arrangers are part of the larger 2016 National Occupational Classification 5132: Conductors, composers and arrangers.

According to the 2021 Alberta Wage and Salary Survey, Albertans in the Conductors, composers and arrangers occupational group earned on average up to $37.80 an hour. The overall average was $29.84 an hour. For more information, see the Conductors, composers and arrangers wage profile.

Related Post-Secondary Field of Study
  • Fine Arts and Performing Arts
Other Sources of Information
Updated May 19, 2021

American Federation of Musicians of the United States and Canada (AFM) website:

Cultural Human Resources Council website:

Screen Composers Guild of Canada website:

Society of Composers, Authors and Music Publishers of Canada (SOCAN) website:

Get information and referrals about career, education, and employment options from Alberta Supports.

Updated Mar 31, 2021. 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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