How is rock music arranged for a symphony orchestra?

When symphony orchestras and the like perform rock music, how are the individual guitar, bass, and keyboard parts arranged? Is it always to the same instruments every time (e.g. electric guitar => violins; keyboards => horns)? Or would the arragement depend on the “feel” of any one particular song?

Let me bring up some examples of what I am not talking about:

a) Orchestral accompaniment to a rock-and-roll performance. Not performances like the “Moody Blues with Your Local Symphony Orchestra”; nor performances like Aerosmith’s “Dream On” video or Guns ‘n’ Roses’s “November Rain” video.

b) Traditional rock instrumentation accomanying an orchestra. I am not thinking of performances like those of the Trans-Siberian Orchestra.

c) Rock groups performing classical pieces. I’m not thinking of works like Emerson, Lake and Palmer’s “Fanfare for the Common Man”.

What I’m asking about is this: how does a traditionally-outfitted symphony orchestra render rock music? I understand this would mean no piano and no guitars of any kind. Maybe a “pops” orchestra can include those instruments … but I thought not.

Are some rock songs virtually off-limits to orchestral interpretation because they just wouldn’t sound right? For example, take a song like Van Halen’s “Hot for Teacher”. The drum intro would be no problem, but how would Eddie Van Halen’s subsequent guitar work be rendered? Or a song like Joe Walsh’s “Life’s Been Good”, which depends on a “whiney” guitar sound?

Lastly, what memorable rock-to-orchestra “conversions” have you all heard in the past, if any? Here’s a few that I think would be intriguing (just not sure how they’d be arranged for orchestra):

The Eagles’ “Hotel California”
The Sweet’s “Love is Like Oxygen”
The Beatles’ “Something” (bet that’s been done)
Jethro Tull’s “Teacher” (with a flute part built right in)
Styx’s “Lady”

I read a short interview with the conductor who helped Metallica do the orchestral arrangements for the S&M album. He said he listened to the songs they wanted to do, and the rest just came naturally. He immediately began thinking of ways to accentuate Metallica’s stuff. I want to say that the interview was on the inside of the CD jacket, but I can’t quite recall right now.

. . .badly . . .

[Eric Idle]

“…by placing it on a piece of wood and banging a few nails through it.”


LOL … I didn’t think this was that crappy of a topic.

I don’t think there is any specific method because there are numerous ways to orchestrate the parts. It’s really up to the person doing the arranging.