From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
For other uses, see Fanfare (disambiguation).

Problems playing this file? See media help.

A fanfare is a short musical flourish that is typically played by trumpets or other brass instruments, often accompanied by percussion. By extension, the word may also designate a short, prominent passage for brass instruments in an orchestral composition. In French usage, fanfare also may refer to a hunting signal (given either on "starting" a stag, or after the kill when the hounds are given their share of the animal), and in both France and Italy was the name given in the 19th century to a military or civilian brass band (Tarr 2001).

It is usually intended for important social purposes, such as ceremonial events involving important people or animals, as exclamations of significant activities during an event (such as with introductions and closings), or to precede announcements with the purpose of gaining the attention of the audience. Similarly, musical works themselves often begin, transition, or end with fanfares or fanfare-like themes. The term is also used symbolically, such as to describe occasions that are greatly publicized, even when no music is involved.[citation needed]


The word has been traced to a 15th-century Spanish root, fanfa ("vaunting"). Though the word may be onomatopoeic, it is also possible that it is derived from the Arabic word anfár ("trumpets"). The word is first found in 1546 in French, and in English in 1605, but it was not until the 19th century that it acquired its present meaning of a brief ceremonial flourish for brass (Tarr 2001).


Fanfares originated in the Middle Ages; although popular depictions of ancient Rome frequently include fanfares, the evidence is slight. In 18th-century France, the fanfare was a movement with energy and repetition of notes, and fanfares of the modern description date from the 19th century, when they were composed for British coronations (such as Hubert Parry's I was glad for Edward VII) and other important occasions.

Character and usage[edit]

A fanfare can range from salient flourishes within a piece of music to an entire musical work itself, and therefore may vary greatly in duration, scope, instrumentation, and compositional purpose.


  • Tarr, Edward H. 2001. "Fanfare". The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, second edition, edited by Stanley Sadie and aajohn Tyrrell. London: Macmillan Publishers.

External links[edit]