Shorthand for orchestra instrumentation
The shorthand for the instrumentation of a symphony orchestra (and other similar ensembles) is used to outline which and how many instruments, especially wind instruments, are called for in a given piece of music. The shorthand is ordered in the same fashion as the parts of the individual instruments in the score (when read from top to bottom).
The orchestra is divided into four groups and specified as follows:
- Woodwind instruments: flutes, oboes, clarinets, bassoons
- Brass instruments: horns, trumpets, trombones, tubas
- Timpani, percussion, harp, piano, etc.
- String section: violins, violas, cellos, basses, frequently abbreviated to 'str', 'strs' or similar.
If any soloists or a choir are called for, their parts are usually printed between the percussion/keyboards and the strings in the score. In shorthand however, they are usually omitted.
Degree of standardisation
The basic order of the instruments, as seen above, is common to all of the shorthand systems. However, there is no standardized version of this shorthand; different publishers and librarians use different systems, especially for doubling/alternate/additional instruments. David Daniels, in earlier versions of his influential work that collects in print a catalog of the instrumentations of some 4,000+ pieces, made use of a shorthand for doubling/alternate/additional instruments which was less clear, but in the newer online version Daniels' approach has been refined to something more explicit, akin to the Chester Novello and Boosey & Hawkes notations below.
|Written out in full:||4 flutes (2,3,&4=piccolos), 3 oboes (3=English horn), 3 clarinets (3=bass clarinet 2), bass clarinet, 3 bassoons, contrabassoon, 4 horns, 4 trumpets, 3 trombones, 2 tubas, timpani, percussion (4 players), 2 harps, piano, celesta, strings|
|Chester Novello:||4(3pic)3(1ca)3(1bcl)+bcl3+cbn / 4432 / timp.4perc / 2hp.pf.cel / str|
|Boosey & Hawkes:||4(II,III,IV=picc).2(III=corA).3(III=bcl).bcl.3.dbn - 126.96.36.199 - timp.perc(4):2marimbas/vib/xyl/t.bells/crot/glsp/2susp.cym/sizzle cymbal/cyms/bell tree/2tam-t/2tgl/BD - pft - cel - 2harps - strings|
|Piece||Chester Novello||Boosey & Hawkes||Meaning|
|Symphony No. 25 (Mozart)||0202 / 4000 / str||188.8.131.52 - 184.108.40.206 - timp - strings||1 flute, 2 oboes, 2 bassoons, 2 horns, 2 trumpets, timpani, strings|
|Symphony No. 5 (Beethoven)||3223 / 4230 / timp.perc / str||220.127.116.11 - 18.104.22.168 - timp - strings||3 flutes, 2 oboes, 2 clarinets, 3 bassoons, 2 horns, 2 trumpets, 3 trombones, timpani, strings|
|Pictures at an Exhibition (Ravel orchestration)||3(pic)3(ca)33 / 4331 / timp.5perc / 2hp.cel / str||3(III=picc).3(III=corA).3.3 - 22.214.171.124 - timp.perc(5) - cel - 2harps - strings||3 flutes (1 doubling piccolo), 3 oboes (1 doubling English horn), 3 clarinets, 3 bassoons, 4 horns, 3 trumpets, 3 trombones, 1 tuba, timpani, 5 percussionists, celesta, 2 harps, strings|
|Symphony No. 1 (Mahler)||4(2pic)4(ca)4(bcl)3(cbn) / 7431 / 2timp.perc / hp / str||4(III,IV=picc).4(III=corA).4(III=bcl).3(III=dbn) - 126.96.36.199 - timp(2).perc - harp - strings||4 flutes (2 doubling piccolo), 4 oboes (1 doubling English horn), 4 clarinets (one doubling bass clarinet), 3 bassoons (one doubling contrabassoon), 7 horns, 4 trumpets, 3 trombones, 1 tuba, 2 timpanists, percussion, harp, strings|
|The Rite of Spring (Stravinsky)||3(1pic)+pic+afl.4(1ca)+ca.3(1bcl)+Dcl(Ebcl)+bcl.4(1cbn) / 8(2ttuba).4(1btpt)pictpt.3.2 / 2timp.4perc / str||3(III=picc).picc.afl.4(IV=corA).corA.3(III=bcl).Dcl(=Ebcl).bcl.4(IV=dbn).dbn - 8(VII,VIII=ttuba).4(IV=btpt).picctpt.3.2 - timp(2).perc(4):crot/cyms/tam - t/tgl/guiro/BD/tamb - strings||3 flutes (1 doubling piccolo), piccolo, alto flute, 4 oboes (one doubling english horn), english horn, 3 clarinets (one doubling bass clarinet), D clarinet (doubling E-flat clarinet), bass clarinet, 4 bassoons (one doubling contrabassoon), contrabassoon, 8 horns (2 doubling tenor tuba), 4 trumpets (1 doubling bass trumpet), piccolo trumpet, 3 trombones, 2 tubas, 2 timpani, 4 percussionists (crotales, cymbals, tam-tam, triangle, guiro, bass trum, tambourine), strings|
An example of another approach, particularly useful where there may be extensive versatility required from doubling players, is given here for The Phantom of the Opera for a 45 piece orchestra, taken from the Chester/Novello Hire Library:
- WW1(fl,pic).WW2(fl).WW3(cl).WW4(ob,ca).WW5(cl,bcl).WW6(bn)/3hn.3tpt.3tbn.tuba/2perc/hp.2kbd/str(85443 players)
- Klaus Haller, Elfriede Witte (eds.): Regeln für die alphabetische Katalogisierung von Ausgaben musikalischer Werke (RAK-Musik). Leipzig 2004 (pdf; 561 kB). ISBN 3-933641-52-7 (in German)
- The Order of Instruments in an Orchestral Score, Music Theory Website at Duke Ellington School of the Arts Accessed 27 May 2017
- David Daniels: Orchestral Music A Handbook, Pub. (USA) Scarecrow Press, Inc, Lanham, Maryland, 1996. ISBN 0-8108-3228-3 (3rd Ed.), cf. 2nd Ed. ISBN 0-8108-1484-6 and 1st Ed. ISBN 0-8108-0537-5
- Description of the online tool at daniels-orchestral.com Retrieved 18 February 2017
- Adams, John (1998-09-23). "Harmonielehre". Earbox - John Adams. Retrieved 2020-08-24.
- "Chester Novello Orchestration Guide". www.wisemusicclassical.com. Retrieved 2020-08-24.
- "Boosey & Hawkes Standard Scoring and Language Abbreviations" (PDF). Retrieved 2020-08-24.
- "Symphony No. 25 in G minor, K183 | Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart". www.wisemusicclassical.com. Retrieved 2020-08-25.
- "Symphony No. 9 in D minor (Choral) | Ludwig van Beethoven". www.wisemusicclassical.com. Retrieved 2020-08-25.
- "Pictures at an Exhibition | Modest Petrovich Mussorgsky". www.wisemusicclassical.com. Retrieved 2020-08-25.
- "Symphony No.1 in D | Gustav Mahler". www.wisemusicclassical.com. Retrieved 2020-08-25.
- "Igor Stravinsky - The Rite of Spring". www.boosey.com. Retrieved 2020-08-25.
- Guidelines to hiring Phantom of the Opera 2012, stageamusical.com. Accessed 4 March 2017