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(unsectioned postings)[edit]

I had to remove the bit about an orchestra being "adapted for playing in concert musical notation", because I just don't know what it means. And I'm going to move the list of conductors over to conductor, as I propsed over there a while ago. --Camembert

Fame: - I hate to be a drag and raise this painful issue again, but isn't there (yet again) a problem here with there being a "famous" and "other" orchestras list? For example who decides that, say, the LA Phil is not famous? I mean, I do know that this kind of thing is pretty inevitable here and yes it's a work in progress and so on ... but it does just seem a real, repeating, pain-in-the-neck problem. I could, for example, add all the London orchs to the "famous" side of the list. Undoubtedly they are famous. But it's already a terribly Eurocentric list and this would hardly help ... and the concept of things either havig to be in the famous list or in the 2nd eleven, as it were ... I don't know, it just seems odd. Is there a discussion somewhere about this? Wikipedia: what is fame? or what role do these lists perform? or something? Nevilley

Well, as you asked... Talk:List of famous Canadians and Talk:List of famous Canadians (archive) have an extremely long, boring, silly, pointless, abusive and indecisive "discussion" on the matter of what constitutes fame and who should be included on lists of things. If I were you, I'd steer well clear of it, but I think it's the closest we've got to a page dedicated to the matter of deciding what should be included on lists of famous Xs (at least as far as I know).
Personally, I think lists like this are more or less useless, apart from them being handy to link articles that would otherwise be orphans. However, people seem to like them, and they keep springing up.
As for this list specifically - I think that dividing the list into "famous" and "other" is a bad idea, so I'll make it just one list. The generally done thing before the "famous Canadians" episode was to list everything/body that had an entry in the wikipedia plus any very famous others (in this case, that would mean, say, the Berlin Phil, the LSO and some others, but not, for example, the Yomiuri Symphony Orchestra). I am, therefore, significantly trimming this list - I've been brutal, and if somebody wants to restore the LAPO, say, or remove the Boston SO, I won't complain; but if anybody wants to add a really quite obscure orchestra (the Orchestra Gulbenkian, say), I think they should write an article about them first. Otherwise I may have to add the Sheffield Symphony Orchestra, which convenes once a year to play a program of sugary Viennese waltzes and then disbands to the pub. --Camembert

Heheheheh yes I knew about the Canadians thing, it's my kind of bete noire example of what to avoid at all costs.

I think your approach is reasonable in general, taking as a sort of standard the question of whether someone can be bothered to write an article about the topic or not. And of course it neatly removes the question of fame, mostly.

I suppose where it is open to abuse or silliness is that (1) I decide to put in the Sheffield Symphony Orchestra and write no article, because I say it's famous or important, and the rest of you can get lost, or (2) I decide to put in the Sheffield Symphony Orchestra and I do write an article, because I am being silly, or self-promotional, or want to see the SSO's name in print for a bet, or whatever. You can see me worrying about something similar in the Talk for the trumpet article.

However, assuming that goodwill and reasonableness will prevail, I think this is a good approach; I congratulate you for taking the step; and I will be interested to see how it develops. :) Nevilley

Thanks, Nevilley; I'm interested to see how it develops too. I reserve the right, however, to deny all knowledge of this article should an argument break out  ;) I see, incidentally, that the list has been significantly expanded, with orchestras which are, I think, lesser known than the ones I left in the list, but still well enough known to be thought of as "famous". However, if the list gets much bigger, the best thing to do is probably to break it off into List of orchestras. In the meantime, I'm going to try and write stubs for all these bands... --Camembert

I'm not sure whether these orchestras should all be listed as at present (with a few exceptions) or whether the word Orchestra should be ommitted.

e.g London Symphony, St Petersburg Philharmonic, etc.

Many of the orchestras are normally referred to by their full names, however, so I will leave this for the moment. User:David Martland

I've wondered about this as well, but as you say I think the word "orchestra" is normally included when referring to most of them. However, I did put the NYPO article at New York Philharmonic, rather than New York Philharmonic Orchestra. Even there, it isn't uncommon to hear "New York Philharmonic Orchestra", so I think we're OK as we are. --Camembert

I also have some reservations about famous or important orchestras. Where does one draw the line? However, the list is now moderately complete, and I am not intending to add any regional orchestras which are probably not so important, or subsidiary orchestras (e.g The BBC Concert Orchestra), which are probably listed under their organisation (example: BBC). Some radio orchestras are probably important, and some foreign orchestras are a pain because of translation - both orchestras in Stockholm fall under these categories - one is called the Kungliga Orkester Stockholm which I suppose translates as the Royal Stockholm Orchestra, and the other is the Stockholm Radio Orchestra, which is actually rather good. I added the CSO and NBC Symphony yesterday - even though they are both just radio orchestras, the CSO was associated with Bruno Walter, and the NBC with Toscanini so I figure that makes them interesting. User:David Martland. I think the LAPO should be in the list - I'll probably put it back if it's gone - both Bernstein and Giulini for example have given important performances/made recordings with them. Until Blomstedt came along, and Decca started recording furiously, LAPO was generally considered more important than the SFO.

When I removed the LAPO at first, it was in the course of reducing the list to about half a dozen - I really trimmed it back very hard. My hope is that we can get articles on all the orchestras listed here, and then we can call the list "A list of orchestras with articles in the wikipedia", safe in the knowledge that there are no "important" or "famous" orchestras (whatever that might mean) that we've missed out. But for now, the list looks OK as it stands, I think - there are no really small and obscure orchestras listed as there were before. --Camembert

was this a correct edit?[edit]

in 1842 the New York Philharmonic was created, in 1848 the Vienna Philharmonic was formed was changed into in 1842 the New York Philharmonic and the Vienna Philharmonic were formed

Azertus 14:45, 1 Jun 2005 (UTC)

According to Grove, the Vienna Philharmonic society was first organized in 1842, though it did not give regular concerts right away. There seems to be some room for interpretation about "exactly" when the VP was formed, but it does seem that 1842 is the better date. Antandrus (talk) 15:12, 1 Jun 2005 (UTC)

List of symphony orchestras[edit]

I created this list from the list in the "Orchestra" article on the suggestion from Antandrus. I suggest that the list in the article be removed and replaced with a link to list of symphony orchestras, but wish to hear a second opinion before doing so. :) Gazza1685 23:28, 14 December 2005 (UTC)

Hello; great! There is also a discreet list of notable orchestras worldwide. Not as comprehensive as above (only 25 in total), it is derived from the 2005 Encyclopædia Britannica Almanac and was created to partially satisfy ongoing disputes that the global city article was too focused on certain Western socioeconomic criteria. Anyhow, enjoy and thanks! E Pluribus Anthony 23:50, 14 December 2005 (UTC)

Added Subheads To History[edit]

It took a while, but the History section is now subdivided. The section on Wagner’s influence can be expanded with some links to his works. Eventually there will have to be an Orchestra Portal because the topic is quite extensive (imho). "History of The Orchestra" will eventually be its own article, I hope.


Schweiwikist 22:39, 28 March 2006 (UTC)

P.S. thanks to Gazza1685 for the tweak to the instrumentation section. Though I'd rather see shorter sentences in wiki, my last edit was not an easy read.

Schweiwikist 04:10, 11 April 2006 (UTC)

And thanks to about the Violin Cto (5-28-06). I know the symphonies better.

--Schweiwikist 21:04, 24 July 2006 (UTC)


Under "Expanded Instrumentation," I don't know of a single example of the saxophone or euphonium appearing in a 19th-century (or "Romantic") orchestral work. Examples should be provided or the references to 19th-century cases should be deleted. —The preceding unsigned comment was added by (talkcontribs) . (Edit: Thanks, should have thought of the Bizet, I know that piece pretty well.) 04:33, 7 August 2006 (UTC)

For saxophone: Bizet, L'Arlésienne, (1872); Ambroise Thomas used one in Hamlet (1868); Massenet used them in a couple of operas (Hérodiade and Werther, both before 1900). Apparently most of the 19th century occurrences were in French music, and mostly in opera scores. Thanks for pointing this out: I haven't looked at this page for a long time. Antandrus (talk) 04:21, 7 August 2006 (UTC)
Regarding the euphonium, I added some examples of 20th century material featuring the euphonium, including Holst's The Planets and Strauss's Ein Heldenleben.--Tjonp 23:57, 12 July 2007 (UTC)

horns in LvB 9th[edit]

Deleted "for the first time," since four horns are called for in earlier symphonies (e.g. Mozart 25) and in other Beethoven works (e.g. the Leonore ov. #3). It was "for the first time" in a Beethoven symphony, but that seems fussy. Also clarified "extra" percussion in the finale of the 9th. —The preceding unsigned comment was added by (talkcontribs) . 04:33, 7 August 2006 (UTC)

Diagram of standard seating arrgmts[edit]

I don't know why it's not included with this article, but it would be very useful to show the standard seating arrangements for the orchestra (i.e. brass section, winds section, percussion).

Reply - I don't know how long this comment has been here, but there is one now, under See also. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 17:51, 28 March 2009 (UTC)

I think "typical" is a better word than "standard" in this matter. Gingermint (talk) 23:50, 22 February 2011 (UTC)

Beethoven's Influence?[edit]

The so-called "standard complement" of 'double winds and brass' is also the scoring of the last six London Symphonies (#99-#104) by Joseph Haydn (1793-1795). Beethoven was Haydn's student. I think it was Haydn who was setting the standard here. Beethoven's additions were limited to trombones (3,5,6,9), piccolo (5,6,9) and contrabassoon (9). DavidRF 07:47, 11 December 2006 (UTC)

For the record: no trombones in Eroica; contra also in #5. But also three horns (rather than two) in Eroica; four horns in #9. Nonetheless the point stands that Beethoven basically inherited the "standard" winds-in-pairs orchestra of the Haydn London symphonies. (talk) 06:57, 21 July 2012 (UTC)

violins importance, why?[edit]

Why are violins placed in the front? In general, why are them the most important part of the orchestra? (there are more violinists, her leader is only second to the conductor, etc) --euyyn 23:04, 25 December 2006 (UTC)

They aren't always; I remember a picture, I think of Cleveland (Ohio, US) under George Szell, who had violas and celli in front. It seems to be a matter of the conductor's choice. Maybe someone more expert can confirm, deny or elaborate. +ILike2BeAnonymous 07:56, 13 May 2007 (UTC)

Violins and strings in general are some of the most important instruments in the orchestra (though I would argue all are important in their own way). You generally always have the higher pitched instruments in the front with any musical group. I'm sure there is some mathematical and technical aspect, but for me when conducting and listening, you cant see the small instruments behind the big instruments, and you cant really here the small instruments if they're behind the bigger instruments. It just seems out of balance. From a composition standpoint, however, string instruments are generally the bridge instruments that play everything at every time. Normally, unless there is a solo/duet with another instrument, the strings are playing as support or melody or whathaveyou. The first violin part is one of the most prominent parts (traditionally) and the first violinist is the one that is the most experienced and does the solos and whatnot. (talk) 02:52, 5 November 2008 (UTC)

I think the convention is based on acoustics - the instruments whose sound travels furthest, are placed furthest back from the audience. Ceadge (talk) 21:39, 29 March 2010 (UTC)

Standard Orchestra[edit]

In my opinion there is no such thing as a standardized symphony orchestra in the classical period, it is more of a continuous evolution as one can see in the lists of the symphonies of Haydn, Mozart and Beethoven here on the wikipedia. Haydn sometimes used an orchestra of two oboes, two horns and strings. In other cases he also used flute and bassoons. There is a very early symphony that uses four horns. The Mannheim orchestra is said to have used clarinets, but it was Mozart who standardized its use in the orchestra. And it's true that Beethoven used trombones, piccolo and contrabassoon. My point is that there were no standards, the ensemble was always changing, growing and improving to suite the composers musical needs (and also, very likely, the budget!). Cha daniels 23:53, 28 February 2007 (UTC)

I think that "standard" can be somewhat misleading and have inserted "typical" instead. I have also re-worded the section about orchestras throughout the ages so that it is obvious that these are not prescribed instrumentations but most common for their period. I was surprised that this had not been done earlier. Gingermint (talk) 23:49, 22 February 2011 (UTC)

Shorthand for instrumentation?[edit]

Is there an English article (or indeed, term) that corresponds with de:Kurzschrift Orchesterbesetzung? That is, the standardized way of giving the numbers of the instruments called for by the composer of a specific work, for example (3d1,2,2,2 - 4, 2, 3, 1, str, timp, perc, hp) for a "normal" romantic orchestra?--Cancun771 12:01, 8 April 2007 (UTC)

See Shorthand for orchestra instrumentation. Rigadoun (talk) 20:13, 19 September 2007 (UTC)

"Core Symphonic Instruments"[edit]

I notice that while the flute and piccolo are marked with an asterisk as a "core symphonic instrument" that the clarinet aand oboe are not. When would you ever not have an oboe or a clarinet? I understand that maybe some of the other instruments may have been there longer, but when in modern scores is a clarinet or oboe not called for? SeanMD80talk | contribs 22:03, 8 April 2007 (UTC)

Apparently this has been changed since you wrote the above. As I write, though, this section of the article considers the trombone an "auxiliary" instrument comparable to the contrabassoon, which seems to me inappropriate. One of the problems is that orchestral instruments were added gradually, and this section does not specify the historical period to which it refers.
Re: your direct question, "When in modern scores is a clarinet or oboe not called for?": One answer is: When the piece is for string orchestra, as in Barber's Adagio for Strings or Vaughn Williams's Fantasia on a Theme of Thomas Tallas. Maybe you think I'm being facetious, but I consider the strings the only essential orchestral instruments. Other instruments are added as needed. TheScotch 06:00, 13 May 2007 (UTC)

Most professional musicians use the word "orchestra" only to refer to an ensemble of both strings and winds, and a fairly large ensemble at that. The kind of ensemble that plays a piece for many strings is called a "string orchestra." To the original question, clarinets were not original members of the (Mozart/Haydn-era) classical orchestra, because they hadn't been invented yet; only a few Mozart symphonies and a handful of late Haydns call for clarinets. Orchestral works without oboes are rare, but an example is Mozart's late E-flat major symphony (#39). Of course the same composer's Requiem has quite a small wind section, but instrumentation needs for choral works tend to be a lot less standardized, even in the Classical period. (talk) 07:04, 21 July 2012 (UTC)

Other Orchestras...[edit]

I'm surprised the section on other uses of orchestras primarily talks about rock and metal. Old style Jazz, for example, usually had a small amount of violinists. And pit orchestras in Musicals play all sorts of styles, as well as those in Film scores. At least these three subjects should be adknowledged. KrypticKlaws 03:30, 27 April 2007 (UTC)

I think there is some confusion of terminology here. Since Paul Whiteman in the twenties (or perhaps before Paul Whiteman in the twenties), various pop and jazz ensembles have made orchestra part of their names. There was, for example, the five-piece fusion group with rock instrumentation called the Mahavishnu Orchestra, and there was the Electric Light Orchestra. Both the Moonlight Jazz Orchestra and the Madison Jazz Orchestra have standard big-band instrumentation and no strings at all. TheScotch 06:09, 13 May 2007 (UTC)

Because some unidentified person who appears to be confused about what the term orchestra means continues to add erroneous information to this article, maybe I'd better stress that:

1) Just because the term orchestra appears in a group's name doesn't make that group an orchestra (see paragraph above for specific examples).

2) A 1930's big band swing ensemble is not an orchestra.

3) A small group of strings overdubbed during a "sweetening session" onto a pop music recording is not an orchestra.

4) A synthesizer set up to imitate a string section is not an orchestra.

5) There were no "disco" orchestras.

N.B.: The above list of things an orchestra is not isn't exhaustive. TheScotch 00:14, 6 June 2007 (UTC)

Take a look at all the instruments in the "Love Unlimited Orchestra" which was conducted by Barry White at If you don't think that is a disco orchestra then you need your head examined. 09:58, 28 June 2007 (UTC)

Quotation marks and italics[edit]

This is for ILike2BeAnonymous who is confused about the uses of these punctuation marks:

If you go to, you will find that quotation marks are used only "to enclose direct quotations"--I'm quoting the source here--or "to indicate words used ironically, with reservations, or in some unusual way". The example given to illustrate the first use is, "He asked, 'Will you be there?' 'Yes,' I answered, 'I'll look for you in the foyer.'" The example given to illustrate the second use is, "History is stained with blood spilled in the name of 'civilization.'"

Italics are used "to indicate titles of complete or major works such as magazines, books, newspapers, academic journals, films, television programs, long poems, plays of three or more acts", for "foreign words that are not commonly used in English", for "words used as words themselves", and for "words or phrases that you wish to emphasize". The given example for the penultimate (third) use is, "The English word nuance comes from a Middle French word meaning shades of color."

In this case, in our article, we have "words used as words themselves". TheScotch 07:54, 27 May 2007 (UTC)

Or go to, where you'll find this advice: "Italicize words used as words. Many people misuse the words bring and take by interchanging them."
Or go to, where you'll find this:
"Using Italics and Underlining....
Words as Words
  • The word basically is often unnecessary and should be removed.
  • There were four and 's and one therefore in that last sentence. (Notice that the apostrophe-s, used to create the plural of the word-as-word and, is not italicized. See the section on Plurals for additional help.)
  • She defines ambiguity in a positive way, as the ability of a word to mean more than one thing at the same time." TheScotch 09:32, 27 May 2007 (UTC)

Here are two non-online sources:

1) The Elements of Grammar by Margaret Shertzer, p.119:

7. Use italics when a word is spoken of as a word.
The word gay now carries a different connotation from its meaning in Cornelia Otis Skinner's Our Hearts Were Young and Gay.

2) The Harbrace College Handbook, 8th edition, by John C. Hodges and Mary E. Whitten, pp. 94-95:

Words, letters, or figures spoken of as such or used as illustrations are usually underlined (italicized).
In no other language could a foreigner be tricked into pronouncing manslaughter as man's laughter. --MARIO PEI
The letters qu replaced cw in such words as queen, quoth, and quick.


TheScotch 09:44, 1 June 2007 (UTC)

The above is rather excessive for this Orchestra discussion page. If you wish to make a point to another user, fair enough - but if you want to elaborate as much as you have done, leaving a message on their own User:talk page would be more appropriate. Jason McConnell-Leech 13:32, 15 July 2007 (UTC)

It would seem to be excessive at first blush, I agree, but it really did take all these examples finally to get through to the editor in question, who had reverted the proper punctuation something like five times, and, yes, I did try his user talk page. TheScotch 22:54, 19 July 2007 (UTC)

Doubling on saxophone[edit]

Re: "Undid revision-please check your 20th century orchestrations, especially Ravel, Bernstein, Gershwin and Russo. Woodwind players DO double on saxes in orchestras, no simply in big bands."


Re: ILike2BeAnonymous: "Even if, as you say, orchestras are "more likely to bring in an outside player", that doesn't make this any less true: certainly community and smaller orchs. will double before bringing in 'ringers'."

"Community and smaller orchs." are more likely to bring in "ringers" because they are less likely to have members who own saxophones and can play them. It's much more likely that a given saxophonist will double on clarinet or flute or both than that a given clarinetist or flautist will double on saxophone. Big band saxophonists commonly double on clarinet and flute (such that there will usually be at least one of each double available within a five-person saxophone section), and Broadway pit orchestra wind players commonly double on clarinet, flute, saxophone, and oboe as well. The only common doubles in an orchestral woodwind section are oboe doubling on English horn and flute doubling on piccolo (not counting Bb clarinet doubling on Eb and A clarinet, and so on).

You are welcome to speculate on the discussion page (as long as you acknowledge that you are speculating), but please cease reverting on the basis of speculation.TheScotch 07:52, 29 July 2007 (UTC)

You seem to be speculating as much as anyone else. "In my experience" isn't proof of anything, and even if you've played in a hundred orchestras and you've never seen this happen, this is hardly a reasonable sample set, and would be original research anyway. However, I think the burden or proof in this case falls on the other party (ILike2BeAnonymous), rather than on you for removing it. (For the record though, I don't think the statement is very useful, true or not.) - Rainwarrior 12:31, 29 July 2007 (UTC)
I don't think so. Let's look at the statement in contention:
Woodwind players may also double on various saxophones.
Notice that it says "may also double", not "always double" or something of the sort. That makes this a true statement in my view; I challenge anyone to prove that there are no orchestras for which this is not true, or even that there are a vanishingly small number of such orchestras where woodwind players not only can double on sax but own one, or have read acccess to one. So I don't think the "burden of proof" is on me here.
By the way, I've found the following links that mention doubling on sax for wind players: [1], [2], [3], [4], and [5]. In addition, another Google result which unfortunately turns out to be only available to subscribers reads thus:
JSTOR: The Navy Music Career Program
For instance, all clarinet-players must "double" on saxophone, ... Navy Band Orchestra provides concerts for the student musicians from time to time, also. ...
So there seems to be ample evidence that this isn't just a figment of someone's imagination. By the way, I'm not proposing using any of those links as references in the article. +ILike2BeAnonymous 19:15, 29 July 2007 (UTC)
I didn't say it would be hard to prove, but it's still your burden. You're not allowed to defend a statement by saying "prove it false". (See Verifiability.) If you can attribute a source, there doesn't need to be an argument about whether it's true or not. - Rainwarrior 20:37, 29 July 2007 (UTC)

My dear Rainwarrior, pardon me if I don't see either the importance, or the lack thereof, of the above statement re: doubling. It is a true statement in that, while not plentiful compared to the entire symphonic repertoire, the sax(for simplifications sake) is absolutely necessary to certain important pieces, such as Ravel(Bolero), Bernstein(SDfromWSS, Fancy Free, Candide Overture), off the top of my head-more would inevitably come to mind. I was a woods player for years in stage bands, concert wind ensembles, rock bands, jazz combos, military bands and, on occasion, orchestras. Doubling does occur, whether one likes it or no. The reason I had inserted that phrase was because saxes were not mentioned as symphony instruments under that heading, a fact to which old Adolphe would have taken exception.Lyricmac 04:11, 30 July 07 (UTC)

Don't forget Prokofiev's Lt. Kijé. +ILike2BeAnonymous 04:47, 31 July 2007 (UTC)
My comment was not a slight about saxophones. The paragraph above says "typical" symphony orchestra, of which the saxophone really isn't. Furthermore the fact that they're only mentioned as a potential double seems to suggest that they would only be played by someone who was already a member of the orchestra. Doesn't the statement about "expanded instrumentation" already cover the fact that Saxophones are occasionally used in symphony orchestras? In symphonic repertoire, I think The Scotch is right to suggest that usually another musician would be called in, and this is because the music is usually written for an extra musician; unlike many stage works or big band situations where a the part was written with a doublings in mind (i.e. the composer doesn't call for both instruments at once). The symphony is not generally a situation where the number of musicians must be kept to a minimum. - Rainwarrior 05:28, 31 July 2007 (UTC)
It certainly is for orchestras without extravagant budgets, which are becoming more and more the norm these days. +ILike2BeAnonymous 05:53, 31 July 2007 (UTC)
Not really what I meant. From the composer's point of view, a symphonic piece is rarely written with doubling on a saxophone in mind. (I don't know of any.) Very frequently there is doubling within a family of instruments, flutes doubling piccolo, switching between types of clarinet or of trumpet, on the other hand. Checking the 5 links you provided, none of them mention doubling on a saxophone in a symphonic setting, and I doubt a "Navy Band Orchestra" is such a setting either. Use of a saxophone at all isn't "typical" of a symphony and doubling on a saxophone even less typical (at least within performance of a single work). At any rate, the possibility of doubling on saxophones and other instruments is already mentioned in the "expanded instrumentation" section, which I think covers that topic better anyway. What's the point of trying to say that doubling on a saxophone "may" be typical? (It really isn't, though proving that it isn't would be more or less impossible, which is why again the burden of proof is on you.) - Rainwarrior 06:47, 31 July 2007 (UTC)
Friend Rainwarrior, if you insist upon deletion of this phrase, I'm amenable. I had no idea, and certainly no wish, that it should be such a bone of contention; it simply isn't that important. I'm not so doctrinaire about the sax(when I retired I gave my alto to my godson, and kept my Leblanc LL). Civility is much more important to me than nit-picking about whether saxes are part of the normal instrumentation of an orchestra.Lyricmac 14:50, 31 July 07 (UTC)

Re: "What's the point of trying to say that doubling on a saxophone "may" be typical? (It really isn't, though proving that it isn't would be more or less impossible, which is why again the burden of proof is on you.)":

If we're going to disallow experience, we're pretty much left with books, and in this case we'll have to read between the lines. Obviously, no one is going to bother to write that "other woodwind instrumentalists in the orchestra do not typically double on saxophone" (that is, no one would whether it were true or false), but if other woodwind instrumentalists in the orchestra did typically double on saxophone, it is reasonable to imagine that someone might mention it somewhere, and no one that I know seems to have. I read over the saxophone sections in four orchestration texts the other day. None says explicitly that other woodwind instrumentalists do not double typically double on the instrument in the orchestra, but I think the implication in all four is that they don't (comporting with my disallowed experience). All do say explicitly, incidentally, that the saxophone is not a normal member of the orchestra, which, Lyrimac, is not the question we are debating here.

It occurred to me while looking over these texts that the problem here might have been a confusion over terminology (although I don't see evidence of it now). The main consideration with writing for the saxophone in the orchestra is whether you can expect to get it. Composers have traditionally hedged their bets by doubling in the other musical sense, that is, by giving other instruments the same notes they give the saxophones so that if the saxophones aren't present the work won't suffer appreciably. TheScotch 08:00, 3 August 2007 (UTC)

Re: "...even if you've played in a hundred orchestras and you've never seen this happen, this is hardly a reasonable sample set...":
I've not played in a hundred orchestras or seen a hundred different orchestras perform pieces including saxophones, but, for the record, I'm not convinced that this remark is statistically sound. Suppose that one hundred orchestras is less than one percent of the orchestras there are. Would that necessarily make it too small a sample? There are three hundred million Americans, and Gallop never polls anywhere near, say, one hundred thousand of them (a thirtieth of one percent). Orchestral culture is arguably more homogenous and less variegated than American culture as a whole. TheScotch 10:44, 3 August 2007 (UTC)
Well, it was a bit of a hyperbole. A hundred orchestras could actually be a reasonable sample set as long as they were globally distributed and at different levels (e.g. amateur and professional). One of the points I was making is that we shouldn't make the assumption that orchestral practice is so consistent. Why should it be? - Rainwarrior 07:09, 10 August 2007 (UTC)

You've quoted me here [Re: "What's the point of trying to say...], but you don't seem to be disagreeing with the statement you quoted... I'm kind of confused by this. Were you restating it for emphasis, or did you think I was saying the opposite of what I was? (The "you" in the quote was ILike2BeAnonymous.) - Rainwarrior 07:16, 10 August 2007 (UTC)

I've taken the liberty of putting the above comment where it belongs chronologically (and adding the reference in brackets). I'm in complete agreement with the first set of remarks of yours I quoted. I restated it (quoted it) because my own remarks below it were primarily in reference to these.
Re: "One of the points I was making is that we shouldn't make the assumption that orchestral practice is so consistent. Why should it be?":
Because classical music tradition stipulates, among other things, that performances should adhere to scores to a high degree. This is in contradistinction to jazz tradition and popular music tradition, which have a looser relation to their scores. TheScotch 12:38, 10 August 2007 (UTC)
It's true that a lot of information about orchestral practice can be gleaned from scores (especially about historical practice!). At least, a lot of the time what's in the score is considered the goal. Many conductors will make modifications to suit their ensemble (or taste), though, and of course in an amateur setting parts are frequently missing (as you've mentioned) or substituted. How is music in a Jazz tradition any different though? In most large-ensemble Jazz music the individual players don't really deviate from the score, where there is improvisation it is written that they do so; though the choice of soloist is frequently left to the performers. In smaller groups there is a lot more room for "looseness", but I don't think it's correct to say that they are deviating from a score; when it gets down to that level, as in much popular music, there very often is no score (or is this what you mean?). - Rainwarrior 16:47, 10 August 2007 (UTC)

Why a link to "" doesn't belong here[edit]

1. It's a site that, supposedly, lets one search for orchestral musicians worldwide. (For why I say "supposedly", see below.) While that would no doubt be a useful function to some, it is in no way relevant to the topic of this article, orchestras; it offers no general information on the orchestra.

2. So far as I can tell, this tool doesn't even work correctly. I could not get the search function to work at all in my browser (Mozilla Firefox 1.0.4). Perhaps it works in Internet Explorer.

3. The link was inserted by its creator, which raises obvious conflict-of-interest issues. +ILike2BeAnonymous 17:33, 27 August 2007 (UTC)

This seems to be in response to a note inserted into the article text (since made invisible) by an editor called Horbor that reads: "(ILike2BeAnonymous, please read talk before removing)". The odd thing is that I find no remarks on this discussion page made by Horbor regarding this. In any case, based on what I've read and seen so far, I have to agree with ILike2BeAnonymous's points above, especially 1. TheScotch 21:26, 27 August 2007 (UTC)

I think that wikipedia should put approximately how many players of a certain instrument a in an orchestra. - Shaunwhim2 —Preceding unsigned comment added by Shaunwhim2 (talkcontribs) 05:34, 14 November 2007 (UTC)

Western-centric POV[edit]

What about the Chinese Orchestra? What about the Gamelan orchestra? (talk) 07:43, 7 January 2008 (UTC)

You raise a valid point; those are certainly orchestras, and there are other non-Western varieties as well. Suggestion: start a section that describes these types of orchestras. +ILike2BeAnonymous (talk) 08:15, 7 January 2008 (UTC)
"Certainly orchestras"? Ethnomusicologists are using the term orchestra figuratively when the talk about the "Gamelan orchestra", discussion of which should be confined to an article titled "Gamelan". TheScotch (talk) 09:26, 1 February 2008 (UTC)
I suppose you're right on this one: checking with my Harvard Dictionary of Music, their entry for "orchestra" says:
A large ensemble of instruments, as distinct from a small ensemble (with one player to the part) used for chamber music or from an ensemble consisting primarily of wind instruments, called a band.
So that term really only applies to the Western symphony orchestra, even though other types of ensembles sometime use the term in their names. (I suppose this raises the question of whether a "chamber orchestra" is a contradiction in terms, as it would appear to be, strictly speaking, from the definition given above). So a gamelan orchestra may qualify as some sort of band instead. +ILike2BeAnonymous (talk) 22:38, 16 February 2008 (UTC)


Where did the word "Philharmonic" (and similarly, "Philharmonia") come from anyway, what does it mean?

Yes, I am politely griping that the redirect from Philharmonic is not very informative. Probably necessary to avoid a stub, but not informative. (talk) 20:10, 16 February 2008 (UTC)

It's from phil- (loving) + harmonic (relating to music) = music-loving. The earliest "Philharmonia" I know was the Accademia Filarmonica of Verona, founded in 1543 (Jan Nasco was its first director). That wasn't an orchestra, just a loose association of musicians for discussion, performance, and keeping a library. The term "Philharmonic" seems to have been applied to musical groups again in the 19th century (a "Philharmonic Society" was founded in London in 1813). More recently, these have been groups of dedicated performing musicians, particularly orchestras, rather than "academic" establishments. We could probably use an article on this, and I also notice that the redirect above from Accademia Filarmonica to the Bologna Academy is misleading, since that is a later group. I need to write an article on the A.F. Antandrus (talk) 20:54, 16 February 2008 (UTC)

Great Orchestras[edit]

A section on the most famous (or best, assuming that's a different thing) orchestras in the world might be a good addition to the page. Anyone agree? (talk) 19:52, 4 March 2008 (UTC)

Very cool! But I am sure there will be, except for a few core examples, many arguments on what orchestra should/shouldn't be included. Gingermint (talk) 23:43, 22 February 2011 (UTC)

principle percussion[edit]

When listing the principles of the orchestral sections this page appears to ignore the percussion section and any principle it may have. I am lead to believe that the percussion section does have a principle and that it is the Timpanist or 1st Timpanist when there are more than one. For the obvious reason that timps are the most common percussion instrument both now and historically. I feel that this should be included as once again the percussion section has been overlooked even though we play a vital role in many modern pieces of music. However if anyone has more reliable information about the principle of the percussion section then please include that instead or if anyone feels that the percussion section was rightly overlooked once again then please enlighten my as to why Joe (Percussionist) —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 22:01, 16 March 2008 (UTC)

Yet again the porfamance was great by the thousand mouthing issues no chance for malonies to face you ever again neither or the freedom of speech could fade —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 01:23, 27 April 2008 (UTC)

About piano[edit]


Were pianos used in an orchestra?

A: Not normally, however in the 18th century it was common to have a keyboard instrument playing Basso Continuo; either harpsichord or organ, or both. Also there may have been one or more members of the lute family, typically the Archlute and Theorbo present. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 19:54, 16 November 2009 (UTC)

External link[edit]

Would you be able to add to the list of external links. This page lists UK orchestras and chamber groups with links to their websites. Thanks. Ndifrancesco (talk) 14:24, 22 May 2009 (UTC)


To settle this once and for all.

The names of the instruments in the "instrumentation" section are proper nouns, hence, "English Horn" and "Bass Clarinet" are correct as opposed to "English horn" and "Bass clarinet". The "Horn" in "English Horn" is the noun, not "English", which is the adjective. Justin Tokke (talk) 21:51, 31 August 2009 (UTC)

Declaring it "settled" does not make it so. The above is simply incorrect. "Horn" and "clarinet" are not proper nouns in the context of referring to musical instruments; if so, they would always be capitalized, which of course they are not. I think you are confused about the difference between a proper noun and a heading. In an orchestra roster, you will see headings for "Flutes," "Oboes," etc., with capital letters, but that's because they are headings, not because they are proper nouns. Review the definition of "proper noun" if you aren't clear on this point.

Whether "English Horn" or "English horn" should be preferred is up to the editing style of whoever is preparing the document. Neither is more correct than the other. An analogy would be tables listing "Fruits" and "Citrus Fruits." (talk) 07:17, 21 July 2012 (UTC)

History of the Orchestra[edit]

Probably worth mentioning Lully and _Les Violons du Roi_, and the spread of that influence to England (during the restoration).

Also worth mentioning _why_ the violin band became the preeminent ensemble for grand occasions, i.e. uniform bowing and lack of frets led to a unanimity of sound. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 19:59, 16 November 2009 (UTC)

Repeated Links?[edit]

The repeated links recently added within the tables in Orchestra#Expanded_instrumentation don't seem to comply with Wikipedia:LINK#Repeated_links. Also, the links shouldn't be literal but rather contextual, e.g. Tuba (tenor) really means Euphonium, not tenor per se. Tayste (talk - contrib) 22:59, 9 December 2009 (UTC)

Is the Celesta in the right section (Keyboards)?[edit]

The Celesta page says: "Although treated as a member of the percussion section in orchestral terms, it is almost always played by a pianist,".

This corresponds to other sources.

So I suggest that it should be moved into the Percussion section for both Late Romantic and Modern Orchestras? —Preceding unsigned comment added by Hugh.glaser (talkcontribs) 16:42, 1 January 2010 (UTC)

So does the organ, it is a wind instrument with keybords, it must be a keyboard instrument. I believe that is much correct to be considered like this. If a percussionist would hear about celesta as being a percussion instrument, he will ask himself, where is the instrument? I want to try some jamming. Regarding the organ, the same stuff: wondering about this wind instrument, he will ask when can I start blowing? I think the fact that it has some keyboards system linked together with some micro-instruments (not a correct term at all) will make the real instrument. The instrument has other dimension and other possibilities because of the keyboard. Hope it's all clear now. --TudorTulok (talk) 09:55, 2 January 2010 (UTC)

In fact it was a percussionist who asked me, and was not sure it should be in "Keyboards".

So in that case you would say that the Celesta page should be corrected?

I was going to say that it is this page (Orchestra that is wrong, and cite as examples of evidence:

Scholes (The Oxford Companion to Music, my edition 9th) simply says it is "percussion family" (p.165) and refers to where it has the Celesta as subgroup (2 d) of the "Instruments of Definite Pitch" in the "Percussion Family" (p.782 ).

Petit-Larousse (my edition 1969) says: "Instrument de percussion..."

However, further research indicates that there is less agreement, and perhaps the Celesta page needs amendment:

The current version of Grove, which is arguably a better source, says in the definition of Celesta: "It is normally played by the keyboard player (...), though some composers mistakenly include it in the percussion parts."

But on the other hand, in the Percussion article, Grove says: "They can also be divided into instruments that produce a sound of definite pitch (e.g. kettledrums, celesta)...".

One might conclude, therefore, that it is a member of the Percussion Family, but is part of the Keyboards Section of the Orchestra - slightly strange, but the distinction is between the instrument and the performer.

In which case the page for Celesta should be changed a little - I will take the discussion over there...

Hugh.glaser (talk) 14:13, 2 January 2010 (UTC)

Evolution of the orchestra / Instrumentation examples[edit]

I don't know how much attention this will get, but I'll raise the issue here rather than make any changes now, as nobody seems to have objected before:

The article currently has four examples of orchestras typical of various time periods, from Classical to Modern, in sections 1.2.1-4. Where do these come from? Are they taken from a published source, or did Wikipedians make them up? If the latter, however accurate they may be, we can't really have them here (WP:OR).

Even with a good source, though, I question their value. While they do offer a decent summary of the general directions in which the orchestra has evolved in this time, they're also fairly arbitrary (though varyingly so) and possibly misleading. If we want information of this sort, I suggest instead relevant examples from actual, significant works. That would be at least as informative, and should not be difficult. If I have time, I will implement this if there is no reaction here. EldKatt (Talk) 18:33, 18 January 2010 (UTC)

I made 'em! It likely will fall under OR depending on who you ask, but I would argue that the published source is indeed the scores themselves. What we have is a general (note the italics) aggregate of instrumentations commonplace to the time period noted. Their value is in showing a detailed description of how the orchestra has progressed and what instruments exactly are in a typical orchestra. I would most definitely be in favor of citing notable scores to back it up, but the problem with that is we would have to include all scores, or pick and choose them, and that's suggestive. Would there be an objective source for that? Unlikely without using all scores. Any other thoughts on this? Justin Tokke (talk) 01:54, 19 January 2010 (UTC)
Oops, I seem to have forgotten about this for a while. And after such a prompt response, too... shame on me. Anyway, I think specific examples from actual, particular works could be at least as informative as hypothetical aggregates--not to mention easier to cite and not OR. If I may make a very practical suggestion:
  • Move the examples to relevant places in the History section, which could be expanded to explain them better. I think it's vital that we also point out what readers should "look for" in the examples to understand what's actually going on.
  • Use as examples specific works agreed upon as significant. I'm thinking works like Monteverdi's L'Orfeo, a Beethoven symphony, Berlioz' Symphonie Fantastique, Stravinsky's Rite of Spring, etc. It should be easy to find not only consensus but sources regarding the significance and suitability of works like that.
Obviously this implies a lot of work--ideally I would love to see the History section grow a lot. I have no idea whether I'll have time to work on this, but I hope so. Theoretically speaking, though, what do you think? EldKatt (Talk) 23:29, 13 February 2010 (UTC)


As much as I like the C Trumpet, for the modern orchestra I had to change the C Trumpet to the B-flat Trumpet. Overwhelmingly the B-flat Trumpet is used and, let's face it, one has to go with reality. Gingermint (talk) 23:41, 22 February 2011 (UTC)

The standard in professional orchestras is the C Trumpet today. Justin Tokke (talk) 23:25, 1 March 2011 (UTC)

Western-POV (redux)[edit]

I saw that there was a discussion on this two years ago, and some claimed the word "Orchestra" is inherently western-centric since it only refers to the Western variant. How then, do we explain the existence of the Chinese orchestra, which is also the name of several state-level orchestras such as the China Central Chinese Orchestra, the National Chinese Orchestra (in Taiwan), the Hong Kong Chinese Orchestra and the Singapore Chinese Orchestra?--Huaiwei (talk) 11:26, 22 April 2011 (UTC)


Does anyone know where I can download the music for the video on this page? It's .ogg and I dont have anything to read it. Money is tight (talk) 04:56, 3 May 2011 (UTC)

File:Budapest Symphony Orchestra.jpg Nominated for Deletion[edit]

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Actually, most people outside U.S. won't know the difference between a "Chapter 11 bankruptcy" and "Chapter 7 bankruptcy". (Besides, chapter of what?) The whole passage would benefit from a wider view. --Oop (talk) 08:48, 25 December 2011 (UTC)

Principal French Horn[edit]

Why is there no statement about the principal french horn? The principal french horn is the second most important player in the orchestra. And yet I find practically no reference to the principal french horn player. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 22:47, 9 December 2012 (UTC)

Standard Instrumentation[edit]

The list of "Modern Orchestra" requires additional consideration. It is certainly true that composers may require all manner and number of weird and wonderful instruments to be added to the orchestra for individual works, but a distinction should be made between these occasional additions and the standard or "core" instrumentation of the typical symphony orchestra.

It is, for example, overly ambitious to list "1 - 6 saxophones" with the compliment of the modern orchestra. While many fine orchestral works have been written which include a saxophone, one may also sit through entire seasons of major symphony orchestra performances without hearing a single note played on a saxophone. The same goes for cornets, euphoniums, etc.

Regarding guitar (with microphone), as a guitarist I would love to see an entire section of guitars become part of the orchestra's standard instrumentation, but alas, such is currently not the reality. A single amplified guitar would most often appear in the context of a concerto, as the solo instrument. But for that matter concertos have been written for everything from kazoo to bagpipes, and I wouldn't suggest including these instruments in the list, either.

A similar coment could be made regarding percussion -- where literally anything, including the kitchen sink -- may be requested; there is no need for an exhaustive listing in -this- article. A short list of the standard percussion instruments/categories would suffice, with a link to the "Percussion" article for details on the seemingly infinite collection of things percussionists are occasionally called upon to play.

One further comment about the number of instruments in each section: this varies widely from orchestra to orchestra, and some of the ranges given are too large; others too small.

I would suggest the following "standard" or "core" list for the modern orchestra:

  • 2-4 flutes (one doubling piccolo)
  • 2-4 oboes (one doubling English horn)
  • 2-4 clarinets (one doubling bass clarinet)
  • 2-4 bassoons (one doubling contrabassoon)
  • 4-8 French horns
  • 3-6 trumpets
  • 3-6 trombones (one doubling bass trombone)
  • 1-2 tubas (one doubling eupohonium)
  • 1 timpanist (3-6 timpani)
  • 2-4 percussionists, covering:
    • drums (snare, bass, tenor, etc.)
    • cymbals and gongs/tam tams
    • chimes and bells
    • keyboard percussion (xylophone, glockenspeil, etc.)
    • ancillary percussion (triangle, wood block, etc.)
  • 1-2 harps
  • 12-20 violins I
  • 10-18 violins II
  • 8-14 violas
  • 8-14 cellos
  • 6-10 double bases

In the modern orchestra there will often be one player in each section who specializes on the "doubling" instrument (e.g., piccolo, bass clarinet, etc.)

There is also frequently a keyboardist or two on staff to cover ensemble piano, celesta, or organ parts, when they appear.

My $0.02 — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 00:04, 13 January 2013 (UTC)

To my eye that is quite an accurate list: feel free to update the article. We get lots of drive-by edits by people adding whatever auxiliary instrument they want to see included, and of course there are dozens of such instruments, all more or less uncommon. Antandrus (talk) 00:50, 13 January 2013 (UTC)
I think "saxophone" and "euphonium" should be placed in parentheses. The saxophone is used in quite a few major works. I thought it odd, too, when someone changed it from just "(saxophone)" to "(1-6 saxophones (soprano, 1-2 altos, 1-2 tenors, baritone))". I was going to revert it back, but no one seemed to have a problem. Saxophilist (talk) 20:58, 14 January 2013 (UTC)
Also, I recommend putting "trumpet" before "French horn" in the list. Saxophilist (talk) 21:03, 14 January 2013 (UTC)
The order (horns, trumpets, trombones, tuba) is correct, based on the typical order for orchestral scores (perhaps because the brass row is usually in that order). Tayste (edits) 21:21, 14 January 2013 (UTC)
You are correct. I was thinking of range, from highest to lowest. Saxophilist (talk) 21:57, 14 January 2013 (UTC)

Types of orchestras[edit]

Toccata reverted my change of Category:Types of musical groups to Category:Types of orchestras. My change was part of my intention to introduce this new category as a subcategory of Category:Types of musical groups following the example on the German language WP. See de:Kategorie:Orchestertyp. I used the procedure Wikipedia:Categorization#Creating category pages for this by first adding this new category to one article. In the new category, things like Orchestra, String orchestra, Mandolin orchestra, etc could be moved and removed from categories Category:Types of musical groups and Category:Orchestras. Is there support for this change? LazyStarryNights (talk) 20:03, 24 July 2013 (UTC)


Obviously there are too many pictures in the lead. Which should go? Toccata quarta (talk) 14:55, 6 August 2013 (UTC)

That diagram is a little odd -- notice the tiny area for second violins, double basses appearing twice, the piccolo way in the back and separate from the flutes, etc. It would be nice to have a diagram but it should match at least one of the pictures, IMO. I vote for removing the diagram for now. Antandrus (talk) 15:09, 6 August 2013 (UTC)

Orchestral Layout[edit]

The image provided for the orchestral layout is certainly very misleading (in that it shows the whole orchestra as a big semi-circle, which is often not the case), and in some cases completely wrong: the double basses appear twice, and various instruments (cornets, piccolo, cor anglais) are in completely the wrong place. It also states that this is the 'standard layout', which is really not the case. It is a layout, but the layout will depend on the size, and repertoire. I'm going to remove the image from the article, and will look for a new image, or possibly create one. Jdp407 (talk) 19:41, 7 September 2013 (UTC)

Proposed merge with Sections of an orchestra[edit]

The Sections of an orchestra article has almost no content (and no verifiable content) and appears to be an unfinished draft. The few sentences of content should be sourced and merged into the Instrumentation section of the Orchestra article. Ahecht (TALK
) 16:48, 19 April 2014 (UTC)

  YesY Merger complete. --Ahecht (TALK
) 14:07, 13 May 2014 (UTC)

When does the concertmaster appear on stage?[edit]

The article says: "In some U.S. orchestras, the concertmaster comes on stage after the rest of the orchestra is seated, shakes hands with the conductor, takes a bow and receives applause." Well, in continental European orchestras, the concertmaster appears together with the other musicians, no extra bow or applause, although the concertmaster may get an extra handshake from the conductor after the latter arrived on stage. In the British and U.S. orchestras that I have seen in concert, the concertmaster would walk out after the other orchestra members and before conductor (and soloists, if applicable), getting an extra round of applause. I have never seen, and cannot imagine, a conductor waiting on stage for the concertmaster to appear! As the conductor would have to, according to the quoted passage in the article, in order to shake hands with the concertmaster before the latter bows and receives applause. Mbshu (talk) 12:42, 20 May 2014 (UTC)

I will change this now in the article. Mbshu (talk) 21:51, 22 May 2014 (UTC)

The opening and first paragraph of "Instrumentation" is the same[edit]

The part: "... string, brass, woodwind, and percussion instruments. Other instruments such as the piano and celesta may sometimes be grouped into a fifth section such as a keyboard section or may stand alone, as may the concert harp and electric and electronic instruments." is same in both places. Because I'm not very familiar and good with editing articles in Wikipedia I won't change a thing, but if someone here is more familiar and have done it before, please pay attention. Matar.maoz (talk) 20:14, 11 January 2015 (UTC)

@Matar.maoz: The introduction serves as a summary for the body and sentences may sometimes be duplicated. If you can improve the summary I encourage you to do so. --NeilN talk to me 17:23, 12 January 2015 (UTC)