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Topic: Orchestra seating...

  1. #1

    Orchestra seating...

    Ok I found this standard orchestra seating chart in the encarta dictionary (2000 windows version)

    -1st violins front left: 11 players
    -2nd violins front left, behind 1st violins: 7 players
    -Cellos front right: 5 players
    -Violas front right, behind cellos: 5 players
    -Basses far right (extending up from the cellos to the violas): 3 players
    -Tuba far right, behind basses: 1 player
    -French Horns center, behind clarinets and bassoons: 5 players
    -Trombones right, behind french horns: 4 players
    -Trumpets left, behind french horns: 6 players
    -Percussion far left (extending up from the 1st violins to the 2nd violins)
    -Piccolos center-far left, behind 2nd violins: 1 player
    -Flutes center-left, behind 2nd violins: 2 players
    -Oboes center-right, behind violas: 3 players
    -Bassoons center-right, behind Oboes: 5 players
    -Clarinets center-left, behind flutes and piccolos: 5 players

    The question is, are the number of players correct (this says it is for a standard orchestra)?

    Thanks in advance

  2. #2

    Re: Orchestra seating...

    Hey Adam,

    I don\'t know if this helps but I recently saw a concert (Holst\'s \"The Planets\" [img]images/icons/smile.gif[/img] ) that had the following players. The numbers look quite a bit larger but the ratio seems similar.

    Hope this is useful,
    Ben Ripley

    VIOLAS 9,
    CELLOS 8,
    FLUTES 4,
    PICCOLO 1,
    OBOES 4,
    HORNS 5,
    TUBA 1,
    TIMPANI 1,
    HARP 1.

  3. #3

    Re: Orchestra seating...

    I bet that was great. Did they play all of them?

  4. #4

    Re: Orchestra seating...

    Hi Adam-
    Forgive me for stating the obvious- but the number of instruments used varies with the orchestral piece. I saw a concert this morning with NO brass or woodwinds! (Corelli\'s Concerto Grosso, G minor, Op. 6, No. 8.

    Now perhaps some of the experts here will tell us if the conductor has the discretion of varying, say, 3 horns down to 2 in a piece, or if the composers intent must be followed.


  5. #5

    Re: Orchestra seating...

    Oh, BTW, it wasn\'t just some weird Christmas concert, it was a normal concert of the Louisville Orchestra; the other pieces on the program were staffed with a more normal orchestral complement.

  6. #6

    Re: Orchestra seating...

    Ya, It was awesome! They played all of them.

    Regarding the composer\'s intent, I think only the instructions that are explicitly stated need be followed exactly.
    For example, in the last movement, Holst specified that the chorus be invisible to the audience. During the performance, a door opened and the voices were coming from another room. Very spooky.
    I don\'t think that the number of instruments was not followed exactly though.

    Ben Ripley

  7. #7

    Re: Orchestra seating...

    Originally posted by Adam Frechette:
    The question is, are the number of players correct (this says it is for a standard orchestra)?

    Thanks in advance
    <font size=\"2\" face=\"Verdana, Arial\">Let me be the first one to say this:
    That is one &¤%¤#¤ up chart [img]images/icons/smile.gif[/img]

    6 trumpets and 5 violas? What are they thinking? ONE trumpet can outsound 5 violas easily.
    The whole chart is totally insane, by orchestral standards anyway.

    I wouldn\'t mind knowing what piece called for this kind of crazy instrumentation!!

    In general (And mostly with film scores in mind) I\'d say the seating and number of players for a small/medium sized orchestra is this:

    Piccolo (usually plays the flute as well): 1 (left-center)
    Flutes: 2 (left-center)
    English Horn/Oboes: 3 (center)
    Clarinets: 3 (center)
    Bassoons: 3 (center-right)

    Horns: 4 (left)
    Trumpets: 3-4 (right)
    Trombones: 2-3 + 1 bass trombone (right)
    Tuba: 1 (right)

    Violins: 22 (left)
    Violas: 12 (center to left)
    Violoncelli: 10 (center to right)
    Double basses: 5-6 (right)

    Of course as Carl pointed out here the instrumentation changes from piece to piece but this is a typical full and proper balanced orchestra (given that the composer knows his stuff about dynamics and balance, which really isn\'t a given in these computer age days!) - Increasing the size proportionally with the ratio would yield similar balance but higher density in sound.


  8. #8

    Re: Orchestra seating...

    The number of players change a lot from piece to piece, acording to the composer choices.

    If some piece have more brass players (or more woodwinds), of course you need to have more string players, or else, you don\'t be able to hear strings.
    Thomas are right. That encarta table would never work in a live situation, because you will not hear any strings, only brass (i guess they get that information from different music pieces).

    From the historical point of view, in the beginning, the orchestra were formed by strings; then woodwinds (and french horn/ timpani) were added; brass after;
    In the end, the number of instruments were so big (mahler,...) that the orchestras could reach more than 100 players (entering the concept of symphonic orchestra).

    Usually the strings are the only number not defined by the composer (you know that you need enough string players to keep a balance: more brass and woodwinds, more string players; less brass and woodwinds, less strings).

    All the other players are defined by the composer, because ussually there are different melodic lines for each of then.

    That number depends of two things:
    - diferent melodic lines (example: i want 3 flutes to play 3 different melodic lines, or to play a chord,etc)
    - volume/power (example: i want 6 horns to get a full fat sound)

    OK, i have to go now...

  9. #9

    Re: Orchestra seating...

    Thomas is basically right with that layout being the standard of the modern orchestra. 2 trombones and a bass bone is the most common, as is 3 trumpets. The woodwind section can vary quite a bit with alto flute, contrabassoon and bass clarinet very often being required.

  10. #10

    Re: Orchestra seating...

    Wo! I thought today\'s modern symphonic orchestra consisted of either:

    one keyboard player, 23 years old
    5 PCs running Gigastudio 160
    Dan Dean Solo Brass and Brass Ensemble
    Post Bose or equivalent



    6 violins, 3 violas, 2 cellos, 2 basses
    2 trumptes, 2 trombones
    2 clarinet, 1 flute, 1 oboe, 1 bassoon
    2 percussionists
    1 conductor - not on his podium, because he\'s frantically attending fund-raisers to get enough support to pay for a real orchestra! [img]images/icons/shocked.gif[/img]

    Of course this scenario does not hold true in the EU where the government actually supports music...

    I wait for the day when the curtain goes up and on the stage is orchestra a: Maarten, in a tux and 5 PCs, also dressed in tuxes (I used to know a keyboard player in the mid-70s who had a drum machine with a tux-he said his tips doubled after he had the suit made...) [img]images/icons/cool.gif[/img]


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