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Topic: Small Orchestra Configurations

  1. #1

    Small Orchestra Configurations

    I\'m looking to compose orchestral pieces for small ensembles and would like to learn more about the various \"configurations\" generally used for small ensembles as far as what instruments were used and in what particular combinations. Are there any \"standard\" configurations perhaps associated with different periods and styles? I\'m interested in chamber music from periods ranging from the renaissance and baroque to romanticism.

    Starting from trios, quartets and quintets what options are there beyond that for small ensembles? What would a sextet for instance tend to consist of? I\'m thinking strings, woodwinds and brass and/or harpsichord/pianoforte (?) (Something like: 1 violin, 1 viola, 1 cello, 1 oboe, 1 bassoon, 1 harpsichord or something?) What about an octet and so on?

    Clearly there are endless possibilities but I\'m curious to know what may have been \"standard\" configurations used for these given styles.

    Any insight?


  2. #2

    Re: Small Orchestra Configurations

    Before it even begins.... I want to label this thread thusly.....

    * Shameless GPO plug thread *

  3. #3
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Aug 2001

    Re: Small Orchestra Configurations

    1Vin, 1Cel, 1Pn
    1Vin, 1Vla, 1Cel
    2Vin, 1Vla, 1Cel, (1DB)

    2Fl, 1AFl
    2Ob, 1Eh
    2Cl, 1BCl
    1Fl, 1Cl, 1Fh, 1Bn
    2Cl, 2Fh, 2Bn
    1Ob, 1Cl, 1Fh, 1Bn
    2Ob, 2Cl, 2Fh, 2Bn

    Those are pretty common in the era you wanted to know.

    2Tp, 1Tb, 1Tu
    2Tp, 1Fh, 1Tb, 1Tu

    You can find a lot of arrangements for those combination.

    Combination of different instrumental family are not common untill 20C...

  4. #4

    Re: Small Orchestra Configurations

    Originally posted by Tumababa:

    * Shameless GPO plug thread *
    <font size=\"2\" face=\"Verdana, Arial\">?

    Why would this be a GPO plug thread?

    Ken, your diagram looks interesting but I\'m not quite sure I fully understand it. You start with trio configurations, then the second paragraph lists optional instruments to add to the initial trio setup?

    Tb= Trombone or Tuba?
    Fh= French Horn (Flugel Horn)?
    Tu= ?
    Eh= ?

  5. #5

    Re: Small Orchestra Configurations

    Try the best selling book \'Orchestration\' by Walter Piston.
    Regards [img]images/icons/smile.gif[/img]

  6. #6

    Re: Small Orchestra Configurations

    > \"Why would this be a GPO plug thread?\"

    Okay. I\'ll start...

    Because GPO has an \"ensemble building\" feature.

    Typically you either buy a solo instrument, or an ensemble of instruments. Multiple solo instruments work okay when playing harmonies, but once they play in unison, you get one BIG solo instrument. You can try offsetting the delays of the solo instruments, but then you get phasing/chorusing effects. Ensemble instruments are great for playing in unison, but then how does one do divisi?

    GPO provides enough different voices to build the ensemble to the size that you want, and you can play them in unison, or individually.

    Hopefully that wasn\'t too shameless a plug. [img]images/icons/smile.gif[/img]

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Jun 2000
    Chandler, Arizona

    Re: Small Orchestra Configurations

    Check out some of scores for Bach, Mozart and other early composers. Many of the pieces they composed for were small chamber ensembles. There was a couple links with websites for free score downloads posted recently. Use the search function for this forum and you will find all sorts of goodies.

  8. #8
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Aug 2001

    Re: Small Orchestra Configurations


    Tb = Trombone
    Tu = Tuba
    Fh = (French) Horn
    Eh = English Horn

    Each line shows the common combination.
    \"1Vin, 1Cel, 1Pn\" are known as Piano Trio... like that.
    \"2Vin, 1Vla, 1Cel\" are string quartet.
    \"1Fl, 1Cl, 1Fh, 1Bn\" and \"1Ob, 1Cl, 1Fh, 1Bn\" are common kinds of woodwind quartet.

  9. #9

    Re: Small Orchestra Configurations

    Thanks all for the input.

    OK I get it Ken. These are all various trios and quartet combinations. Cool.

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