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Orchestration for Band: a companion course - Intro

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This lesson is intended as a companion course for QcCowboy

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Different Instruments, Different Concept of Ensemble

One of the major differences been the Orchestra and the Band is of course the instrumentation. Beyond the obvious difference of not having a string section, there is a completely different mentality regarding the use of instruments. In the Orchestra, if the composer writes for 2 flutes, 2 oboes, 2 clarinets, 2 bassoons, 2 horns, 2 trumpets, timpani, and strings, the piece will almost invariably be played by that exact combination of instruments. In the Band, however, each band has its own peculiar instrumentation; a particular ensemble may have only 1 oboe, no bassoons, 5 flutes, 12 clarinets, etc. Frequent cross-cueing is sometimes necessary to ensure that parts are covered.

Due to this, many Band conductors have a rather cavalier attitude regarding the composer

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The "Standard" Instrumentation

Due to the immense variety of Bands of all levels of skill, I will summarize three types of ensembles one is most likely to encounter: the Professional wind ensemble, the Collegiate/Scholastic band, and the Community band. Please note that each of the examples below is in proper score order (though some composers prefer to place the bassoons above the clarinets to keep the double reed instruments together).

Of the three types, the Professional wind ensemble will be most recognizable to composers accustomed to writing for Orchestra. The Professional wind ensemble will be a chamber ensemble with one person per part, excepting the Bb clarinets, who will have 2 or 3 players per part. The ensemble is usually of a fixed size, with no "extra" instruments, and will be quite capable of playing anything that one would write for the modern virtuoso Orchestra. The following list shows the typical Professional wind ensemble:

1 Piccolo (Flute III)

1 Flute I

1 Flute II (may double Alto Flute)

1 Oboe I

1 Oboe II (may double English Horn)

1 English Horn

0-1 Eb Clarinet (may also play Bb Clarinet I)

2-3 1st Bb Clarinets (one player may double on Eb Clarinet)

2-3 2nd Bb Clarinets

2-3 3rd Bb Clarinets

0-1 Eb Alto Clarinet

1 Bb Bass Clarinet

0-1 Eb Contra-alto Clarinet

0-1 Bb Contrabass Clarinet

1 Bassoon I

1 Bassoon II

0-1 Contrabassoon

1 1st Eb Alto Saxophone (may double Bb Soprano Saxophone)

1 2nd Eb Alto Saxophone

1 Bb Tenor Saxophone

1 Eb Baritone Saxophone

4-5 Bb Trumpets/Cornet (divided, see this article for details)

1 1st Horn in F

1 2nd Horn in F

1 3rd Horn in F

1 4th Horn in F

1 Trombone I

1 Trombone II

1 Trombone III (Bass Trombone)

1-2 Euphoniums

2-3 Tubas

0-1 String Bass

1 Timpani (4 to 5 drums)

3-5 Percussion

The typical Collegiate/Scholastic band is attached to an institute of higher learning. It tends to have more players, since many of the players are music majors or minors and are required to play in specific ensembles for course credit. This Band may be as accomplished as any Professional Band, or it may be only as advanced as a high school ensemble; the level of quality and musicianship may vary greatly. The following list shows the typical Collegiate/Scholastic band:

1-2 Piccolo (may double Flute)

1-6 Flute I

1-6 Flute II

1-6 Flute III

1-2 Oboe I

0-2 Oboe II (may double English Horn)

0-1 English Horn

0-1 Eb Clarinet (may also play Bb Clarinet I)

2-6 1st Bb Clarinets

2-6 2nd Bb Clarinets

2-6 3rd Bb Clarinets

0-2 Eb Alto Clarinets

1-4 Bb Bass Clarinets

0-2 Eb Contra-alto Clarinet

0-2 Bb Contrabass Clarinet

0-1 Bassoon I

0-1 Bassoon II

0-1 Contrabassoon

1-4 1st Eb Alto Saxophone (may double Bb Soprano Saxophone)

1-4 2nd Eb Alto Saxophone

1-4 Bb Tenor Saxophone

1-2 Eb Baritone Saxophone

6-12 Bb Trumpets/Cornet (divided, see this article for details)

1-2 1st Horn in F

1-2 2nd Horn in F

0-2 3rd Horn in F

0-2 4th Horn in F

1-3 Trombone I

1-3 Trombone II

1-3 Trombone III (Bass Trombone)

2-4 Euphoniums

2-4 Tubas

0-1 String Bass

1 Timpani (3 to 5 drums)

4-7 Percussion

Finally, the Community band is a mixed bag; it may be as skilled as a Professional band, or it may contain quite mediocre musicians. It may have a full complement of musicians (like a Professional band) to cover each part, or it may be missing key instruments. The composer never knows what he will encounter in a Community band. The following list shows an example of a possible Community band (on the smaller sideā€¦ such a band could also be identical to the Collegiate/Scholastic band above):

0-1 Piccolo (may double Flute)

1-6 Flute I

1-6 Flute II

0-2 Oboe I

0-2 Oboe II (may double English Horn)

0-1 Eb Clarinet (may also play Bb Clarinet I)

2-6 1st Bb Clarinets

2-6 2nd Bb Clarinets

0-6 3rd Bb Clarinets

0-2 Eb Alto Clarinets

0-2 Bb Bass Clarinets

0-1 Eb Contra-alto Clarinet

0-1 Bb Contrabass Clarinet

0-1 Bassoon I

0-1 Bassoon II

1-2 1st Eb Alto Saxophone (may double Bb Soprano Saxophone)

1-2 2nd Eb Alto Saxophone

1-2 Bb Tenor Saxophone

0-1 Eb Baritone Saxophone

3-9 Bb Trumpets/Cornet (divided, see this article for details)

0-1 1st Horn in F

0-1 2nd Horn in F

0-1 3rd Horn in F

0-1 4th Horn in F

1-2 Trombone I

0-2 Trombone II

0-3 Trombone III (Bass Trombone)

1-3 Euphoniums

0-3 Tubas

0-1 Timpani (2 to 4 drums)

1-3 Percussion

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In further articles in this course, I will address the individual instruments of the Band and discuss issues related to their abilities, uses, and practical limitations. Exercises may be assigned as appropriate.

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