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Guide to orchestra

An orchestra represents a large group of talented musicians who play together on different instruments. This guide to orchestra will provide basic information about what makes an orchestra and where did it originate.

The orchestra is divided into sections or groups. It contains sections of percussion, woodwind, brass and string instruments. The term itself comes from the Greeks, which means the area in front of an ancient Greek stage, preserved for the Greek chorus only. The orchestra grew throughout 18th and 19th century but did not change a lot in composition during the 20th century.

A small-size orchestra at that time included about fifty players and was called a chambered orchestra. A full-size orchestra had about 100 players and was called philharmonic orchestra or symphony orchestra. The two names did not indicate any differences between them, but could be used to distinguish different ensembles in the same city (for instance, the New York Symphony Orchestra and the New York Philharmonic Orchestra). Today, a symphony orchestra, will include about eighty to hundred persons depending on the played composition and the size of the hall.

Modern orchestra will include woodwind instruments such as piccolo, flutes, oboes, English horn, clarinets, bass clarinet, bassoons and contrabassoon. Brass instruments will have horns, trumpets, trombones and tuba.

Percussion instruments include timpani, marimba, chimes, vibraphone, xylophone, glockenspiel, tambourine, wood block, triangle, tam-tam, cymbals, bass drum, tenor drum and snare drum. The fourth section of string instruments will contain harps, violins, violas, violoncellos and double basses.

The seating plan for orchestra makes the first row as the string section, and then goes the woodwind section. The third row contains the brass section and the fourth row includes the percussion section.