string section, (2) the woodwind section, (3) the brass section, (4) and the
percussion section. The various instruments in the string, woodwind, and
brass section are pitched in different ranges, like voices in a choir. In the
following discussion, the instruments in each of these sections are listed in the
order from those of the highest range to those of the lowest. Some percussion
instruments are also tuned to definite pitches, but most of them have an
The string section is the heart of a symphony orchestra. It has more
than half of the musicians and consists of from 20 to 32 violins, 8 to 10
violas, 8 to 10 cellos, and 6 to 10 string basses. The violinists are divided
into two groups of equal size. The first violins play the highest-pitched part
in the string section, and the second violin play the next highest. The leading
first violinist serves as concertmaster of the orchestra. the concertmaster
directs the other musicians in tuning their instruments and may also be the
orchestra's assistant conductor.
The woodwind section consists chiefly of flutes, oboes, clarinets, and
bassoons. An orchestra has from 2 to 4 of each of these instruments. The
musicians in this section also play various other woodwind instruments when
a score requires them to do so.
The brass section consists of 2 to 5 trumpets, 2 to 8 French horns, 2 to
4 trombones, and 1 tuba.
The percussion section includes two or more timpani, or kettle drums,;
bells and cymbals; wood blocks; and bass drum, gong, snare drum, triangle,
tambourine and xylophone.
The conductor knows that each of these sections are crucial to the
sound necessary for the score, therefore, he or she designs the seating
arrangement to produce a certain blend of sounds. The basic seating
arrangements are as follows: the strings form a semicircle around the
conductor; the woodwind instruments are arranged in the center, with the
percussion and brass sections at the rear.
The musicians have many responsibilities. Some of these
responsibilities are to be prepared to work hard to achieve the perfection that
the conductor needs to make the score sound right, be prepared and on time
to all rehearsals, to behave appropriately at a concert and rehearsals to insure
that the conductor has their total attention and the musicians are focused, and,
ultimately, listen to the conductor's instructions. They must remember that
the conductor is the person in charge, and, although they may not always
agree with the way that he or she feels about the music, they are to play their
hearts out , but to play as the conductor has designated them to. They must
keep up with the music to make sure that the music flows and that the
harmony does not get mixed up with the melody and to insure that the music
will be played as intended or as instructed by the conductor.
The conductor directs the musicians by keeping time with the baton or
with his or her hands, and by means of gestures and facial expression.
However, the conductor do their most important work before a
performance-and even before rehearsing a composition. In most cases, the
conductor selects the music to be played at a concert. After selecting a work,
the conductor's first job is t interpret the music by deciding exactly how it
should be played. Interpretation of a work includes such elements as tempo,
tonal quality, and phrasing. After determining these features of the score, the
conductor rehearses the music with the players.
During a rehearsal, the conductor asks individual musicians or sections
to play various parts of the score again and again until the desired effect has
been achieved. He or she strives for the correct balance among the many
instruments playing at the...