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  • Chris Anderson

Music Revision - Music Groups

There are many groups in music. Here are just a few of them.



Brass Band

A group consisting of brass instruments and percussion.


Typically a brass band is made up of cornets, flugelhorns, baritone horns, trombones, euphoniums, and tubas.


The percussion used varies from full kit to just snare and bass drum. Usually suspended cymbals and clash cymbals are used and occasionally timpani. Sometimes a glockenspiel or xylophone is used to add a different tonal quality (or timbre!) to the music.



Chamber Music

Music played by a small group (one to eight) of musicians. Used to be played in a chamber (a room in a mansion or castle). Chamber music was usually quite formal. Because the music was played by such a small group of musicians a conductor wasn’t used.


String Trio - Violin, Viola, Cello

String Quartet - Violin 1, Violin 2, Viola, Cello

Piano Trio - Piano, Violin, Cello

Clarinet Quintet - Clarinet, Violin 1, Violin 2, Viola, Cello

Wind Quintet - Flute, Oboe, Clarinet, Horn, Bassoon


It is very easy to get confused and think that a piano trio is three pianos, or a clarinet quintet is fives clarinets….take your time to learn the instrumentation of these most common groups.



Jazz Band

A jazz band can have pretty much any instrumentation you like. Small jazz groups are known as a combo. This would usually consist of a selection from small drum kit, double bass, piano, trumpet, banjo, guitar, trombone, saxophone, and clarinet.


A larger jazz band is called a big band. This will usually have a brass section of trumpets and trombones, a woodwind section of saxes and clarinets, piano, bass, guitar, and drums.


A jazz band with a strings section is called a jazz orchestra.


The rhythm section in a jazz band is usually at the back, keeping time. Bass and drums working together. The instruments carrying the melody would be at the front and this is called the front line.



Military Band

You’ll usually see these marching, though occasionally they do play sat still!


A military band is essentially a wind band that marches.

Pieces are usually in 2/4 or 4/4 as these are best to march to. Occasionally they’ll be in 6/8. The music won’t be too fast if it’s being marched to as march at speed for any length of time would be extremely tiring. Traditionally a march would be at about 116bpm with a quick march being 140bpm, though there are variations in each band.



Orchestra

Orchestras come in all sorts of shapes and sizes.


Generally speaking you have four sections: strings at the front, woodwind in the second row, brass in the third row, and on the back row - percussion. You may notice that the quieter the instrument the closer to the front they are.


At the centre of the orchestra, right at the front, is the conductor. The conductor interprets the music and also keeps time by using their hands or a baton. The conductor will usually conduct from a partitur which is a score showing all the instrument parts on top of each other. The conductor will then use the score to cue in musicians when needed. I’ll write more about conducting in a future blog.


The partitur is written in a traditional format with woodwind at the top, followed by brass, then percussion, then strings. Usually the parts are written in pitch order with the highest being first.


An orchestra with just strings is called a string orchestra (gosh!) and a small orchestra would be called a chamber orchestra.



Singers

I wrote about this in an earlier blog but figured it wouldn’t do any harm repeating it here.


Choir - A group of singers. Soprano, Alto, Tenor, Bass (SATB). Sometimes includes children.

All Male Choir - Male singers. Tenors and Basses, sometimes Trebles and Altos (boys). Treble and Alto sing the same as Soprano and Alto.

Male Voice Choir - Adult men. Tenors and Basses. (TTBB).

All Female Choir - Sopranos and Altos (SSAA).



Wind Band

A wind band is a large group of musicians consisting of woodwind, brass, and percussion. There are no strings in a wind band (apart from maybe a double bass).


Numbers

Here is a list of specifically numbered groups of musicians and singers:


2 = Duet

3 = Trio

4 = Quartet

5 = Quintet

6 = Sextet

7 = Septet

8 = Octet

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