Orchestra & Band Instrumentation Codes Close Window

Following some titles in our Orchestra & Band catalogs, you will see a numeric code enclosed in square brackets, as in these examples:

  Order
Qty
Description Price
  Qty.
Beethoven
 Symphony No 1 in C, op 21
  [2,2,2,2—2,2,0,0, tymp, 44322]

$150.00
  Qty.
Jones
 Wind Band Overture
  [2+1,1,3+ac+bc,2,SATB—2+2,4,3+1,1, tymp, percussion, double bass]

$85.00
  Qty.
MacKenzie
 Hines Pond Fantasy (DePaolo)
  [2d1+1,1,2+1,1—2,2(+2),3,0, perc, tymp, 44322, Eb clarinet, SAATB saxes, trombone solo]

$75.00

The bracketed numbers tell you the precise instrumentation of the ensemble. The system used above is standard in the orchestra music field. The first set of numbers (before the dash) represent the Woodwinds. The set of numbers after the dash represent the Brass. Percussion is abbreviated following the brass. Strings are represented with a series of five digits representing the quantity of each part (first violin, second violin, viola, cello, bass). Other Required and Solo parts follow the strings:

Woodwinds—Brass,   Percussion,   Strings,   Other

Principal auxilary instruments (piccolo, english horn, bass clarinet, contrabassoon, wagner tuba, cornet & euphonium) are linked to their respective instruments with either a "d" if the same player doubles the auxiliary instrument, or a "+" if an extra player is required. Instruments shown in parenthesis are optional and may be omitted.

Example 1 - Beethoven:

[2,2,2,2—2,2,0,0, tymp, 44322]

The Beethoven example is typical of much Classical and early Romantic fare. In this case, the winds are all doubled (2 flutes, 2 oboes, 2 clarinets and 2 bassoons), and there are two each horns and trumpets. There is no low brass. There is tympani. Strings are a standard 44322 configuration (4 first violin, 4 second violin, 3 viola, 2 cello, 2 bass). Sometimes strings are simply listed as "str," which means 44322 strings.

Example 2 - Jones: (concert band/wind ensemble example)

[2+1,1,3+ac+bc,2,SAATB—4,2+2,3+1,1, tymp, percussion, double bass]

The second example is common for a concert band or wind ensemble piece. This ficticious work is for 2 flutes (plus piccolo), 1 oboe, 3 clarinets plus alto and bass clarinets, 2 bassoons, 5 saxes (soprano, 2 altos, tenor & bari),4 horns, 2 trumpets (plus 2 cornets), 3 trombones, euphonium, tuba, tympani, percussion and double bass. Note the inclusion of the saxes after bassoon for this band work. Note also that the separate euphonium part is attached to trombone with a plus sign. For orchestral music, saxes are at the end (see Saxophones below. It is highly typical of band sets to have multiple copies of parts, especially flute, clarinet, sax, trumpet, trombone & percussion. Multiples, if any, are not shown in this system. The numbers represent only distinct parts, not the number of copies of a part.

Example 3 - MacKenzie: (a fictional work, by the way).

[2d1+1,1,2+1,1—2,2(+2),3,0, perc, tymp, 66432, Eb clarinet, SAATB saxes, trombone solo]

In the third example, we have a rather extreme use of the system. It is an orchestral work for piccolo, 2 flutes (1 of whom doubles on piccolo), 1 oboe, 2 clarinets plus an additional bass clarinet, 1 bassoon, 2 horns, 2 trumpets (plus an optional 2 cornets), 3 trombones, no tuba, percussion, tympani, 6 first violins, 6 second violins, 4 violas, 3 cellos, 2 double basses, Eb clarinet (as an additional chair, not doubled), 5 saxes (soprano, 2 alto, tenor & baritone) & a trombone soloist.

Note: This system lists Horn before Trumpet. This is standard orchestral nomenclature. Unless otherwise noted, we will use this system for both orchestra and band works (in most band scores, Trumpet precedes Horn, and sometimes Oboe & Bassoon follow Clarinet). Also, it should be noted that Euphonium can be doubled by either Trombone or Tuba. Typically, orchestra scores have the tuba linked to euphonium, but it does happen where Trombone is the principal instead.

Saxophones, when included in orchestral music (they rarely are) will be shown in the "other instrument" location after strings and before the soloist, if any. However for band music, they are commonly present and therefore will be indicated after bassoon as something similar to "SAATB" where S=soprano, A=alto, T=tenor and B=baritone. Letters that are duplicated (as in A in this example) indicate multiple parts.

And finally, here is one more way to visualize the above code sequence:

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