How to Sit in an Orchestra

By Contributor ; Updated September 15, 2017
Sit in an Orchestra

How to Sit in an Orchestra. Knowing where to sit in when you are a musician in an orchestra can be confusing and may seem impossible to understand. Luckily, there are an easy set of typical rules of where everyone sits that are easy to remember and will let you find your seat with no trouble.

Make sure which section you need to sit in. The strings for example have two or more different sections within their own section such as first and second violins.

Find the section you are going to be sitting in. All orchestras are generally organized in the same order based on a curve around the conductor's podium. All the strings will be sitting in the first semi-circle around the conductor, the woodwinds will be sitting in the second curve directly in front of the conductor. The brass section will be to the left and right of the woodwinds in the third curve section. Part of the percussion will be sitting in between the brass sections and on a fourth and final curve at the conductor's left.

Find your part section. This is ordered from instrument with the highest range to the lowest if you're facing the orchestra like the conductor or audience. For the strings section, on the far left, will be the first violins, then second violins, viola and so on. The woodwinds and brass move from front to back and from the higher range instruments to the lower with the flute in the first section, then clarinet. For the brass section, the trumpets and high range instruments sit on the conductor's right and the lower range, like the French horn, sit on the left. The percussion are interspersed in their own areas between and behind the brass section.

Find your specific chair. Within each section, a musician is assigned a position or chair. This is based on the musician's skill and is usually highly competitive. Within the strings, the first chair violinist or cellist would sit on the far right hand seat within their section. Since music stands are often shared, the first and second will share a stand, the third and fourth and so on. The woodwinds and brass sit from left to right with the principal sitting at the far left of the section and moving downward in chairs to the right. The left and right for this purpose is based on facing the conductor and audience this time.

Determine your role in your chair. There are traditional rules to sitting in a specific spot in the orchestra. One of the basics being that the stand partner on the left is the one that turns the music during practices and performances. This hides the movement from the audience. The first chair oboe is the one that is responsible for playing the A that the entire orchestra tunes itself to. The first chair violinist is the one that the orchestra looks to for instructions when the conductor is not present or on stage. This mainly involves signaling the oboe, by standing and facing the orchestra, to begin playing the tuning A, as well as gaining the orchestra's attention to begin tuning.