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Placement of Instruments on an Orchestra Stage

There are many factors that contribute to the beauty of an orchestral concert—the tuning of the instruments, the talent of the performers and the cohesion with which the band can play. However, a contributing factor that few people recognize is the placement of the instruments on the stage. The orchestral set-up is specifically tailored to ensure the highest quality of sound.

Components of an orchestra

A traditional orchestra is composed of four main groups or families of instruments: strings, woodwinds, brass and percussion.

Strings are instruments on which strings are either plucked or scraped and manipulated to make the music. Examples include the violin and bass.

In woodwind instruments, such as the clarinet and flute, the music is produced by introducing air into the body of an enclosed pipe.

Brass instruments are also wind instruments, and are most often made of the material of their namesake, but can also be made from other metals. Examples of brass instruments include the horn, trumpet and trombone.

Percussion instruments are struck instead of strummed or blown into to produce sound. These instruments include drums, cymbals and xylophones.

Seating order

There is a generally accepted seating arrangement for the instruments of the orchestra, based on the tones and reverberations of each instrument.

The orchestral instruments will be spread out in a semicircle on the stage facing the audience, with the conductor or maestro at a podium in the middle. Facing the stage, the string instruments will be closest to the audience and the conductor; moving from left to right across the stage are the violins, violas, cellos and basses. If there is a harp included in the orchestra, it will be placed behind the violins. Located behind the strings and at the center of the stage (immediately right of the harp) are the woodwind instruments, including the flutes, clarinets, oboes and bassoons. The brass instruments, featuring the horns, trumpets, trombones and tubas, will be spread out along the back and right hand side of the stage. The back left section of the stage is reserved for the percussion instruments such cymbals, snare drums, bass drums and others such as the xylophone.

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