In every wind ensemble, instrumentation and positioning of performers vary according to the number of instrumentalists in the group. Many factors come into play in the arrangement of the ensemble, based on the level of ability of the musicians. Depending on the setup, the sound produced by the ensemble can be inhibited or lacking in tonal resonance. There is no set formula for the seating chart of a wind ensemble; however, certain guidelines should be noted when considering the placement of each instrument in order to facilitate the fullest and darkest sound possible.
Keep all similar instruments in close proximity to each other. In this way, musicians will be seated next to other instruments playing similar parts. Young musicians tend to lack confidence; if similar instruments are placed together the musicians will hear others playing the same part, which can create higher confidence in musical passages. Always keep individual sections in close proximity to each other. Do not separate a section completely unless the repertoire specifically calls for it.
Lower Octave and Softer Instruments
Instruments such as the bassoon, bass clarinet and tuba do not project as fully as other instruments. Place these instruments on the edges of the ensemble so that they will be closer to the listener, and the sounds emanating from them will project farther. Additionally, this placement will allow other sections of the ensemble to play with these instruments and be less likely to drown them out.
Within an individual section, the placement of musicians on the outside of the rows varies in every ensemble. Many like to place the strongest musicians on the outside of sections. This is done for a several reasons. One is to help carry the sound of the lead parts. Another is to cover the weaker parts. Others feel the lead parts carry well enough with the lead players in the middle of the group and feel that as sound travels to the listener the overall projection balances out. This seating arrangement can be experimented with to find one that fits best with a specific venue and performing group.
Sample Seating Chart
Place flutes and oboes in the front row, with the piccolo on the outside and the oboes in the middle. The oboe is the tuning basis for the band and should be placed to facilitate tuning. The saxophones and French horns should be placed in the second row, with the French horns on the left side so the bells face the audience and to achieve a stronger blend between the two sections. Place the trumpets, tuba, baritones and trombones in the third row, either with the tuba in the middle or on one side. All percussion should be placed behind the other instruments; the sound from these instruments will carry across the wind ensemble and to the listener. Expansion of each row may be necessary to facilitate larger sections in an ensemble.
Duke Sullivan started writing in 2006. He contributes to various websites and is a staff writer for the "Daily Evergreen" newspaper, covering everything from news to research. Sullivan is pursuing Bachelor of Arts degrees in English and professional/creative writing, music performance and education at Washington State University.