Welcome to Orchestranet
Once limited to aristocratic audiences, classical music has been a strong culture-shaping feature in Britain over the course of history. Equally accessible today by audiences belonging to all societal strata, as well as felt and understood, it adjoins many of Britain’s virtuosi in orchestras, philharmonics and other types of instrumental music groups. It is described as music in its most valuable form as it is always clear and harmonious and does not require any artifice in order to attract an audience. For an easier introduction into commonly used terminology, a number of notions specific to this field should be explained.
Orchestra – An orchestra can be defined as a group of musicians playing various instruments, joining for classical music performances. Normally, orchestras encompass many sections, for example brass, strings, percussion etc.
Sinfonia – A term used to class a group as a symphony orchestra, it is usually part of its name.
Philharmonic – A philharmonic can concisely be defined as a full-size symphonic orchestra, comprising all instrument sections.
Chamber orchestra – Unlike the philharmonic, a chamber orchestra is much smaller, comprising an average number of 25 instrumentalists. Chamber orchestras perform compositions purposely written for small instrumental groups and are mainly oriented towards early classical music, as well as baroque, although they are known to perform contemporary music as well.
Sinfonietta – Also an orchestra of reduced dimensions, it has the distinctive trait of being oriented towards stringed instruments.
Camerata – Dating back to the 1500s, a Camerata is an art of music school, predominantly the latter, of small dimensions.
Classical music groups use a wide range of instruments classed according to the specific methods of obtaining musical notes, as well as the materials they are crafted from, as seen below.
String instruments – String instruments generate sounds through the vibration of chords, through either bowing, plucking or striking. The principal stringed instruments an orchestra includes are the violin, viola, cello and bass.
Percussion instruments – Most of these musical instruments, which produce sounds when struck, are composed of two parts, aside from those which are struck by hand. They usually include the timpani, bass drum, tambourine, triangle, snare drum and xylophone.
Brass instruments – Brass instruments are classed as such according to the way sounds are produced (a combination of vibration and air flow), and not according to the metal they are made from, as suggested by their category name. The most frequently played brass instruments are the trombone, French horn, tuba and trumpet.
Woodwind instruments – These instruments generate sounds through the interaction of air flow with wooden or metallic (typically bronze, tin or copper) structures such as reeds or tubes. Most commonly, the category used by an orchestra includes the flute, clarinet, bass clarinet, saxophone, piccolo, oboe and English horn.
Keyboard instruments – Keyboard instruments, as suggestively named, comprise a musical keyboard which is played manually, the keys being made from wood or plastic. The oldest known and most frequently used instrument of this type is the piano. Aside from the piano, in its two main forms (the forte and tangent piano), this category mainly includes the organ, celesta and harpsichord.