What is a Symphony Orchestra?
An orchestra is what plays symphonies but it can play other music too. Whenever you go to the movies and hear music being played during the movie it was probably an orchestra playing it. Lots of different kinds of music has been written for orchestras to play - so whenever you think of an orchestra you can think of lots of great music.
But no matter what the orchestra is playing it is still an orchestra. So what is an orchestra? The orchestra is made of four families of instruments. Strings, brass, woodwinds, and percussion are the four families in an orchestra.
The form is what makes the symphony orchestra different from other groups of instruments that play together like jazz bands or school bands. A modern symphony orchestra has a full strength of around 100 musicians. The number and kind of instruments that play in an orchestra depends on what the music calls for. The percussion section is where the composers add "special" instruments.
The word symphony comes from two different words. The word sym, means "together" and phonos, means "sound." In the beginning symphonies were written for singing as well as for instruments. Today when we think of a symphony we mean music written for an orchestra to play. The form is what makes the symphony orchestra different from other kinds of music that an orchestra plays.
A modern symphony orchestra has a full strength of around 100 musicians. The number and kind of instruments that play in an orchestra depends on what the music calls for. The percussion section is where the composers add "special" instruments.
Todays orchestra has developed in a relatively short time, from small ensembles of strings with a pair of woodwinds or brass instruments from the baroque period (late 17th to mid-18th centuries), into a huge band of instruments of all varieties.
Although the string instruments resemble those of the earliest orchestras, they have been adapted and strengthened as the power and numbers of the wind and brass sections grew. Handel, writing in the early 18th century, might have had one horn, whereas Mahler at the beginning of the 20th century demanded eight.
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