Orchestra Configurations and Instruments


There’s something magnificent about hearing an orchestra live. Whether it be witnessing the sheer amount of players and instruments. Or being hit by the wall of sound that has been perfectly placed and configured. In today’s blog, we’ll be talking about what instruments make up an orchestra and how they’re placed on the stage. 

The Instruments of An Orchestra

An orchestra is split into 4 distinct sections. These groups comprise of instruments which are part of the same family:

Let’s meet their members!

The String Family

These instruments look very similar apart from their sizing. String instruments are hollowed-out wooden vessels. They have four strings stretched across their bodies. Tightening the strings of different thicknesses to different lengths produces varying tones. Placing a finger on a string creates a different note.

The Woodwind Family

These instruments are tubes with an opening at one end and a mouthpiece at the other. Metal caps called keys cover the rows of holes on the tube. Pressing on a combination of different keys produces different musical notes. Because of their differing shapes and playing styles, woodwinds are divided into: no reed; single reed; and double reed categories. 

The Brass Family

Brass instruments are long pipes that widen at the end into a bell-like shape. These pipes are curved and twisted which makes them easier to hold and play. To create sound, players must “buzz” into the mouthpiece to vibrate air into the instrument. Like in woodwinds, brass have valves that are pressed to produce different notes. 

The Percussion Family

Percussion provides a variety of rhythms, textures and tones to an orchestral piece. Sound is produced by striking, shaking or scraping the instrument. Percussion are divided into two categories: tuned (plays specific notes) or untuned (produces sound with no definite pitch). There are many many instruments in this family so here are but a few:

The Configuration

Think of the orchestra as one large circle. Within it are circles that keep getting smaller: each housing certain instruments. In the smallest lower circle sits the conductor: they are in charge of the leading the orchestra. 

In the circle just in front of the conductor sits the: 

The next largest circle houses the:

And, the largest circle is where the brass sits. This is because they are the loudest and therefore need to be the furthest away from the audience. And, there you have: the orchestra!

About the Author

Lydia B.

Lydia B.

Lydia B. is a Marketing Coordinator and Music Club Coach for Gooroo, a tutoring membership that matches students to tutors perfect for them based on their unique learning needs. Gooroo offers Math, English, SAT, Coding, Spanish tutoring, and more.