Why are orchestral instruments arranged on stage that way?

August 22, 2014

Classical Music Self Defense

The easiest way to sort this out is to remember that orchestras evolved as acoustic ensembles. Without electronic enhancement, the rule of thumb is: quieter instruments towards the front, louder instruments towards the back.

In the front you usually find strings. If you have a large orchestra of approximately 100 musicians, then about 60 of the players would be string players. Strings are quieter than most of the other orchestral instruments, so there are more of them and they sit as far forward as possible so we can hear them.

Behind the strings in the middle would usually be the woodwinds. This would be from 10 to 12 in our large example orchestra.

In the back right corner, you find the brass. Most conductors would probably put the brass in another room if they could get away with it. The numbers of brass would most often not be more than…

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