What Is a Symphonic Orchestra?

A symphonic orchestra is a large ensemble composed of various instrument classifications. You’ll find brass, string, wind, and percussion included with this setup.

The string instruments in a symphonic orchestra include the violin, cello, harp, and double bass. Some groups have a piano in that grouping because the keys hammer a string. The snare, bass, celesta, triangle, and timpani are included for those who play percussion.

You’ll find all the standard woodwinds and brass instruments in a symphonic orchestra, just as you would in most other bands. 

How Is a Symphonic Orchestra Defined?

An orchestra is a group of performers that counts as 40 players or less. They’re sometimes referred to as a chamber symphony or group. Because of its smaller size, some instruments might not be included, or there might only be one of each in some compositions.

The more prominent orchestras with over 40 players are what qualifies as a symphonic group. This term comes from a Greek name for a semi-circular area installed in front of a stage. In ancient cultures, this space was reserved for the choir. 

Although people have assembled different instrument combinations for millennia, it’s only within the past four centuries that formal orchestras have come together. During Mozart’s time in the late 18th century, dramatic changes occurred, with composers putting together specific arrangements for different instruments.

The first symphonies typically performed three movements of shorter lengths. As the demand grew for more complicated pieces, the formal structures of today’s symphonic orchestra began. 

There are many outstanding symphonic orchestras in the world. In 2014, there were over 1,200 symphonies performing in the United States alone.