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Shorthand for Orchestra Instrumentation

The Orchestra is divided into four groups and specified as follows:


o Flutes, Oboes, Clarinets, Bassoons
o Horns, Trumpets, Trombones, Tuba
o Percussion, Piano, Harp, Ect.
String Section
o Violins, Violas, Celli, Basses

There is no standardized version of this shorthand; however above is the basic

The first four numbers are the woodwind instruments, reading down as they are on
a score, and each different instrument separated by a dot, so 2 flutes, 2 oboes, 2
clarinets, 2 bassoons. Next come the brass, beginning with horns, then trumpets,
then trombones, then tuba. So, 4 horns, 3 trumpets, 3 trombones, 1 tuba. Jump to
the last five sets of numbers, and you have the string strengths, 10 1st violins, 8
2nd violins,6 violas, 6 celli and 4 basses. Many orchestra scores don't specify the
number of string players of course, but orchestra schedules and noticeboards
always use these numbers, because there are times when the string strength of a
normal symphony orchestra ( might be reduced, during a concerto or
a classical period symphony, for example.
Between the brass and the strings will generally come the timpani ("T"), percussion
("P"), harp ("hp"), and anything else that doesn't fit elsewhere. Somethimes the "P"
for percussion might have a figure after it in brackets (indicating the number of
players) or it might just list the individual instruments.
Now, suppose your first four numbers aren't "", but are
Well the letter(s) after the "+" sign indicate each woodwind instrument's auxillary,
ie piccolo, cor anglais, bass clarinet and contra bassoon. So, "2+p" means "2 flutes
plus a piccolo".

If the "p" is in brackets, it means the instrument is played by one of the flutes, ie
"3(p)", meaning there are three flautists, one of whom also plays piccolo. If two of
those three were to double on piccolo, then it would read "3(2p)".

Any of the other woodwind instruments are indicated in the same way, so for
example if you had 3 clarinets and one were to double on alto sax ("asx"), then you
would see "3(asx)".
If there are doublers (players who play more than one instrument) outside the
woodwind or brass families, then you might see an equals sign, or a "+" sign in
brackets. So "pno=org" or "pno(+org)" both mean that there is an organ part and a
piano part in the score intended to be played by the same person.



2, 2, 2, 2 4, 3, 3, 1, timp, str

2 flutes, 2 oboes, 2
clarinets, 2 bassoons - 4
horns, 3 trumpets, 3
A standard large orchestra.
trombones, 1 tuba, timpani,

0, 2, 0, 2 2, 2, 0, 0, timp, str

2 oboes, 2 bassoons - 2
horns, 2 trumpets, timpani,

3 flutes plus piccolo (not

doubling), 3 oboes plus
english horn (not doubling),
3 clarinets plus bass clarinet
3+picc, 3+cor
(not doubling), 3 bassoons
ang, 3+bass, 3+co plus contrabassoon (not
ntra doubling) - 4 horns, 4
4, 4, 3+bass, 1,
trumpets, 3 trombones plus
timp, 16/14/12/10/8 bass trombone (not
doubling), 1 tuba, 1 timpani
- 16 first violins, 14 second
violins, 12 violas, 10 celli, 8
double basses


A typical orchestra of
the classical period. Omitted
instruments are specified by
using the numeral "0" (in this
instance, flutes and clarinets).

A specified number of string

parts may be given. This is an
orchestra of the late romantic
period with a very large wind
and string section. The relations
of the individual sections has
been kept since the classical
period for acoustical reasons, so
a small string section could be

2d1, 2+1,
2d1es+bass, 3d1
- ...

2 flautists, one of which

doubles on piccolo; 2
oboists plus cor anglais (not
doubling); two clarinettists,
one of which doubles on E
clarinet, plus bass clarinet
(not doubling); three
bassoonists, one of which
doubles on contrabassoon.

Non-standard instruments
related to "core" instruments (for
example piccolo, cor
anglais,E- and bass
clarinet, contrabassoon) are
given after the number for the
"core" instrument, using a "+" if
an extra player is needed and a
"d" if one player may double.

2, 2d1, 2, 2, alto
sax - 4, 4, 3, 0,
timp, perc, hp, str

2 flutes, 2 oboes (one

doubling on cor anglais), 2
clarinets, 2 bassoons, alto
saxophone - 4 horns, 4
trumpets, 3 trombones,
timpani, percussion, harp,

Non-"core" instruments not

closely related to any "core"
instrument (for example
the saxophone) are given after
the group in question, here
fromGeorges Bizet's ArlsienneSuite No. 1.

If any soloists or a choir are called for, their parts are usually printed between the
percussion/keyboards and the strings in the score. In shorthand however, they are
usually omitted.