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Continuity and change with regard to orchestra size

An early definition of an orchestra is an organized and balanced group of bowed string instruments (with more than one player per part), to which may be added any number of woodwind, brass, and percussion instruments. Groups of wind and brass are usually categorized as bands. The modern symphony orchestra is made up of four sections strings woodwind brass and percussion. This is a brief history of the development of those four sections. In the 17th century, orchestras were very variable and haphazard composers often included whatever instruments might be available. For a short period of time viols and violins were played together and by the beginning of the 18th century the string section had been established as a self-contained unit, consisting of first and second violins, violas, cellos, and double basses that usually doubled the cellos but sounded an octave lower. First violins generally played higher than the seconds. The string section thus became the firm basis of the orchestra, to which a composer might add other instruments, singly or in pairs as the occasion demanded flutes (or recorders), oboes, bassoons, horns, and perhaps trumpets and kettle drums. There was always a continuo instrument, harpsichord or organ the player building up chords on the bass line to fill up harmonies and decorating the texture. Toward the end of the 18th century and the early years of the 19th composers began to include a pair of clarinets with pairs of flutes, oboes, and bassoons to create a selfcontained woodwind section but still wrote for groups that were available. The use of a keyboard continuo had now fallen out of use. This formation was accepted as standard in the early 19th century and is often known as the classical orchestra. During this century the orchestra increased in both size and range. It as now common for four horns to be used with pairs crooked in different keys to obtain a wider range of notes. The invention of the valve system around 1815 offered trumpets and horns flexibility and range. Trombones, usually seen only in church music and operas now found a regular place in the orchestra and when the tuba was introduced in 1830 it became the bass of a now completed brass section. New key mechanisms for the woodwind, the Boehm system, and by the 1850s in addition to the four standard woodwinds composers often included parts for extra woodwind such as the piccolo, cor anglais bass clarinet, and double bassoon, extending the range of the section in both tone-colour and pitch The enlargement of the wind and brass sections meant that the string section also expanded to balance the sound within the orchestra. Some times 1 or more harps were added to the orchestra. The percussion scores ranged from those which included timps only to others that called for a wide range of colourful choice of both pitched an unpitched percussion.

The modern orchestra often called a symphony orchestra was upto ninety or more players. It was this size of orchestra that was needed to play certain scores from composers by second half of the 19th century. At the end of the 19th century some composers occasionally scored works for vastly expanded orchestras but at the time financial need forced many composers to score for much smaller orchestras consisting for example of a small string section plus one or two of various kinds of woodwind and brass instruments and maybe a few percussion instruments to add colour usually played by one or two performers. 20th century orchestras can include the use of an even greater variety of colourful and exotic percussion instruments and the inclusion of electronic sounds, pre recorded and manipulated during the performance, combined with instruments and even voices in live performance. Adding colour and depth to new orchestral arrangements.