The Wind Symphony

A wind symphony is nothing more than the old-fashioned concert band re-branded to make it sound more upscale.This seems to be the modern favorite ensemble among American performing groups. The majority of American wind symphonies are university groups with a handful professional groups.  I’m lucky enough to live in an area with one of the few professional wind symphonies (the Dallas Wind Symphony).  I became familiar with the ensemble when I was in elementary school as my next door neighbor was the Alto Clarinetist with the ensemble (which means she was probably the only professional civilian Alto Clarinetist in the U.S.).

I will use the DWS as a basic example of a normal wind symphony.

  • 1 Piccolo
  • 2 Flutes
  • 2 Oboes
  • 1 English Horn
  • 1 E-flat Clarinet
  • 8 B-flat Clarinets
  • 1 Bass Clarinet
  • 1 Contra-Alto Clarinet
  • 2 Alto Saxophones
  • 1 Tenor Saxophones
  • 1 Baritone Saxophone
  • 2 Bassoons
  • 5 F Horns
  • 7 Trumpets
  • 3 Trombones (2 Tenor, 1 Bass)
  • 2 Euphoniums
  • 2 Tubas
  • 1 String Bass
  • 1 Harp
  • 1 Piano/Keyboard
  • 1 Timpani
  • 4 Percussion

To this ensemble, Contrabassoon will be regularly added.  I have also seen Soprano and Bass Saxophones and Alto and Contrabass Clarinets.  These additions are based on the need of the composition.

Variations on this will include more flutes (4 or more is quite common), more clarinets (12 or more is normal), more trombones (6 is normal), and more tubas (up to 4 isn’t unheard of).  Parts that stay one on a part are usually the double reeds, saxophones, and horns.

The main difference between a wind symphony and a wind ensemble are the numbers of clarinets and trumpets.  A wind symphony will have multiple players per part whereas a wind ensemble will have one.