What is a Band?

Before beginning the course, we must define what a band is.

For the purposes of this course, a band is an ensemble made up of wind instruments and percussion.

The standard idea we think of when we envision a band is the concert band.  A group of 30-70 players (or more) seated on a concert stage.


There is some question as to what exactly constitutes a band?  For instance, does Mozart’s Gran Partita for thirteen instrument a work for band?  What about the many works for the orchestral wind section without strings?  What about the original orchestration of Rhapsody in Blue, the so-called jazz band version, that utilizes Violins and a Bass, but no other strings?  Does a band have to use “instrument x” to qualify?  What about “section y?”

In some regards, all of these are bands.  A band can have a very flexible ensemble and still qualify as a band.  I have seen many sundry works programmed on so-called band concerts, yet none were scored for what we think of as a “band.”

In the broadest sense, a band is subset of the broader term orchestra.  Orchestra being defined as a large group of musicians playing together.  What applies to the orchestra, broadly speaking, applies to the band.  But the devil is in the details.

orchestra venn

What I will not be covering:

Jazz Bands

  • This is a much more specialized area that falls outside of the scope of what I can cover.

Rock/Pop Bands

  • Again, like the jazz band, outside of the context of the course.


  • There are so many great texts on this subject that I feel I can add nothing to them.

What I will be covering:

  • Concert Bands
  • Wind Ensembles
  • Wind Symphonies
  • Educational/School Bands
  • Marching Bands
  • Brass Bands
  • Various European Band
  • The history of band orchestration
  • Textures in wind band writing
  • Bands as the could be
  • etc.

Next: What is Orchestration?

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  1. Pingback: 1. Introduction | Bandestration

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