Here are seating plans from various Philharmonia concerts during the 2001/2 season. They repay close study, as it becomes clear that instruments, the conductor and the hall itself are all factors in deciding how an orchestra is seated. Click on the pictures to give an A4 size, printable copy of each plan in landscape format.

Overhead view

The Philharmonia Orchestra, seen from above. This is a typical seating layout. The first diagram below corresponds exactly to this layout (apart from the harp, which is seated behind the violins in the picture, but is absent from the diagram).


Now for some other seating plans:

Triple woodwind, but five horns and four trumpets make for a strong line of brass.


Lorin Maazel conducts Brahms Symphonies 1 and 4. Quadruple woodwind.


Note the position of the orchestral piano, harp and celeste.


A concerto layout, with the cellos to the left of the conductor.


A very large orchestra, again with C. von Dohnyani's favoured position for the cellos.


This plan includes seven percussion, orchestral piano and two harps.


A similar arrangement to the plan above, but with a celeste in place of the piano.


Vladimir Ashkenazy's favoured layout, but with a vastly expanded orchestra.
Quadruple wind, seven horns, piano, celeste, harp, organ, etc.!


CVD = Christoph von Dohnyani. His favoured string seatings once again,
but note the positions of the basses, brass and percussion. Presumably
the hall was a factor on this occasion.


This is the seating plan for a performance of Bartók's Music for
Strings, Percussion and Celeste
which has an unusual symmetrical arrangement.


Brahms Symphony No. 1, as laid out for Maestro von Dohnyani.


And a CVD seating plan for quadruple woodwind.


Finally, Lorin Maazel's double wooodwind seating plan.


The Orchestra: A User's Manual is a free resource and will remain so. It still receives between 8,000 and 16,000 unique visits per month from all over the world. See the testimonials. Thanks to all the donations, I have been able to create this responsive re-design. But the movies and sound clips recorded in 2004 do show their age. I would really like to re-record everything and add many more techniques, especially for solo and ensemble writing. I estimate this will cost around £30,000. If you know a source of such funds, please contact me: a.hugill [at]