The traditional line-up of the brasses is: Horns, Trumpets, Trombones, Tubas. The numbers and combinations of these instruments vary greatly according to historical period, geographical location and, of course, composer choice. Probably the most common orchestral combination is:
4 horns
3 trumpets
3 trombones
1 tuba
but there are numerous variations on this, including massively expanded groupings where required.

Horns are often used in combination with woodwind, and generally have a weaker sound than the other brass. The convention when writing for four horns is to give high parts to horns 1 and 3, and low parts to 2 and 4 (with 1 taking the highest, and 4 taking the lowest). A fifth horn may well be used even when only four are required by the score, to cover the less important passages in the Horn 1 part, allowing the principal to concentrate on important solos. A quartet of horns will be very effective and unobtrusive when carrying the harmonic background to a passage.

Use the menu above to sample various brass scorings from the Philharmonia's recorded archive.


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]