Band vs. Orchestra

May 29, 2008
By Jon Samuel, Palatine, IL

The modern day concert band and orchestra share a number of commonalities as well as differences, with the primary differences actually stemming from the fact that the concert band is a newer creation while the orchestra retains a more distant past. The most notable areas of comparison are the groups’ repertoire, their instruments, and their goals. Through these similarities and differences, the two groups thrive and have learned to share the stage together.

First off, the most contrasting part of both groups is the repertoire which they have accumulated and continue to gain over time. As the modern concert band is fairly young and a new creation, the music has only begun to truly reach its and the musicians potential. This is evident, as the most notable band music has all been written within roughly the past hundred years. Many concert bands play these but often turn their focus to pieces which have been written recently, often being just a few months in publication. This has actually created quite a market in modern band composition, drawing in many new music majors and helping to increase the amount of new music. On the other hand, there is the orchestral music. Due to the orchestra’s long and extensive history, leading back centuries in Europe, there is a somewhat standard repertoire of what is considered by most to be the “great” orchestral pieces, leading to a lack of support in new music and a lack of interest in modern day composers, leaving them to turn to band music instead. This, as one might expect, causes orchestras to replay the same music, while numerous, still not being anything new, as enjoyed by the modern concert band.

The next and most notable difference to those unaware of more discreet ones, is the instruments themselves. Stringed instruments carry a long tradition throughout the world, dating back through recorded history. They all share the same characteristics for the most part, both the good and the bad. Along with this is the instruments tendency to sound best in sharp keys, explaining why orchestral music is often written in these. On the opposite end of the spectrum are the wind instruments played in a concert band. These have a more diverse history, as they all originated from different areas and purposes. One of the most notable is that of the brass, dating back to horns only capable of a couple of notes, which were originally used in Europe for military purposes, primarily long distance communication and controlling armies in battle. This eventually led to their enhancement and improvement, allowing them to be played for more enjoyable practices, such as simply for entertainment. It is through these differences that much of the music written for band and orchestra differ, due to the different instruments capabilities and preferences.

Finally, there are the goals of the two different ensembles. While each group uses different means, instruments, and reads different works, the goals of the band and orchestra since their creation have been simple. The primary goal is to communicate some emotion or response from the listener through their interpretation of a piece. It is in this that the two different groups can find their most common ground. These goals set forth by the players, leaders, and conductors of these ensembles give the groups purpose and drive with which to motivate them. It is in this sense of mission to perform which the modern day concert band and orchestra share their most common themes and ideas with one another.

So in reality, while the present day concert band and orchestra have numerous differences, particularly their instruments and the literature which they play, they are actually quite similar. Through their goals, missions, and purposes, the concert band and orchestra are able to find much common ground. Finally, it is these similarities and differences which make these ensembles unique and enjoyable to this day.

Similar Articles


This article has 9 comments.

on Mar. 2 2016 at 10:51 pm
Orchestra obviously rules

Gymnast said...
on Jan. 21 2016 at 6:55 pm
Bruhh it should be aloud in school it makes more sense

person said...
on May. 5 2015 at 7:36 am
Bet this person never been in concert band

the1andonly said...
on Mar. 11 2015 at 9:45 pm
That's only people at your school. It's quite the opposite, here in HISD...

Bassoon101 said...
on Feb. 18 2014 at 11:05 pm
From first hand experience at my school, the orchestra classes are disruptive, unproductive, and as a result, only a small handful of them play well. Band on the other hand (at my school) is full of students who love band, practice the music, and enjoy coming to class every day. Orchestra students have told us that "we hate the music we are forced to play" and that "band music sounds better". I don't mean to be rude or anything, but we don't scream during rehearsals... you've obviosly never been to a band rehearsal.

on Oct. 19 2013 at 1:09 pm
TheWykkydHatter, Reading, Massachusetts
0 articles 0 photos 2 comments
It really depends on which instrument you play and where you are playing. As a trombonist, I find concert band better because you get some more pronounced parts. But if you were say a string player then I can see why Orchestra would be better.

Saxophilist said...
on Jul. 19 2013 at 3:11 am
I prefer the concert band. 

sherby said...
on Jun. 29 2013 at 10:47 pm
Orchestra for the win! Have you ever tried vibrato, shifting, and (yes) plucking? ouch! I have calluses on my hands from this. Orchestras have more tone to it, rather than the free-playing band. Orchestras tend to leave a better effect on the viewers, and the players. People that play instruments don't want people screaming during the session. People that attend orchestra are more likely to feel proud of what they do, and produce better music. By the way, once you learn one stringed instrument, it will be easier to learn the rest. 

Someone said...
on Jun. 21 2013 at 9:38 pm
I like the orchestra way better


MacMillan Books

Aspiring Writer? Take Our Online Course!