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Key Difference – Band vs Orchestra

The term band is a general term which refers to a group of musicians and/or vocalists performing together. An orchestra, on the other hand, is a large instrumental ensemble of classical musical. The key difference between band and orchestra is that orchestras typically play classical music whereas bands play different types of music. There are also other differences between them based on the type of instruments, musicians, etc.

1. Overview and Key Difference
2. What is an Orchestra
3. What is a Band
4. Side by Side Comparison – Band vs Orchestra
5. Summary

What is an Orchestra?

An orchestra can be basically defined as a group of musicians playing classical musical together. An orchestra can even have more than a hundred musicians. A large orchestra is known as a symphony orchestra or philharmonic orchestra whereas a small orchestra with thirty to forty players is known as a chamber orchestra.

Orchestras are generally led by a conductor who directs the performance with the movements of his/her hands. The instruments in an orchestra can be categorized into various categories such as woodwind, percussion, brass, and strings. The players of these instruments are arranged according to a hierarchy in the orchestra. Each instrumental group has a principal who is responsible for leading the rest of the group.

Difference Between Band and Orchestra

Figure 01: Orchestra

String Family

This is the biggest section of the orchestra and consists of instruments such as violin, viola, cello, harp and double bass. Violins are divided into two groups known as first violin and second violin.

Brass Family

The brass family has four sections: trombone, trumpet, French horn, and tuba. Some of these instruments come in different sizes.

Woodwind Family

There are five main instruments in this family: flute, clarinet, oboe, saxophone, and bassoon. These also come in several sizes. The woodwind instruments are one or two rows behind the string family.

Percussion Family

It is the percussion family which has the largest variety of instruments. This section includes instruments such as timpani, xylophone, bass drum, cymbals, tambourine, tenor drum, etc.

Difference Between Band and Orchestra - 1

Figure 02: Typical Positions in a Classical Orchestra

What is a Band?

The term band also refers to a group of musicians and vocalists playing music together. There are different types of bands, producing different varieties of music.

Types of Bands

Concert Band

A concert band is a group of musicians playing woodwind, brass and percussion instruments. However, the main element of a concert band is the wind instruments.

Brass Band

A brass band is a group of musicians who play brass instruments such as trombone, tuba, and trumpet. These bands also have a drum section.

Marching Band

Marching band refers to a group of musicians who perform outdoors, typically while walking or marching. They generally have woodwind, brass and percussion instruments.

In addition to these above-mentioned bands, there are other various types of bands such as rock bands, jazz bands, folk band, etc., which play different types of music.

Key Difference - Band vs Orchestra

Figure 03: Military Band

What is the difference between Band and Orchestra?

Band vs Orchestra

Band refers to a small group of musicians and/or vocalists who produce music. Orchestra refers to a group of instrumentalists, playing classical music.
Production of Sound
A band typically contains a smaller group of musicians. An orchestra may contain over hundred musicians.
A band may play different types of music such as rock, pop, jazz, classical, etc. An orchestra plays classical musical.
Most bands, such as concert band, marching band, brass band, do not have a string section. Orchestra contains string, woodwind, brass, and percussion instruments. Some orchestras may also have a keyboard section.
Some bands do not have conductors. Orchestras have a conductor who leads the performance.

Summary – Orchestra vs Band

The difference between orchestra and band depend on the type of music played and the instruments used. An orchestra plays classical musical using a combination of string, woodwind, brass, percussion, and sometimes keyboard instruments. There are different types of bands, playing different types of music, including rock, jazz, and pop music. The instruments used in these bands differ according to the type of music played.

Image Courtesy:
1. Dublin Philharmonic Orchestra performing Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No 4 in Charlotte, North Carolina 由Derek Gleeson. – 自己的作品 (CC BY-SA 3.0) via Commons Wikimedia
2. “Orchestra layout” By Darkdoc – Own work (Public Domain) via Commons Wikimedia
3. “568740” (Public Domain) via Pixabay