I'm talking about live performances. I respect all musicians who allow us to enjoy beautiful art of music. The number of musicians in a modern symphony orchestra may be up to 100 and each person has a different job. They are all important for the orchestra. However, this is a lot of people. I believe the more people playing in the orchestra, the greater risk of failing. How do they accomplish a performance without any of them messing up?

  • 3
    If one of many messes up, it's often - not always - less noticeable than if one of a few messes up... Commented Jul 10, 2020 at 22:21

2 Answers 2


Amateurs are messing up rhythmically, embouchure, accidentals, bow leading, concentration, chatting, breathing, phrasing, intonation ... profis shouldn‘t! They are trained, payed and if they mess up, they are fired. There‘s an enorm pressure and concurrence.

  • the order and structure in music and composition/arrangement is composing and arranging the order and structure in the body of mind of hundreds of people.

  • There‘s a flow in the music - rhythmically and melodic - that keeps the whole orchestra together.

  • The conductor - inspired by the artwork - inspires the musician by the movements of his hands, the stick, his face, his eyes, his eyebrows, mouth, lips, tongue, his head, his whole body.

  • There are voice leaders in each section who are responsible for the mental presence of their colleagues and who coordinate the bow leading, the phrasing and breathing.

  • The concertmaster (1st violinist nearest the conductor‘s desk) - assisted by the oboe - is responsible for the tuning.

  • Each musician has to be maximally prepared and to know his part.

  • Each musician is contributing his best and has learnt to communicate and express his intensions by his tone and his gestures. (Have a look at the percussionist playing the cymbal or the triangle!)

  • There is a more or less strict hierarchy (written or unwritten) from the conductor, soloist, concert master, voice leaders, percussionist to the single musicians.

  • The unwritten hierarchy is formed by the ranked position, by the ancienity and the virtuosity of the members.

So the reason of the fact that there’s not a lot of mess is the sum of a good communication and interaction, gestures, positive group dynamic, motivation, competition, sympathy, ability and quality in practice and the will to do something beautiful for god.

Where one of these points lacks there will be a mess and you‘ll miss the good spirit and may not be touched.

Watch and listen to this:


The string players in a symphony orchestra have a LOT of notes to play, often intricate passage-work at high speed. The odd 'domino' is almost inevitable - but there are typically 8 First Violins, 8 Second Violins - everyone DOESN'T have a different job! (And just occasionally we hear a top-class orchestra which has had ample rehearsal time and NO-ONE is 'faking it' in the tricky bits. It's a wonderful thing.)

Outside the fiddle section, everyone is expected to (and capable to) play every note correctly. Of course, there's the occasional mishap. But it's rare to hear one with a good orchestra.

Of course, there are plenty of not-so-good orchestras :-(

  • Yes. An important skill for a classical orchestral string player is to hush over notes that aren't really 100% on spot in a way that still blends in, so the whole section sounds about correct. That same skill however tends to drive musicians crazy who try to play other genres with a few string players. Commented Jul 16, 2020 at 22:06

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