Are there any "etudes for the orchestra"? Football teams don't practise just playing football all day long, but they do all kinds of "orchestrated" team exercises just like hockey players and basically every team sports there is. And musicians practise their own instruments with etudes, drills, scales etc. So one would think orchestras would practise timing, intonation, tempo changes, nuances etc. the same way.

  • I'd say what you're after is called "rehearsal." That's the equivalent of a sports team's "practice," the main difference being that there's not a second orchestra trying to knock over the conductor or detune the violins :-) . Apr 9, 2014 at 13:26
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    The brass is trying knock over the violins... :) Apr 9, 2014 at 15:12

4 Answers 4


I’ve played (as an amateur) in a wind band and in the wind section of an orchestra where we did practice dynamics, attacks, tempo and in general following the director instructions most rehearsals.

And, obviously, practicing passages is what most rehearsals are about. Complete with style instruction such as “this is italian music, don’t hold your short notes” and intonation work. Such instruction can lead to group exercises.

I have, however, never heard of an étude for orchestra ; but then again, the director exists for a number of reasons, one of which is choosing the program according to the band qualification, including getting the band to progress with slightly harder pieces.

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    I have witnessed a wind band do such exercises, but never full symphony orchestra. Maybe some tradition exists for winds. Apr 7, 2014 at 12:07
  • I think Kari is right -- I've played in a number of bands with them as a kid, but never orchestras. Apr 7, 2014 at 18:26

I am a music major, and I have to say that I have never heard of such a thing. There are works for orchestra with unusual titles (Bartok's Concerto for Orchestra comes to mind), but these pieces aren't studies so much as full performance works. I have many acquaintances who play in symphony orchestras for a living, and I have never once heard of such a piece. Most of these musicians have enough experience that they can do the dynamics, etc. with little guidance from the director. Professional classical musicians know their repertoire incredibly well. In addition, the purpose of the director is to interpret the original desires of the composer. However, interpreting what is actually written and playing together are, more or less, the jobs of the musicians.


Stravinski wrote Quatre études pour orchestre .

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    The word etude in that seems to come from "Étude pour pianola" (automatic piano) which was one of the four original pieces of which this is an arrangement, so they aren't etudes in the sense I meant. Apr 8, 2014 at 5:00
  • Could you provide a link to the music? Apr 9, 2014 at 9:50
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    There are lots of "etudes" for various instruments which may be "studies" in some sense but were most definitely written for performance. Apr 9, 2014 at 20:41
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    Wikipedia page about Quatre études pour orchestre: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Quatre_%C3%A9tudes_(Stravinsky) Apr 9, 2014 at 21:09

I have only seen one example. Many years ago I played in a wind band. We had a kind of etude used for warmup. It was a set of, something like 10 of warmups, each about 32 bars. Some meant to be slow focusing on intonation, some faster more on rytm. I have tried finding that set later without luck.

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