When arranging music, is there a commonly accepted or easy to understand name for an ensemble (be it a trio, duet, quartet, etc.) which contains all of the same instrument? For example, how could you generalize a tuba trio or a clarinet duet?

  • I’m having trouble finding a good answer to your question. Could you provide some context? Commented Jun 20, 2018 at 7:12
  • @DeanRansevycz I'm developing a sheet music website that allows you to choose which instruments are displayed, for example, for a piece written for quartet, it'll give you the options of "string quartet", "wind quartet", and then I need one that gives you the option for what Kilian describes as a "closed consort". In other words, a generic word for an ensemble of the same instrument. "Closed consort" seems to be the closest thing so far but it's not universally understood.
    – CC Inc
    Commented Jun 20, 2018 at 17:34
  • Thanks, @CCInc, now i understand what you're after. I'd steer clear of "consort" for a non-specialist audience. While it's very clear, it is specialist language: one should always be careful of jargon in general contexts. Commented Jun 21, 2018 at 4:23
  • @DeanRansevycz I agree, it is very specialized. Any ideas of a better word? It doesn't have to be 100% accurate but I'd like something more clear than "Ensemble of Same Instrument"
    – CC Inc
    Commented Jun 21, 2018 at 5:24

5 Answers 5


Ensembles of equal instruments (especially viols) used to be called consorts. Later on, mixed groups became more common and a distinction was made between closed consorts (non-mixed) and open consorts (mixed).

  • Leading to a dedicated invitation to a performance as a "concerted consort concert" Commented Jun 18, 2018 at 13:14
  • While i like the suggestion of consort, a consort of viols would include viols of different sizes, similarly consorts of recorders. So i'm not are that it fits for the ensembles of the same instrument. The musical lexicon just didn't seem to have CC Inc's use case in mind. Commented Jun 21, 2018 at 12:14
  • Compositions for several of exactly the same instrument just aren't all that common, since you're quite limited compared to a "normal" choir of treble, alto and bass version of something. At the extreme end, there is a "Fanfare for 44 trumpets in B" by Weber, but it's clearly just intended as a silly joke. Commented Jun 21, 2018 at 12:23
  • @KilianFoth Indeed, they aren't common at all in any repertoire, but my use case is for primarily duet/trio/quartets designed for students, who tend to want to play with other like instruments.
    – CC Inc
    Commented Jun 21, 2018 at 19:38

Ensemble is a reasonable choice already (for example, "tuba ensemble" is an eminently googleable phrase). "Choir" is also another option; for example, a clarinet choir. Either should be easily understandable.

  • But neither define the ensemble as being all the SAME instrument. 'Clarinet choir' typically includes Eb, Bb and bass clarinets. 'Tuba ensemble' could have BBb, Eb tubas, euphonium (tenor tuba) etc.
    – Laurence
    Commented Jun 23, 2018 at 14:13

There's no easy answer to this one. Suggestions are either going to be inelegant (exactly what you're trying to avoid) or use specialist language that could be alienating in a more general context. Worse, one could coin neologisms or borrow from other fields, which while providing a pithy terminology would be equally as alienating.

Just to explore the options for borrowing from other fields, one could coin homogeneous ensembles for ensembles of identical instruments (e.g. a flute choir, a dozen celli, &c.) & homologous ensembles for ensembles of like instruments (string quartet, brass choir, "Harmonie", closed consort, &c.). The problem is that these distinctions may require explanation.

Of course one of the issues here is one of definition: is a string quartet an ensemble of like instruments or of identical instruments. I would have a hard time arguing that an alto & a tenor sax are the same instrument, but would call them like instruments. Equally, are the double-reeds homologous, or just the oboes, cor anglaise & heckelphone in one set & the bassoons in another? If all the oboes & bassoons are homologous, what about the sarrusophone?

Clarity & ease of understanding would probably lead you back to more wordy options like larger groups of identical instruments & ensembles of like instruments. Unfortunately for your use case the musical lexicon deals better with specificity than generality.

  • Unfortunately it looks like "homogeneous" is the closest I'm going to get, thanks for the suggestions!
    – CC Inc
    Commented Jun 21, 2018 at 19:39

'Consort' implied instruments of the same type (all string, all wind...) not identical instruments. 'Broken Consort' included mixed types. But, as with most archaic terms, you'll find plenty of examples of varying usage.

I can't think of any generally-understood term that defines a group of identical instruments, other than the specific 'Trumpet trio' or 'Clarinet quartet'. Even then, a 'Clarinet quartet' might include Eb, Bb and bass clarinets. I think you'll have to forego a general term and spell it out!

And, to spell out the answer to your question - no there isn't.

  • Not sure that this actually answers CC Inc's question. Commented Jun 22, 2018 at 2:25
  • Didn't you derive 'no there isn't' from my answer? Ok, I'll spell that out too.
    – Laurence
    Commented Jun 22, 2018 at 10:10
  • No, I couldn’t seen your answer in the feed when mine was posted. Commented Jun 22, 2018 at 10:12
  • You commented to an answer that you couldn't see? That's clever! Do you know who's going to win the football World Cup? I'd appreciate a PM.
    – Laurence
    Commented Jun 23, 2018 at 13:00

Well-established formations like string quartet are the only ones, which have the benefit of short group name. But the precision you want is difficult to achieve. (Note that string quintet is already ambiguous, since the viola or the violoncello may be doubled, or a double-bass may be added to a string quartet). A piano quintet is more probably a piano combined with a string quartet than five pianos.

A clarinet quartet may address four clarinets as well as a clarinet combined with a string trio.

So you won't get much more precise than piece for two clarinets (which would still leave open, whether both are of the same variant as "clarinet in a", or whether it is for clarinet and bass clarinet.

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