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The motivation of my question "What are the common instrument blends in classical/romantic symphonies?" is to learn which instrument combinations (e.g. clarinet + violin, horn + oboe + bassoon etc..), are commonly used in symphonies of classical and romantic period to represent ONE voice.

Maybe there are also some principles for achieving a good blend (like this cannot be instruments from completely different ranges) between the instruments of the same group and different?

  • I doubt, that there is a succinct answer to this question, given that classical and romantic orchestra is quite different. It also seems, that you could replace all instrument group tags by instrumentation. – guidot Oct 31 at 10:21
  • This is way too broad. Half of classical orchestration is about this very point. Either read a treatise on orchestration, or the scores of a couple of romantic master pieces. – Kilian Foth Oct 31 at 10:25
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    You can observe typical individual characteristic mixtures of instruments: e.g. Schumann often used to give to the flutes the same voicing as the violins, by this feature I recognize a piece of Schumann. Also the classical and romantic symphonies don't have the same instrumentation. In romantic style there are more Horns and Harp sounds ... – Albrecht Hügli Oct 31 at 10:32
  • I understand, but I still doubt that one ever blended double bass with flute (just these two instruments playing the same voice) – NickQuant Oct 31 at 10:49
  • Good question, but unfortunately too broad. I would suggest reading orchestration books and looking at scores while listening to the music to figure these things out for yourself. – jjmusicnotes Oct 31 at 13:14
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Just about anything. Classical/Romantic composers didn't go in for 'quirky' combinations like piccolo/tuba much, there wasn't the modern obsession for novelty-above-all. But apart from that they tried out most possible combinations.

The 'rules' are not really about what instrument blends well with what other. They're about choosing instruments which suit THAT melody in THAT range. A clarinet struggling to reach the piccolo's range will sound strained, but they might be very effective on a jaunty tune an octave apart. Horn blends well with almost anything, but the mellowness doesn't survive much above the (written) stave.

Get hold of Walter Piston's book 'Orchestration'. The chapter entitled 'Orchestration of melody' will be illuminating.

  • OK, I'm off to write a Concerto for piccolo, tuba, and orchestra – Carl Witthoft Oct 31 at 13:17
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    On a more serious note, we switch from Bb to Eb soprano clarinet to match a piccolo range -- just as the flutist switches to piccolo from (soprano)flute. – Carl Witthoft Oct 31 at 13:17

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