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Pit Orchestra


~Katie~
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I know this is probably too general of a question, but what is the average size for a pit? I.e., how many violins, violas, etc. In my high school's pit we have 3 first violins, 2 second violins, 3 violas, 4 cellos, 1 bass, 3 trumpets, 4 percussionists, 2 clarinets and one each of saxaphone, flute, oboe, bassoon, and trombone. The balance doesn't seem quite right to me. 2 cellos for every 2nd violin?

Katie

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Sounds like you need more 2nd violins then. At least the conductor isn't telling the "extra" cellos they can't play. This is only high school.

If what I "hear" you saying is that you are concerned that there are too many cellos, I don't know if it's a room issue, or if you feel they are overpowering the 2nd violins, but I'd give your conductor credit for being able to work with this "disadvantage", rather than tell a couple players to sit out. That is far more damaging long term, in my opinion.

P.S. I think you are so lucky to have a orchestra in your school. I grew up in an area where there was no strings program. I think it's cool that you get to have this experience!

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4 does seem like a lot. Maybe they're making up for not having any basses? I think 4 1sts, 3 2nds, 3 violas and 2 or 3 cellos would be better balanced. Often when you only have 2 on a part, the differences in intonation are really obvious, and having 3 makes mitigates that somewhat. Space may be a factor (though 4 cellos take up a lot of space!)

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I was in a pit orchestra this summer, and they played pretty much with what they could get. We had I think 6 first violins, 3 or 4 2nds, 1 Viola, 2 Cellos, 3 trumpets, 2 or 3 trombones, a couple of clarinets, I think a french horn or two, 1 Bass, 1 Tuba, 2 pianos, .... you get the idea. The violins were somewhat audible. The cellos were barely audible - and that was with the instruction that there was never a time that we could play too loudly; that was a first! The horns pretty much wiped us out for the majority of the show, and that was with them being told to play as quietly as they could most of the time.

One thing I noticed, was that the string sound was good, and totally different from the horns... so I found myself glad even if the violins overpowered us, because any strings were a needed texture to the over-all sound.

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quote:

Originally posted by ~Katie~:

I know this is probably too general of a question, but what is the average size for a pit? I.e., how many violins, violas, etc. In my high school's pit we have 3 first violins, 2 second violins, 3 violas, 4 cellos, 1 bass, 3 trumpets, 4 percussionists, 2 clarinets and one each of saxaphone, flute, oboe, bassoon, and trombone. The balance doesn't seem quite right to me. 2 cellos for every 2nd violin?

Katie

There are definitely too many trumpets!

The balance between winds and strings is the most important, in my opinion. If you look at a professional orchestra size, the strings should outnumber the wind instruments by far to get the rich, orchestra sound. IMHO, your conductor can use what he has, but never play tutti passages with 3 trumpets, 4 percussionists, and the rest of the brass-woodwind gang against 5 violins, 3 violas, and 4 cellos. If winds and strings play together, he should only have a few wind instruments, varying them for different sounds.

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It may be limited by the size of the pit itself.

My shool's pit orchestra can't exceed six or seven people and piano for lack of space. We had 2 violins (the show was Fiddler on the Roof) one clarinet, one trumpet, one trombone, a tuba, drummer and piano. And it was a major sqeeze. smile.gif

Three trumpets and no other brass? Wouldn't it be more normal to have maybe a trumpet, a French horn and a tuba or trombone? No wonder your balance is off!

Besides- with that many trumpets, can you hear the singers?

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There are a couple factors that go into the construction of a pit.

Is it a professional

production, or are the musicians just playing for fun?

How big is the PIT itself?

In broadway shows, the budget is often very

minimal, and the priority for building a pit

is to ensure that every part gets covered.

Once you get most of the wind and brass parts

out of the way, you can see how much room / budget you have to pay for string players. That said, it is often unusually to have a large number of string players in a musical, although there is usually more than one violin.

The actual budget for the pit is decided by the musicians union oddly enough. They tell the orchestrator the minimum number of people they will allow the production to use, and given the paucity of cash that I mentioned before, this minimum becomes the maximum. The orchestrator then decides how important each instrument is, and orchestrates the composer's music accordingly.

Lastly, it is often a tradition to stick with the original instrumentation, although you are always free to change it. "cradle will rock" is often performed with just a piano as it was in the original production, although it had always been intended for a full pit.

Of course there is always the physical space constraint. There are only so many people you can feasibly put into a given space and have play decently.

[This message has been edited by jake (edited 11-02-2000).]

[This message has been edited by jake (edited 11-02-2000).]

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