Monday, June 8, 2015

Instruments Not Used in Baroque Orchestra

When determining what instruments were not used in the Baroque orchestra it is helpful to reference it to modern-day orchestras. There is a great difference between the Baroque orchestra and orchestras from every other time period. The truth is that most Baroque orchestra's varied greatly. Standardization of instruments didn't start occurring until the Classical period. However, there are still several instruments never used in Baroque music between 1600 and 1750.

Trombone and Tubas

Trombones existed in some large ensembles but almost never found in the Baroque orchestra. It wasn't until Beethoven that the trombone became a standard orchestral instrument. The trombone is a member of the brass family and fills in the registral space between the Trumpet and Tuba. The Tuba, while commonly used today, also did not exist in the Baroque orchestra.


Saxophones are a modern invention created by Adolphe Sax in the 1840s. As such, these instruments did not exist in Baroque music. Since their invention, they still rarely find use in the orchestra. The saxophone is more useful in wind symphonies where a stronger brass and woodwind presence is required to replace the need for strings. There are four basic types of saxophones: soprano, alto, tenor, and baritone.


The euphonium is another instrument that wasn't yet invented. These instruments replicate tenor tubas. They have a mellow sound that is similar to a horn without the edginess. These instruments will find use as solo instruments and in brass choirs in the modern orchestra. Their most common use is in military bands and wind ensembles.


Clarinets did not exist in the orchestra until the classical period and were invented in 1691. These instruments quickly became very popular with Mozart. They have the ability to play a wide dramatic range and to blend well with any instrument. Clarinets often support the flute line and help to bridge the gap in sound between the strings and the brass section. Part of the reason for its lack of inclusion was probably due to its relative youth.


The only percussion instrument used in the Baroque period was the Timpani. Even then, there was usually only one of them and rarely appeared in orchestra music. Baroque music didn't place a high importance on percussion music. They were more interested in combining several independent melodies that worked together to create harmonies. Today, we have hundreds of percussion instruments to choose from.