The traditional line-up of the brasses is: Horns, Trumpets, Trombones, Tubas. The numbers and combinations of these instruments vary greatly according to historical period, geographical location and, of course, composer choice. Probably the most common orchestral combination is:
but there are numerous variations on this, including massively expanded groupings where required.
Horns are often used in combination with woodwind, and generally have a weaker sound than the other brass. The convention when writing for four horns is to give high parts to horns 1 and 3, and low parts to 2 and 4 (with 1 taking the highest, and 4 taking the lowest). A fifth horn may well be used even when only four are required by the score, to cover the less important passages in the Horn 1 part, allowing the principal to concentrate on important solos. A quartet of horns will be very effective and unobtrusive when carrying the harmonic background to a passage.
Use the various collections of clips in this section to listen to different brass scorings from the Philharmonia's recorded archive .
Rollover the image below to find out more about the brass section...