Orchestra Is: History of Development and Examples of Musical Instruments

Orchestra Is – When talking about orchestral music, Sinaumed’s definitely thinks of musical performances on a stage in a large room with each of the personnel playing a different musical instrument. Yep, that thought is not wrong because orchestral performances are more or less what it is. Even though this orchestral performance is not original musical art from Indonesia, in our country it is in great demand by many people.

In orchestral performances, various forms of music will be presented, starting from solo musical performances, ensembles, to the orchestra itself. Usually, the type of music performed is classical music, although it is possible to perform other types of music as well. So what exactly is an orchestra? How is the history of the development of this musical art performance in Indonesia? Are there groups that exist in this Indonesian music wilderness? So, so that Sinaumed’s understands this, let’s look at the following!

Definition of Orchestra

According to John Spitzer, the term “orchestra” in ancient Greece and Rome referred to the basic level of an open stage, which was used again in the Renaissance, namely “the place in front of the stage”. Yep, at the beginning of the XVII century, the area in front of the stage was usually used as a place for musicians to accompany singing and dancing. Then in the following century, XVIII, the term “orchestra” was further expanded to refer to “a special place for musicians” and as a form of identity for these musicians as part of an ensemble.

According to KBBI (Big Indonesian Dictionary), “ensemble” is a standard form of ensemble which means “a group of musicians (singers) who play together regularly .” While “orchestra” means “the area located in front of the stage where the musicians sit”. 

Before the term “orchestra” appeared, there was a similar term that described a group of musicians in large numbers. For example, in Italy, the names for similar musicians are capella, concerto grosso, coro , and symphonia . Likewise in Paris, the terms for similar musicians are the terms les concertantes and les violons .

In a modern scope, usually the musical instruments used consist of four groups, namely stringed instruments, woodwind instruments ( woodwind section ), metalwind instruments, and percussion instruments.

Orchestral Characteristics

In an orchestral musical performance usually has interrelated characteristics, namely as follows:

  • Based on the existence of a stringed instrument, which usually consists of a violin and a double bass. The group of stringed instruments is arranged into special parts, so that the musicians will always play the same notes in one voice.
  • Woodwind, metalwind, and percussion instruments will appear in different numbers according to the period and the songs to be performed.
  • Customize times, venues, and track listings by widely showing instrumentation standards,
  • In groups that are well established and well organized, they will usually hold regular rehearsals and performances. Not only that, the group also has a good organizational structure and financial funds.
  • Since it requires many musicians, it will require a high level of musical proficiency to play music properly.
  • Basically coordinated directly from one center, namely a conductor.

If there is a musical group with a large number of personnel, but does not have these characteristics, then it cannot be called an orchestra.

Types of Orchestral Music

An orchestra actually has various types, each of which has differences and characteristics of each, namely as follows:

  1. String Orchestra ( String Orchestra ), which is an orchestral group consisting of a number of stringed instruments only.
  2. Symphony Orchestra , which is a large orchestral standard in which this group plays a symphonic work. Note that a symphony is a long piece of music performed by an orchestra, usually consisting of four parts.
  3. Chamber Orchestra ( Chamber Orchestra) , which is a small orchestra with limited players.
  4. Theater Orchestra ( Theater Orchestra ), namely an orchestra group that plays a symphony by including saxophone instruments and combo bands.
  5. Philharmonic Orchestra , which is a complete orchestra that uses a variety of musical instruments from a symphony music.
  6. Classical Orchestra ( Classical Orchestra ), which is an orchestra that plays a type of classical music and usually uses fewer musical instruments than symphonic pieces.
  7. Eta symphony, namely playing symphonic music but in a shorter and simpler form.
  8. Waltz Orchestra , which plays waltz music. Please note that waltz music is a type of music that is usually used to accompany ballroom dances .
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A Brief History of the Development of the Orchestra

Actually, the emergence of the orchestra began with small groups of musicians for a festival or funeral. But in the days of the Roman empire, the existence of these musical groups was banned by the Roman government. Then, after the Roman empire collapsed, bands began to grow again by expanding the diversity of musical instruments.

The history of the development of the orchestra is increasingly visible in the 16th century, at which time there were many composers with the ability to write music for instrumental groups. Meanwhile, in the 15th and 16th centuries, especially in Italy, noble houses even had music groups whose job was to entertain the royal nobles. Then in the 17th century, along with the emergence of theatrical performances, especially opera, music was created more and more for groups of instruments. Well, this is where the emergence of the orchestra and known by the world, namely in the 18th and 19th centuries.

In the early 18th century, there was a special selection of musicians for an orchestra, which emphasized competence and talent in playing musical instruments. A composer named Johann Sebastian Bach at that time was in full control of the process of selecting music resources in his city, namely Eisenach, Germany.

In the development of classical music, a composer named Joseph Haydn was hired by the nobility to entertain the nobles at court. At the same time, there was a talented young musician named Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart who was giving concerts from city to city. At this time, the existence of the orchestra became a medium of entertainment, especially for the nobility and then it also developed by being performed in front of the wider community. Not only that, the orchestra began to be used to accompany music, especially in theatrical and opera performances.

In the modern era, orchestras also developed using stringed instruments, namely first violin, second violin, viola, cello , and contrabass . Then, with the development of the times, the musical instruments used in this orchestra group also developed, namely in 1680-1750 the oboe, bassoon , trumpet, and horn musical instruments appeared .

The development of the orchestra is of course influenced by the actions of composers, for example Beethoven and Wagner. Even at the beginning of the 19th century, a special standard emerged, namely the complement standard for woodwinds and metal instruments used in an orchestra, in line with the power of music by Ludwig van Beethoven .

The next development was sparked by Richard Wagner who founded a special orchestra to accompany musical drama performances. Wagner also gave the role of conductor as leader in an orchestra.

History of the Development of the Orchestra in Indonesia

The development of orchestras in the world also eventually spread to our country. The reason why orchestral music can enter Indonesia is because of the contact between Indonesia and the West. The influence of the West in terms of art has indeed proven concrete, as RM Soedarsono has expressed in 2022. He is of the opinion that the influence of Western nations, especially the Portuguese, who were later followed by the Dutch at the end of the 16th century, is very strong, with evidence of the many forms of Indonesian art that ” similar” to Western culture.

The earliest introduction to European music, especially the orchestra, occurred on the island of Java, which was brought by sailors who were in the middle of a stopover in the 16th century. One of the sailors who spread European music was Francis Drake . In his travel book, he explains that the ship’s musicians played music for a king on the island of Bali, and the king responded by playing local music. Although there is no clear identification of what local music is used, whether gamelan or other musical ensembles.

In 1921-1939, musical performances at the Yogyakarta Palace, namely during the reign of Sultan Hamengku Buwono VIII, experienced rapid progress with the presence of Walter Spies . Spies played a big role in the development of musical life in Yogyakarta and even got a permanent job as a music instructor as well as conductor at the Yogyakarta Palace Orchestra.

It is not only the Kraton Orchestrate Jogja that is proof of the development of orchestras in Indonesia, there is also the Societe de Vereeniging Orchestra which was founded by a plantation entrepreneur in Yogyakarta. The orchestra was conducted by Attilio Gnocchi from Italy and Carl Gotsch from Austria.

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Although the development of orchestral music in Indonesia experienced ups and downs, the 1950s actually became the heyday of orchestral music, especially in Jakarta. Unfortunately, there is no recorded or physical evidence of the triumph of this music (based on the book Twilite Orchestra by Ninok Leksono). The existence of the Twilite Orchestra is proof that the orchestra has triumphed in Indonesia with its conductor, Addie MS .

Unfortunately, in 1998 there was an economic crisis that hit Indonesia, causing a downturn in people’s lives, including the survival of orchestral music. At that time, the Twilite Orchestra only gave a concert once, namely at the Tanah Airku Theater (TMII), whereas in previous years they were able to hold concerts five times a year.

Along with political and economic developments that are getting better, the state of orchestral music is growing again. Several other orchestral groups emerged, one of which was the Nusantara Symphony Orchestra coordinated by Miranda Goeltom , which focused on bringing out musical compositions by Bach, Mozart and other Western classical music.

At that time, the thought arose that audiences were only for the upper class, so Addie MS and his group tried to socialize that this thought was not true. Twilite Orchestra is trying to bridge the appreciation of the middle to lower class society for this music, namely by holding concerts in public places, starting from schools, colleges, and others. In its program, this group visits schools to introduce musical instruments commonly used in music, starting from the violin, flute, contrabass, cello , and others. They also taught briefly about how to play the musical instruments.

Not only that, this group will also arrange traditional songs which are familiar to the public into this music and present it to the general public.

Examples of Musical Instruments in an Orchestra

In an orchestra, three types of musical instruments are usually used, namely string, wind, and vocal instruments. However, it is not uncommon for vocals to be added, both vocally and as a group. Well, here are examples of musical instruments used in an orchestra.

Stringed instrument

1. Contrabass Violin

This instrument can be played in two ways, namely by swiping or picking. When used to accompany orchestras and tango types of music, it will be played in two ways. However, if it is to accompany jazz and blues types of music, it will be played by picking.

2. Harp

Namely musical instruments that are usually illustrated as musical instruments of angels. How to play it is to be picked on the strings. The shape of this musical instrument is very high so that it is not uncommon for the players to stand up so they can reach the strings.

3. Cello

This musical instrument actually has the original name Violoncello, but people often call it Cello. How to play it is by swiping with a special swipe tool. A cellist is usually called a cellist.

Wind instrument

1. Clarinet

Namely a musical instrument that is played with 1 reed. Usually, a clarinet player will be referred to as a Clarinetist.

2. Saxophone

That is a musical instrument that belongs to the aerophone group and how to play it is by blowing it.

3. Flutes

Namely a musical instrument that is played by being blown. Usually, the flute is often equated with the fagot, it’s just that the way to play it is different.


1. Vibraphone

The shape of this instrument is almost similar to the xylophone and marimba. The difference is that this vibraphone has aluminum rods, while the two instruments use wooden rods. The way to play it is to hit the aluminum bars with a special beater.

2. Tubular Bells

Usually known as tubular bells, because their sound resembles church bells. How to play it is to hit it with a special bat.

3. Drums

This instrument is made of animal skin stretched in a round shape. The way to play it is by being hit, either with your bare hands or a special tool called a drum stick .

So, that’s a review of what an orchestra is and the history of its development, both in the world and in Indonesia. Has Sinaumed’s ever seen this show?