Instrumentation in standard ensembles


These arrangements are designed for youth bands, school bands and for professional ensembles. They can also be used with virtually any combination of instruments as well as standard groups. Each national anthem page contains a suggested instrumentation for symphonic band, brass band, brass ensemble, clarinet choir and stage band. from which you can down load the scores and parts. Each page also gives the wide range of parts available so that you can "pick 'n' mix" from the parts, especially if you have a non-standard ensemble or you want to create your own individual sound. The arrangements consist of six independent parts in different transpositions, with some parts wrtten an octave higher or lower to extend the possibilities. As you may have already discovered, each anthem has a suggested arrangement of parts that you can download. Feel free to make your own decisions about instrumental voicing. If time permits, you may like to experiment with voicings. Because the arrangements are conceived for wind instruments they tend to use flat keys though by using the parts at concert pitch together with the alto clef part, they can also be played by strings. Don't forget the piano reductions! You can use these to "fill" missing parts or to act as an accompaniment if you want to create instrumental solos, duets or trios.


During the research for these arrangements, I constantly found that there were different versions of some anthems. For example, some years ago there were no less than five different versions of the National Anthem of Liechtenstein, until the government there decided to agree on one official arrangement. I have heard two versions of the Ukraine anthem that have significant differences from the printed music, even in the melody. In all cases, I have tried very hard seek out authentic versions on which to base my arrangements. I have also consulted musical experts in different countries about which version is preferable. In a few cases, even the musical experts disagreed with each other.


I have assumed that the majority of visitors to this website are trained musicians for whom the printed notation is enough to get a pretty good idea of what the anthem sounds like. However, I have added MP3 audio files so that they can be used as accompaniments when solo or small ensembles are used. I'd suggest that whenever possible, you play these files through a decent audio system rather than use the small loudspeakers on your computer.

I know I am repeating myself but this bit is important. If you are unfamiliar with the performance conventions of a particular anthem it is always essential to check with local expertise about the preferred performance style in a given country. Sometimes pauses are placed at certain points; sometimes the last few measures are played at a distinctly slower tempo; sometimes repeats are played. Countries sometimes change their national anthem. So please check carefully. It would not be a good idea to offend your audience, especially at the start of your concert.


For the symphonic band (or any ensemble containing only woodwind, brass and percussion instruments) these arrangements allow you a great deal of flexibility, not only in instrumentation possiblities but also in adding contrasts of instrumental colour.

If the arrangements are played exactly as they are written, every instrument would be playing all the time. While it is perfectly possible to perform the anthems in this way (and no doubt many people do), you may prefer to exercise a bit of local control and create a more original sound by creating tacet sections. This can be achieved simply with the aid of a pencil or by giving verbal instructions during the rehearsal. If you have a little arranging experience, you'll see that by making appropriate tacet sections, a wide variety of contrasting textures and tone colours can be produced.

Let's suppose that in the case of a symphonic or concert band, your woodwind section is quite strong and covers all the parts. In a hymn-like anthem such as that of the United Kingdom, God Save the Queen, trumpets and trombones could be omitted from the first eight measures to give a contrast of tone colour. Other hymn-like anthems such as those of Switzerland and Wales will lend themselves to this approach.

In many of the arrangements, Part 5 is a non-essential part which is why its use is sometimes not recommended. So if your band is a bit thin on low woodwind or brass instruments, you can leave out Part 5 completely. Actually, you may find that you prefer the sound when Part 5 is not used.

The variable instrumentation also gives a bit of extra room when instruments are missing. If half the horn section is struck down with some mysterious illness before the concert, alto saxophones could be assigned to Parts 3 and 4 in E flat, leaving Parts 1 and 2 to look after themselves. At least the anthem would sound complete, even if the remainder of the programme proved a bit of a problem.


These arrangements will adapt well to the brass band. You can produce some textural contrast by adding tacet sections, for example, by restraining (if that is the right word) the E flat soprano cornet and omitting the instrument from the quieter sections. Because the trombone parts are covered by other instruments, you could give the trombones tacet sections during the quieter sections and at the same time reduce the tone by using only 1 bass. Do feel free to adapt the suggested instrumentation to your personal preferences.


I dont suppose there are many occasions when a big band would be called upon to play a national anthem, but you never know. You'll notice that in the instrumentation suggestions that come with each anthem, I have usually omitted Part 5 from the saxophone section, partly because there are not enough saxophones and the part is usually non-essential anyway. In any case, it is covered by the third trombone. You could omit the trumpets from quieter passages, and even the trombones too, if the saxophone section is strong enough to go it alone. For smaller groups, the piano reductions should come in handy.


In theory, these arrangements can be used with full orchestra, although the use of flat keys will require more experienced string players. If you were to merely hand out the parts to all the players, every instrument would be playing all the time and the woodwind and brass sections would probably dominate the sound. The quick way around this issue is easy: create tacet sections for the woodwind and bass in various passages. Let's take the Danish national anthem, for example. The first five measures could be played by the whole orchestra. From the anacrusis at the end of measure 5, the next couple of bars could be played by strings, woodwind and horns with the full brass returning for the accented passage. If your woodwind section is strong enough, they could play from the anacrusis before measure 10 for the next two measures, with the horns playing the little fanfare motif. The strings and low woodwindmight go it alone from measure 14, bringing in all the instruments for the final tutti just before measure 18. But this is just one idea. You may well have much better ideas of your own.

SYMPHONIC BAND - Suggested Voicing

piccolo: Part 1 in C
1st flute: Part 1 in C
2nd flute: Part 2 in C
oboe: Part 2 in C

1st clarinet: Part 1 in B flat
2nd clarinet: Part 2 in B flat
3rd clarinet: Part 3a in B flat
alto clarinet: Part 3 in E flat

1st alto saxophone: Part 3 in E flat
2nd alto saxophone: Part 4 in E flat
tenor saxophone: Part 5 in B flat
baritone saxophone: Part 6 in E flat
bassoon: Part 5 in C

1st trumpet: Part 1 in B flat
2nd trumpet: Part 2 in B flat
1st horn in F: Part 3 in F
2nd horn in F: Part 4 in F
1st E flat horn: Part 3 in E flat
2nd E flat horn: Part 4 in E flat

baritone (TC): Part 5 in B flat
baritone (BC): Part 5 in C

1st trombone: Part 4 in C
2nd trombone: Part 5 in C
bass trombone: Part 6 in C

tuba: Part 6 in C
Bb bass (TC): Part 6 in B flat
Eb bass (TC): Part 6 in E flat
percussion: percussion
timpani: timpani

CLARINET CHOIR - Suggested Voicing

Eb clarinet: Part 1 in E flat
1st clarinet: Part 1 in B flat
2nd clarinet: Part 2 in B flat
3rd clarinet: Part 3a in B flat

alto clarinet: Part 4 in E flat
bass clarinet: Part 6 in B flat
contrabass clarinet: Part 6 in B flat
piano (if used): Piano reduction

STRING ENSEMBLE - Suggested Voicing

Note that the flat keys used in these arrangements would make them more suitable for experienced string players.

1st violin: Part 1 in C
2nd violin: Part 2 in C
viola: Part 3 in C alto
violoncello: Part 4 in C
double bass: Part 6 in C

BRASS BAND - Suggested Voicing

soprano cornet: Part 1a in E flat
solo cornet: Part 1 in B flat
2nd/3rd cornets: Part 2 in B flat
repiano cornet: Part 1 in B flat or as required
flugelhorn: Part 2 in B flat

1st tenor horn: Part 3 in E flat
2nd tenor horn: Part 4 in E flat
baritone: Part 5 in B flat

1st trombone: Part 4 in B flat
2nd trombone: Part 5 in B flat
bass trombone: Part 6 in C
euphonium: Part 5 in B flat
Eb bass: Part 6 in E flat
Bb bass: Part 6 in B flat
percussion: percussion
timpani: timpani

STAGE BAND or BIG BAND - Suggested Voicing

1st alto sax: Part 1 in E flat
2nd alto sax: Part 2 in E flat
3rd tenor sax: Part 3 in B flat
4th tenor sax: Part 4 in B flat
5th baritone sax: Part 6 in E flat

1st trumpet: Part 1 in B flat
2nd trumpet: Part 1 in B flat
3rd trumpet: Part 2 in B flat
4th trumpet: Part 2 in B flat

1st trombone: Part 3 in C
2nd trombone: Part 4 in C
3rd trombone: Part 5 in C
tuba* or string bass: Part 6 in C
piano: Piano reduction
percussion: Percussion

(*If no tuba, 3rd trombone could support Part 6 in C)

BRASS ENSEMBLE - Suggested Voicing

1st trumpet: Part 1 in B flat
2nd trumpet: Part 2 in B flat
horn in F: Part 3 in F
trombone: Part 4 in C
tuba: Part 6 in C

Finally, the list above is intended to show the wide range of possibilities. If you have a non-standard ensemble, you may need to experiment a little with the voicings to get the sound you want. Remember that Part 5 is not essential so if you miss it out entirely, there will be no problem.

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