Big Band


May 17, 2022

A big band or big band (formerly also known as a jazz orchestra) is a large jazz band with multiple wind instruments and the so-called rhythm section. Big bands emerged in the United States in the 1920s and defined the swing era. The term is also used generically for large dance orchestras, regardless of their style.


Swing or Jazz Big Band

In the big band, the parts of the various individual instruments of early jazz (New Orleans jazz) were originally assigned to larger sections, i.e. groups of similar instruments. The standard sections of a modern big band are: Rhythm section (percussion section): piano/keyboard, guitar, double or electric bass (also tuba), drums and other percussion instruments, Woodwinds (Reed Section): Saxophones, sometimes supplemented or completely replaced by clarinets*/bass clarinet* or transverse flutes/alto flutes, Brass (Brass Section): Trumpets* and trombones.*usually tuned to B flat Each wind section is usually made up of four to five instruments of the respective group, which are staggered according to the maximum playable (or arranged) pitch: Saxophones: 1st, 2nd alto saxophone; 1st, 2nd tenor saxophone; Baritone saxophone (secondary instruments: soprano saxophone, flute/alto flute, clarinet/bass clarinet) Trumpets 1st to 4th (occasionally 5th) trumpet (secondary instruments: flugelhorn; for extremely high parts also piccolo trumpet) Trombones: 1st to 4th trombone, 4th usually bass trombone. (5 trombones are rather uncommon) The first voices each take on the lead voice of their section, and usually also all the solos that arise. In tutti or shout phrases, the first trumpet, as the highest and most penetrating instrument, is usually the lead voice. Dance orchestras in which a big band formation was combined with a string ensemble (violins, violas, cellos – no double basses) were common up until the 1960s, even if, unlike the strings in a symphony orchestra, these often do not play through the entire piece, or . Other instruments, which originally come from the classical orchestra literature, are also occasionally included, e.g. B. harp, horns, oboe/english horn or timpani. Rarely, the bass register is also reinforced with tuba or bassoon. However, in contrast to the rhythm and wind section above (almost always of a similar composition), all of these additions are never part of the standard formation. As already mentioned, the alto and tenor saxophonists often switch to the flute or clarinet, but sometimes the saxophone parts remain and independent flutists and/or clarinettists are added. Due to these additional options, the transition from a big band to a more symphonic ensemble (or even orchestra) can be fluid. The sound of the ensemble is essentially determined by the arranger, who needs to know the possible voice leading and the technical possibilities of the big band instruments and instrumentalists very well in order to create the desired overall sound as effectively as possible.

Mambo Big Band

A special form of the big band is the mambo big band, a large ensemble of musicians who have specialized in the music of the mambo. A typical mambo big band consists of: rhythm group: Piano, bass and drums (possibly guitar) Percussion: congas, bongos, timbales brass: 2-4 trumpets 2-4 trombones woodwind 2-5 saxophones (alto, tenor, baritone) possibly flutes and/or clarinets. All instruments – with the exception of piano, guitar, bass and drums – are always occupied by several people. Several singers are often added, usually consisting of a soloist and an accompanying group. Located