Understanding the Orchestra

The sound of a great symphony orchestra in full flight is one of the most thrilling sounds in all of western classical music. This course explores the instruments of the orchestra and the variety of sounds they can achieve, and examines the growth and development of the symphony orchestra. It also explores the kind of music written for the orchestra, by examining some of the greatest composers and compositions of all time. No musical knowledge is necessary.

This class will be delivered face-to-face at WEA Sydney. Enrolling students need to ensure they have read the current COVID-19 Safety Guidance that WEA Sydney has put in place before enrolling.


  • Session 1: What is a symphony orchestra? Symphony Orchestra versus Philharmonic Orchestra, The Structure of a Symphony Orchestra, How sound is made, The instrument families, The layout of an orchestra
  • Session 2: The String Section: About string instruments, Individual string instruments – Violin / viola / cello / double bass / harp, The Woodwind Section: About woodwind instruments, Individual woodwinds – Flute / oboe/ clarinet/ bassoon
  • Session 3: The Brass Section: About brass instruments, Individual brass instruments – Trumpet / trombone / horn / tuba, The Percussion Section: About percussion instruments, Tuned percussion instruments, Percussion instruments of indefinite pitch
  • Session 4: Conductors and Conducting, What the conductor does, Interpreting the work, Controlling the orchestra, Orchestration: how instruments combine, Aspects of orchestration, Orchestration as a part of composition, Orchestration and arrangement

By the end of this course students should be able to:

  1. List the main families of instruments in the orchestra.
  2. List some specific examples orchestral instruments.
  3. Describe some of the features of the development of the orchestra.

This course has no current classes. Please join the waiting list by clicking .