Guide to Instrumentation


The table below describes the band instrumentation common during the 1880–1924 period when most of the library’s music was published. Our present day instrumentation only became standardized in the mid-1950s. Band music published from 1880–1924 had D♭ Piccolo–seldom C Flute, and E♭ Alto Horns were standard–F Horns were rare.

  • All 21st century bands can play music marked “Modern instrumentation.” Music marked “New edition” has been newly arranged for modern bands as well.
  • Present day bands with Flutes and Piccolos that can play parts in D♭ and Horns that can play E♭ Alto music can play any music marked “Complete as published”.
  • A piece that is marked “Parts missing” may only be missing unimportant or easily-substituted parts. Don’t pass these up without taking a look.

Part Substitution was a routine and expected practice during these early days. No Alto Sax part? No problem—just substitute an E♭ Cornet or E♭ Clarinet part, whichever is the best fit. The table below suggests standard substitutions. Guiding Principle: Always substitute a part in the same key, clef and register as the part that is needed.

Two Considerations
1. Consider showing the Horn section how to transpose E♭ Alto Parts. (Read the music a Major 2nd down.) This opens up a vast amount of music from the Library for your band.

2. Encourage one of your band members to prepare transposed parts in Finale or Sibelius. Follow our guidelines on the “How You Can Help” page. Now everything is playable. Please share transposed parts with the rest of the world by submitting them to BandMusic PDF Library.

Missing Parts

A piece that is missing distinct parts will be marked “Parts missing” under Instrumentation and will have a “Seeking” entry to show what we are looking for. “Not yet inventoried” means that set of parts has not yet been inventoried. Before handing out to your band, always check for completeness. If the composer wrote his music with 18 discrete parts and all 18 are present, then the music will be listed “Complete as published.” This does not mean that all parts will fit your band. We recommend that you check.

A Final Thought. Check back often. BandMusic PDF Library is issuing a Major Call to Action to fill in missing parts. Follow the “Missing Parts” link to bring all missing parts to the top. Consult the “How You Can Help” page for more information.

 Ab­bre­via­tionCom­plete as published
(minimum set)
Com­plete as pub­lished (usual set)Modern In­stru­men­tation (minimum set)Trans­posi­tionClefSubsti­tutions and Trans­posi­tions
Piccolo D♭P 1 1   D♭ T  
Flute FL     1 C T Transpose D♭P
Oboe OB
(if no OB & BSN, marked “Small band”. May also have fewer CL, CT, E♭A than usual.)
1 1 C T  
Bassoon BSN 1 1 C B  
E♭ Clarinet E♭CL 1 1 1 E♭ T  
B♭ Clarinet CL 3 3 3 B♭ T  
Bass Clarinet BCL       B♭ T Substitute BA
Soprano Saxophone SS
(if no saxophones, marked “Substitute for saxes”.)
1 1 B♭ T Substitute CL or CT
Alto Saxophone AS 1 1 E♭ T Substitute E♭CL, E♭CT or E♭A
Tenor Saxophone TS 1 1 B♭ T Substitute EUTC
Baritone Saxophone BS 1 1 E♭ T Transpose TU or TR3
E♭ Cornet E♭CT 1 1 1 E♭ T  
B♭ Cornet CT 3 4 3 B♭ T  
E♭ Alto Horn E♭A 3 4   E♭ T  
F Horn FH     4 F T Transpose E♭A
Tenor Horn TH       B♭ T aka TR (treble clef)
B♭ Bass BA       B♭ T aka TR3 (treble clef)
Trombone TR 2 2 2 C B If missing, transpose TH
Bass Trombone TR3 1 1 1 C B If missing, transpose BA
Euphonium (Baritone) EUTC 1 1  1 B♭ T  If missing, transpose EU
Euphonium EU 1 1 1 C B If missing, transpose EUTC
Tuba TU 1 1 1 C B aka E♭ Bass, Bombardon, B♭ Bass bass clef
Percussion P 1 1 1      

Other notes and abbreviations

SC Score
p. Page
S Solo
1/2 1st & 2nd parts on one sheet
1-3 1st through 3rd parts
1&3 1st and 3rd parts

Instrumentation Notes

Brass band. This note is applied to music arranged for a British-style brass band, which has a consistent instrumentation of its own, quite different from the chart above. Some of these pieces are original publications, others are new arrangements.

Non-English instrumentation. Pieces with parts named in languages other than English. Usually the instrumentation for these pieces also does not conform to the chart above.

Small band. These pieces are arranged for a smaller-than-usual band. They do not have oboe and bassoon parts, have no saxophones, and usually have no more than three clarinets, cornets and horns.

Some transpositions added. These pieces, usually also marked with an instrumentation of “Complete as published”, have transposed versions of the D♭ piccolo part (for C piccolo) or the E♭ alto horns (for F horn) but not both. It is a way of saying, “this piece is almost ‘Modern instrumentation’ but not quite”.

Substitute for saxes. Many otherwise-complete sets of parts do not contain saxophones and are marked “Substitute for saxes”. There were standard substitutions; see the chart above for suggestions. Saxophone parts were often an optional purchase, if they were produced at all. Not all bands bought them, and as a result sets of music without sax parts are common.