Guide to Instrumentation


Our present day instrumentation became standardized in the mid-1950s. Band music published from 1880–1922 had Db Piccolo, seldom C Flute. Eb Alto Horns were standard, rarely F Horns.

  • Present day bands with Flutes and Piccolos that can play parts in Db and Horns that can play Eb Alto music can play any music marked "Complete as Published".
  • All 21st century bands can play music marked "Modern Instrumentation".

Part Substitution was a routine and expected practice during these early days. No Alto Sax part? No problem—just substitute an Eb Cornet or Eb Clarinet part, whichever is the best fit. 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 Eb 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. Be sure to share transposed parts with the rest of the world by submitting them to BandMusic PDF Library.

Missing Parts

A piece will have a "Seeking:" entry if parts are missing. “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 DbP 1 1   Db T  
Flute FL     1 C T Transpose DbP
Oboe OB
(if no OB & BSN, marked "Small band". May also have fewer CL, CT, EbA than usual.)
1 1 C T  
Bassoon BSN 1 1 C B  
Eb Clarinet EbCL 1 1 1 Eb T  
Bb Clarinet CL 3 3 3 Bb T  
Bass Clarinet BCL     1 Bb T Substitute BA
Soprano Saxophone SS
(if no saxophones, marked "No saxes".)
1 1 Bb T Substitute CL or CT
Alto Saxophone AS 1 1 Eb T Substitute EbCL, EbCT or EbA
Tenor Saxophone TS 1 1 Bb T Substitute EUTC
Baritone Saxophone BS 1 1 Eb T Transpose TU or TB3
Eb Cornet EbCT 1 1 1 Eb T  
Bb Cornet CT 3 4 3 Bb T  
Eb Alto Horn EbA 4 4   Eb T  
F Horn FH     4 F T Transpose EbA
Tenor Horn TH       Bb T  
Trombone TR 2 2 2 C B If missing, transpose TH
Bass Trombone TR3 1 1 1 C B If missing, transpose BA
Euphonium EUTC   1  1 Bb T  
Euphonium EU 1 1 1 C B If missing, transpose EUTC
Bb Bass BA       Bb T  
Tuba TU 1 1 1 C B  
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
Foreign Instrumentation Non-standard instruments, especially Czech music.
Parts added Some C Fl/Pic or F Horn parts have been added to the original set.