Orchestration Abbreviations

Orchestration Values and Instrument Abbreviations for Sheet Music

An abbreviated notation is used throughout the Carolyn Nussbaum Music Company's Sheet Music catalog to describe, in detail, the intended orchestration(s) for each piece or collection of music. By combining instrument abbreviations according to the rules described below to construct an Orchestration Value, we are able to provide vital information to our customers, and/or the performer, about each piece, while making it easier to organize and search our extensive collection beyond the more general instrumentation categories.

We have done our best to identify each piece's orchestration(s) as accurately as possible based on available data but cannot be held responsible for errors or subjective interpretations in the absence of published public data. Please feel free to contact us if you believe there to be an error in our database, as we are always trying to improve our database in the spirit of customer service. We hope you find this information helpful. Please remember we are always available to help you with your search and selection from our vast flute sheet music catalog, so feel free to contact us if we can be of assistance.

Understanding the construction of the Orchestration Value:

  • All instrument abbreviations are lowercase and include no punctuation
  • Each orchestration is composed of instrument abbreviations separated by a comma followed by a space. In the example: "fl, vn, pn" the orchestration consists of flute, violin and piano.
  • Multiples of the same instrument in an orchestration are denoted by the number preceding the instrument abbreviation with a space between. In the example: "3 fl, al fl, pn" there are three flutes, an alto flute and a piano.
  • Optional quantities of a particular instrument in an orchestration are denoted by the minimum and maximum numbers of the instrument separated by a hyphen preceding the instrument abbreviation with a space between. In the example: "fl, 1-3 al fl, pn" there is a flute, anywhere from one to three alto flutes and a piano.
  • When two or more instruments are scored on the same part, a slash is used to separate the two instrument abbreviations. In the example: "2 fl/2 pc", the piece is scored for either two flutes or two piccolos.
  • Instrument abbreviations identified with a * in the below table imply a voice instrument of a particular type. These same abbreviations may precede, and be used in combination with, another instrument abbreviation to define a variant of the common form of the instrument. In the example “sop, sop sax” the orchestration consists of a soprano voice and a soprano saxophone.
  • Instrument abbreviations identified with a ** in the below table cannot be used alone and MUST precede, and be used in combination with, another instrument abbreviation. These specific abbreviations modify the definition of the instrument which they precede. In the example: “amp gtr, e cl, opt pc” the orchestration consists of an amplified guitar, a clarinet pitched in E flat, and an optional piccolo.
  • An instrument abbreviation followed by a space and a number implies a part being played by one or more of that instrument. In the example "fl, 2 al fl, vn 1" the orchestration consists of a flute, two alto flutes and a part for the first violin.
  • Each piece of sheet music may have more than one orchestration defined in its Orchestration Value. In these circumstances each orchestration is separated by a semicolon followed by a space. In the example: "fl, pn; al fl, pn", there are two possible orchestrations; the first for flute and piano and the second for alto flute and piano.
  • Finally, the order of instruments within a particular orchestration is subjective although we have tried to be consistent across our database when the orchestration is the same. Therefore the examples: "fl, al fl, vn, pn" and "fl, vn, al fl, pn" are the same orchestration.
Abbreviation Description
a** instrument pitched in A
amp** amplified
al* alto
b** instrument pitched in B flat
band band
bar* baritone
bc the set includes a keyboard part with an optional basso part, often a cello
bon bongo
bs* bass
bsn bassoon
btl bottle
bw boomwhackers
c** instrument pitched in C
cd compact disc
cl clarinet
ctrbs* contrabass
clv clave
ctral* contra-alto
d** insturment pitched in D flat
dm drum
e** instrument pitched in E flat
elec electric/electronics
enhn english horn
euph euphonium
f** instrument pitched in F
fif fife
flxens flexible ensemble (instrumentation can be tailored to ensemble needs)
fl flute in C
flug flugel horn
Abbreviation Description
g** instrument pitched in G
gtr guitar
hb handbell
hj headjoint
hpcd harpsichord
hp harp
hn horn
kyd keyboard
mr marimba
mz* mezzo
nafl native american flute
nar narrator
ob oboe
opt** optional
orch orchestra
org organ
panfl pan flute
pc piccolo
perc percussion
pnwh pennywhistle
pn piano
rec recorder
sax saxophone
sndm snare drum
sop* soprano
stbs string bass
storch string orchestra
tam tam tam
tamb tambourine
tn* tenor
tm timpani
tnwh tin whistle
tp pre-recorded tape
Abbreviation Description
tpt trumpet
trm trombone
tb tuba
vb vibraphone
va viola
vn violin
vc cello
vce voice (non-specific)
wst whistle
xyl xylophone