Home » Music Theory » A Quick Guide On Music Performance

A Quick Guide On Music Performance


Music performance is a way in which musical ideas are accomplished and communicate to the listeners. This involves steps and the process of interpreting the musical art and transforms it through personal performance.

Musical performance varied in different cultures of the world. But all is about projecting musical elements to the audience and/or listeners.

Every performance objective is to convey the musical ideas and musical communicative content in form of an acoustic signal across to the listeners.

Performers dominate many aspects of our musical culture today and the development of the performers dictates the level of musical ideal interpretations.

There are various occasions for music-making. Essentially, theses music performance is executed by voice or instrument, or both.

However, we will focus on the aspect of musical performance and presentation as related to the grouping of performers in our discussion. These performances include Solo, Duet, Trio, Quartet, Quintet, Sextet, Septet, and Octet.

Meaning of These Performance Types

In this section, we will look at the meaning of each performance as related to the group of performers.

Solo Music Performance

A Quick Guide On Music Performance
Nigerian Opera Singer Joseph Oparamanuike in solo performance

This is a musical performance with a single performer either for a voice or an instrument. The word solo itself is an Italian word that means “alone”. This type of music performance may be done entirely unaccompanied or with (instrumental) accompaniment.

The accompaniment may be a piano, organ, orchestra, or the rest of a choir. The person that performs the solo is known as a soloist. Again, a musical composition written for such a performance is also called solo.

Also, we have instrumental solos in classical and art music as well as in popular music. The instrumental solo piece is a musical composition written to be played by a single performer. For instance, an étude, impromptus, partita, solo sonata, or solo suite or an arrangement.

The instrumental solo performance can either be monophonic or polyphonic. It is monophonic for a musical instrument that typically produced a single note at a time.

Examples are brass and wind instruments like trumpet, trombone, flute, clarinet, and so on. A solo performance would be polyphonic when it involves a musical instrument that can produce more than one note at a time.

For instance, guitar, piano, and organ. These instruments can play more than one note simultaneously.

ALSO READ: What You Need To Know About Articulation In Music And Its Function

Therefore, we have a solo performance for organ music known as an organ solo. Also, we have a piano solo, trumpet solo, and so on. Typically, in popular music, solo is frequently used during a break or bridge. This is used to add variety and interesting parts to the song when the lyrics are off.

The plural form for solo is soli or solos which is its anglicised form. Soli is majorly used in classical music for solo performers or passages in a musical piece. In addition, soli is sometimes used to specify a small part of the music to be played by single players in an orchestral composition.

During the Baroque and Classical era of Western music, solo literally means a sonata which could be a piece for a monophonic instrument with (continuo) accompaniment.

On the other hand, it could be for an unaccompanied monophonic instrument. The typical example is sonatas for violin alone by Johann Sebastian Bach.


A Quick Guide On Music Performance

Duet is a music performance in which two people or two instruments are involving. When a musical group or band has two members for a musical performance we have a duet.

Any piece of music composed for two performers and the two that have the same significance in the piece is also a duet. Majorly, duet composition is often involving two singers or pianists.

Duet is not always about harmony but performance in which the two performers take turns performing a solo section rather than always performing at the same time.

In addition, a duet can also mean the act in which a musical duet is performing. On the other hand, a duet can be used to indicate the performer of a duet.

Generally, a duet is normally written for two voices like soprano and alto or male and female voices in vocal works.  You can also see Tenor and bass as well as baritone and Bass and so on. Similarly, an instrument duet involves two instruments, like 1st Violin and 2nd Violin, etc.


This is the same manners refers to a group of three musical performers, either voices or instruments. A musical composition designed for three performers is also called Trio.

A vocal trio involves three voice parts, for instance, 1st soprano, 2nd soprano, and alto. Or soprano, alto, and tenor. An instrumental trio consists of three instruments.

Thus, a string trio may comprise violin, viola, and cello. A piano trio may consist of violin, cello, and piano.

Quartet Music Performance

This concerns a combination of four musical performers together, either vocal or instrumental. Any piece of music designed for four performers is called a quartet.

A vocal quartet may consist of soprano, alto, tenor, and bass (S.A.T.B). Or alto, 1st tenor, 2nd tenor, and bass (A.T.T.B) etc. A string quartet consists of two violins, viola, and cello.


A Quick Guide On Music Performance
Kirill Gerstein performed Brahms’ Piano Quintet with the Boston Symphony Chamber Players Sunday afternoon at Jordan Hall. Photo: Stu Rosner

This is a musical group with five members. Therefore, if we have any combination of five performers together, we have a quintet. Besides, a musical piece written for five different performers is also referred to as a quintet. For instance, a group of five singers, a brass quintet, or a string quintet.

In vocal music, a quintet may comprise two sopranos, a contralto, tenor, and bass. Specifically, vocal quintets are commonly written for two sopranos, contralto, tenor, and bass.

Also, we have instrumental quintets with five instruments engagement in musical performance. For example, a string quintet is composed of two violins, two violas, and a cello. However, the instrument that made up the quintet may vary and we can have two violins, a viola, and two cellos.

Moreover, if we add any instrument to the string quartet to form a quintet the resulting quintet is named after the additional instrument. For instance, if we add piano plays with string quartet we will have a “piano quartet”.

Again, we can add clarinet as an additional instrument to the regular string quartet to have a “clarinet quintet”. However, the standard wind quintet is made up of one flute, oboe, clarinet, bassoon, and horn player.

Furthermore, two trumpets, horn, trombone, and tuba are required to form a standard brass quintet.

ALSO READ: Musical Terms, Signs, And Abbreviations You Need To Know

Some modern bands formed their quintets with instruments in the same family in different voices. For instance, it is common to see all-brass, all wood, or all string with different brass, wood, or sting family.

But instead, you will have the same instrument family in their different ranges. For example, all-saxophone with soprano, alto, tenor, baritone, and bass saxophone.

Some typical quintet musical performing groups around are the New London Chamber Ensemble, New York Woodwind Quintet, and Quintet of the Americas. Also, we have Bergen Wind Quintet, Vancouver Woodwind Quintet, Vento Chiaro, Artecombo, Imani Winds, and many others.

Quintet Example

One of the major compositions for quintet music performance is “Quintet for Piano and Winds K. 452” a composition by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart for oboe, clarinet, bassoon, and horn.

Another composition is “String Quintet in C major, Op. 163 (D. 956)” also called the “Cello Quintet” by Franz Schubert in 1828.

In addition, there is “Piano Quintet in F minor, Op. 34” composed by German composer, pianist, and conductor of the Romantic period Johannes Brahms.

There are many other quintet compositions in western music like “String Quintet in F major” by Josef Anton Bruckner in 1879, “Wind Quintet, Op. 26 (1923–24)” by Arnold Schoenberg, “Piano Quintets in A major, Op. 5 (1872)” by Antonín Leopold Dvořák, etc. 

Also, Act III of the opera Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg (1868; “The Mastersingers of Nuremberg”) by Richard Wagner is a typical example of vocal quintets.


Northwestern Bienen School of Music Septet for Winds and Strings

The septet is the type of music performance that involves a combination of seven performers. This is a group of performers with just seven members. The septet is commonly used with the musical group. Nevertheless, septet can be used in relation to any musical performance with seven performers. This can be a musical piece written for such or instrumental performance with seven players. Specifically, a septet is mainly for instrumental performance.

ALSO READ: A Complete Guide To The Types Of Form In Music

The typical example of septet music performance is Beethoven’s Septet in E♭ major, Op. 20. This piece is composed of a violin, viola, cello, clarinet, horn, bassoon, and double bass around 1799–1800.

Another example we have is the 20th-century wind septet composition by Paul Hindemith. The prolific German composer, violinist, music teacher, and conductor wrote wind septet for flute, flute, oboe, clarinet, bass clarinet, bassoon, trumpet, and horn in 1948.

Famous operatic septets: “En mon bon droit j’ai confiance” occur in 1836 French opera “Les Huguenots” by Giacomo Meyerbeer.

Also, we have septet: “Tout n’est que paix et charme” example in “Les Troyens” French opera by Hector Berlioz in 1863. “Tout n’est que paix et charme” is for septet choir that comprise of mezzo, tenor, bass, bass, contralto, soprano and tenor.


This type of music performance is a combination of eight performers. This is again more instrumental than vocal.

For example, a string octet is composed of four violins, two violas, and two cellos. However, a professional choral group consists of three sopranos, two altos, one tenor, and two basses.

Choir Music Performance

Lagos City Chorale Directed by Sir Emeka Nwokedi

When a group of singers comes together to perform a song we definitely have a choir. Choir refers to a group of singers usually known as choristers.

These singers can perform in unison or in their various voice parts as we have in the mixed choir of S.A.T.B. Sometimes, a choir may be referred to as Chorus or Chorale.

Occasionally, we find an instrumental choir comprising a collection or an ensemble of instruments playing in concert. A choir may perform with or without accompaniment. Unaccompanied vocal music is referred to as a-cappella.

At Phamox Music, we go all out for exactness and honesty. For this purpose, if by any means you found any possible glitch, be it factual, editorial or something that we need to update, kindly contact us.


1 thought on “A Quick Guide On Music Performance

  1. The author of this post has undoubtedly done a great job by shaping this article on such an uncommon yet untouched topic. There are not many posts to be seen on this topic and hence whenever I came across this one, I didn’t think twice before reading it. The language of this post is extremely clear and easy to understand and this is possibly the USP of this post.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *