A Big Band is a large dance band consisting of 2 or 3 players of each of the following instruments:
saxophones, alto saxophones, and
clarinets. Lastly there is always a
Rhythm Section, consisting of an
electric guitar, drums, a
double bass or electric bass guitar, and a piano or electronic keyboard.
These band developed in the 1930s and 1940s, out of
traditional jazz bands. They play swing, which is a style in which arrangements are made of
popular songs and
jazz tunes. Contrasts are provided between the brass and the saxophone sections, the music is loud, backed by a heavy percussion beat. One of the most famous Big Bands of all time was that of Glenn Miller. It is not possible for a big band to improvise, as happens in the smaller traditional jazz band, because there are too many musicians, the result would be cacophonous!
Such Big Bands are popular again today in many schools, often replacing what used to be the school orchestra. They provide a very useful and exciting way for young musicians to learn to read music and play in a large ensemble.