AskDefine | Define quartets

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  1. Plural of quartet

Extensive Definition

In music, a quartet (lang-fr quatuor, lang-de Quartett, lang-it quartetto, lang-es cuarteto) is a method of instrumentation (or a medium), used to perform a musical composition, and consisting of four parts.

Western art music

In Western art music, which is often referred to as "Classical music," string quartets are considered to be an important type of chamber music. String quartets consist of two violins, a viola, and a cello playing a multi-movement musical composition written in sonata form. The particular choice and number of instruments derives from the registers of the human voice: soprano, alto, tenor and bass. In the string quartet, two violins play the soprano and alto vocal registers, the viola plays the tenor register and the cello plays the bass register.
One of the early composers of string quartets, Luigi Boccherini, wrote 100 string quartets. Other important composers of string quartets include Joseph Haydn, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, and Ludwig van Beethoven. The term "quartet" is also used to refer to a musical composition written for such a group. In string quartets, each player is typically given an allowing distinct part.
Another common type of Western art music quartet is the piano quartet, consisting of violin, viola, cello, and piano.
Yet another type of Western art music quartet is the "Saxophone Quartet", consisting of Soprano Saxophone, Alto Saxophone, Tenor Saxophone and Baritone Saxophone or (SATB). Often a second alto may be substituted for the Soprano part (AATB) or a Bass Saxophone may be substituted for the Bari. The groups usually preform a mix of classical and jazz. Saxophone Quartet literature is limited. Most of the traditional style classical sheet music is transcribed from string quartet charts. Saxophone Quartets are rare, most are assembled for performance studies at music colleges and the public never gets the chance to hear their unique sound. You can hear them on occasion if you listen to NPR news in the US.


Quartets are widely used in jazz and jazz fusion music. A standard quartet formation in jazz is an ensemble consisting of a "horn" (e.g., saxophone, trumpet, etc.), a chordal instrument (e.g., electric guitar, piano, Hammond organ, etc.), a bass instrument (e.g., double bass or bass guitar) and a drum kit. This configuration is sometimes modified by using a second "horn" in place of the chordal instrument, or by using two chordal instruments (e.g., piano and electric guitar).

Popular music

The quartet lineup is very common in pop and rock music. A standard quartet formation in pop and rock music is an ensemble consisting of two electric guitars, a bass guitar, and a drum kit. This configuration is sometimes modified by using a keyboard instrument (e.g., organ, piano, synthesizer) or a soloing instrument (e.g., saxophone) in place of the second electric guitar.

Vocal Quartet

Most vocal quartets consist of: 1st Tenor, 2nd Tenor (Lead), Baritone, and Bass for male groups; Soprano, Alto, Tenor, and Contralto for female groups; and Soprano, Alto, Tenor, and Bass for mixed groups.

Western art music

In the Western art music tradition, vocal music arranged for four singers in an opera or choral work is referred to as a quartet.

Popular music

In 20th century US popular music, the term "vocal quartet" is used to refer to ensembles of four singers, usually of the same sex. Barbershop quartets and Gospel quartets typically use male singers. Some well-known female US vocal quartets include The Chiffons; The Chordettes; and The Lennon Sisters. Some well-known male US vocal quartets include The Ames Brothers; Chi-Lites; The Dixie Hummingbirds; The Golden Gate Quartet; The Four Aces; Four Freshmen; The Four Seasons;The Four Tops; The Hilltoppers; The Jordanaires; Mills Brothers; The Rascals; and The Skylarks. Some mixed-gender vocal quartets include The Pied Pipers; The Mama's & The Papa's; The Merry Macs; and The Weavers.
quartets in Arabic: رباعي (موسيقى)
quartets in German: Quartett (Musik)
quartets in Spanish: Cuarteto (música)
quartets in French: Quatuor
quartets in Galician: Cuarteto
quartets in Latvian: Kvartets
quartets in Lithuanian: Kvartetas
quartets in Dutch: Kwartet (muziek)
quartets in Japanese: 四人組
quartets in Norwegian: Kvartett
quartets in Polish: Kwartet
quartets in Russian: Квартет (произведение)
quartets in Finnish: Kvartetti
quartets in Ukrainian: Квартет
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