AskDefine | Define quartette

Dictionary Definition



1 four performers or singers who perform together [syn: quartet]
2 a set of four similar things considered as a unit [syn: quartet, quadruplet]
3 four people considered as a unit; "he joined a barbershop quartet"; "the foursome teed off before 9 a.m." [syn: quartet, foursome]
4 a musical composition for four performers [syn: quartet]

User Contributed Dictionary


Alternative spellings

  • quartet
  • quartett


quartette (plural quartettes)
  1. A composition in four parts, each performed by a single voice or instrument.
  2. The set of four person who perform a piece of music in four parts.
  3. A stanza of four lines.

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.
quartette in Arabic: رباعي (موسيقى)
quartette in German: Quartett (Musik)
quartette in Spanish: Cuarteto (música)
quartette in French: Quatuor
quartette in Galician: Cuarteto
quartette in Latvian: Kvartets
quartette in Lithuanian: Kvartetas
quartette in Dutch: Kwartet (muziek)
quartette in Japanese: 四人組
quartette in Norwegian: Kvartett
quartette in Polish: Kwartet
quartette in Russian: Квартет (произведение)
quartette in Finnish: Kvartetti
quartette in Ukrainian: Квартет
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