It might be surprising to find out that there’s no standard range of performers for a small ensemble. Chamber music, that is music for small ensembles, has been written for anywhere from two to twelve (and sometimes more) performers. However, for our purposes, we’ll define “small” as any ensemble ranging from a duet (two performers) to an quintet (five performers). Please note that this is by no means an exhaustive list and solos are excluded from this list as a single performer isn’t really an ensemble.
For the novice composer duets are a fantastic way to begin composing/arranging music.
Trios offer the excitement of blending multiple instruments of the same family or different families to create new timbral possibilities without the difficulties that can arise from writing for many instruments such as doubling.
Arranging for a quartet can be a great challenge to anyone working on their four part harmonization. Quartets can feature a mixed instrumentation or instruments from the same family.
Often writing for a quintet is difficult for novice composers. Some technical considerations include which notes of a chord should be doubled, balancing the ensemble through dynamics and tessitura (range), and blending instruments of different families.