In Argentina, the orquesta típica is an orchestra specialized in performing tango. The classic orquesta típica is a sexteto composed of two bandoneons, two violins, piano and double bass.
Before the first orquesta típica were formed, tango was improvised or played by ear on commonly available instruments such as guitars, violins and flutes. The simple structure of primitive and old tangos allowed for musicians to perform on their own or in small bands of two to four musicians. Tango was also performed by municipal, military and police bands or played on the organito.
The incorporation of the bandoneon in tango instrumentation around 1910 was an important event in the evolution of tango orchestras. Because it was such a rare an difficult instrument it sets appart tha band dedicated to tango music. It also had a profound effect on the sound and feel of tango music.
The expression “orquesta típica criolla” first appeared on Columbia labels in 1911 to introduce the orchestra of Vicente Greco as a band which specializes in tango.
The first orquestas típicas were mostly cuartetos composed of guitars, violins, flutes and bandoneon. The piano and double bass were introduced by Roberto Firpo and Francisco Canaro. The classic sexteto and musical structure of the golden age was established as a result of the work of Julio de Caro in the 1920’s.
Pesce, Ruben. La historia del tango: La guardia vieja. Buenos Aires: Corregidor, 1977. Print.
Zucchi, Oscar. El tango, el bandoneon y sus interpretes. Buenos Aires: Corregidor, 1998. Print.