Meet the Instruments

The Orchestra Family

An orchestra is a large group of musicians who play together on a variety of string, wind and percussion instruments, with the conductor leading the musicians. The instruments of the orchestra are organized into the following families:

The String Family

The String Family is made up of the violin, viola, cello and bass. The sound of the string instruments is made when the player moves the bow over the strings of plucks the strings (called pizzicato). The basic difference between the members of the family is the size of the instrument: the larger the instrument the lower the sound. The String Family is made up of the following instruments (links courtesy of the Dallas Symphony Orchestra):

Violin
Viola
Cello
Double Bass
Harp

The Percussion Family

The Percussion Family is made up of instruments that make a sound by shaking or striking one object with another. The timpani is the most important percussion instrument in the orchestra. There are many instruments in this family, including drums, cymbals, gongs and mallet instruments, such as the xylophone and marimba. The Percussion Family is made up of the following instruments (links courtesy of the Dallas Symphony Orchestra):

Bass Drum
Castanets
Chimes
Conga Drum
Cowbell
Cymbals
Glockenspiel
Gong
Guiro
Snare Drum
Tambourine
Tenor Drum
Timpani
Triangle
Wood Block
Xylophone

The Brass Family

The Brass Family instruments have a cup-shaped mouthpiece. The player vibrates his lips into the mouthpiece to produce the sound. The modern orchestra brass section includes horns, trumpets, trombones and tuba. The Brass Family is made up of the following instruments (links courtesy of the Dallas Symphony Orchestra):

French Horn
Trumpet
Trombone
Tuba

The Woodwind Family

The Woodwind Family consists of flutes, oboes, clarinets and bassoons. Other members include the piccolo, English horn, bass clarinet, contrabassoon and saxophone. Clarinets and saxophones have a single reed and mouthpiece, while oboes and bassoons have a double reed and no mouthpiece. The Woodwind Family is made up of the following instruments (links courtesy of the Dallas Symphony Orchestra):

Flute
Piccolo
Oboe
English Horn
Clarinet
Bass Clarinet
Saxophone
Bassoon
Contrabassoon

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