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Musical Instruments of the Symphony Orchestra. History. The first type of orchestra were groups of instruments that gathered to play in ancient Egypt. The Roman Empire mostly scorned musicians, discouraging informal ensemble playing. This reappeared after the fall of the empire.

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Musical Instruments of the Symphony Orchestra


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    1. Musical Instruments of the Symphony Orchestra

    2. History • The first type of orchestra were groups of instruments that gathered to play in ancient Egypt. The Roman Empire mostly scorned musicians, discouraging informal ensemble playing. This reappeared after the fall of the empire. • Instrument families began appearing in the eleventh century, consisting of similar models differening in tones and octaves. The Middle Ages included mostly groups of certain instrument families. • Modern orchestras began in the late sixteenth century when composers were writing music for instrumental groups. The instruments used were not those found today in the orchestra.

    3. History Continued • The seventeenth century showed the favoring of strings for their particular sound, which developed into the heart of the orchestra. Improvements occurred in the construction of instruments, the progress of music compositions, and the development in the technique of performance. • Flutes, oboes, horns, and trumpets became part of the typical orchestra by the early eighteenth century. A typical classical orchestra also included clarinets, bassoons, violins, violas, cellos, basses, and timpani. • Composers began writing for a larger orchestra, causing the size to increase over the years.

    4. Sections Strings Woodwinds Brass Percussion Keyboards To hear any of the instruments, press the speaker button

    5. Strings • The four major instruments in the string family, the violin, the viola, the cello and the double bass, are built the same way. • The instruments are made of many pieces of wood which are glued - never nailed - together. The body of the instrument is hollow, thus becoming a resonating box for the sound. • Four strings made of animal gut, nylon, or steel are wrapped around pegs at one end of the instrument and attached to a tailpiece at the other. They are stretched tightly across a bridge to produce their assigned pitches. Hit Enter for Next Section Back to Orchestra Sections To String Instruments

    6. Woodwinds • The three branches of the woodwind family have different sources of sound. • Vibrations begin when air is blown across the top of an instrument, across a single reed, or across two reeds. • A single reed is clamped to a mouthpiece at the top of the instrument and vibrates against the mouthpiece when air is blown between the reed and the mouthpiece. • The double reed fits into a tube at the top of the instrument and vibrates when air is forced between the two reeds. Hit Enter for Next Section Back to Orchestra Sections To Woodwind Instruments

    7. Brass • Brass Family instruments produce their unique sound by the player buzzing his/her lips while blowing air through a cup- or funnel-shaped mouthpiece. • The mouthpiece connects to a length of brass tubing ending in a bell. The shorter the tubing length, the smaller the instrument, and the higher the sound; and the longer the tubing length, the larger the instrument, and the lower the sound. • The main instruments of the brass family include the trumpet, horn, trombone, and tuba. Hit Enter for Next Section Back to Orchestra Sections To Brass Instruments

    8. Percussion • With a name that means, "the hitting of one body against another," instruments in the percussion family are played by being struck, shaken, or scraped. • In the orchestra, the percussion section provides a variety of rhythms, textures and tone colors. • The percussion instruments are an international family, with ancestors from the Middle East, Asia, Africa, the Americas and Europe representing musical styles from many different cultures. Hit Enter for Next Section Back to Orchestra Sections To Percussion Instruments

    9. Keyboards • Keyboard instruments are often classified as percussion instruments because they play a rhythmic role in some music. • However, most keyboard instruments are not true members of the percussion family because their sound is not produced by the vibration of a membrane or solid material. Back to Orchestra Sections To Keyboard Instruments

    10. Violin The violin is the soprano voice in the string family. It is held under the chin, resting on the shoulder. The violin has a lovely tone that can be soft and expressive or exciting and brilliant. Back to Orchestra Sections Hit Enter for Next Instrument

    11. Viola The viola is the alto voice in the string family. It is held under the chin, resting on the shoulder. The viola is slightly larger and is tuned five notes lower than the violin. It has a darker and warmer tone quality, but is not as brilliant. Back to Orchestra Sections Hit Enter for Next Instrument

    12. Cello The cello is the tenor voice in the string family. Shaped like a violin, the cello is much larger and is held between the player’s knees. Because it can produce beautiful sounds from its lowest to its highest notes, it is a popular instrument. Back to Orchestra Sections Hit Enter for Next Instrument

    13. Double Bass The double bass, or string bass is the largest and lowest instrument of the string family. The double bass has rounded shoulders instead of square shoulders like the other string instruments. Because of its size, the player stands or sits on a high stool to play it. Back to Orchestra Sections Hit Enter for Woodwinds

    14. Piccolo The piccolo is exactly like the flute except that it is much smaller and is usually made of silver or wood. The pitch of the piccolo is higher than that of a flute. Back to Orchestra Sections Hit Enter for Next Instrument

    15. Flute The flute is made from silver or gold and is about 2 feet in length. It looks like a narrow tube with a row of holes covered by keys along one side. The player blows air across the small hole in the mouthpiece to produce a sound that can be either soft and mellow or high and piercing. Back to Orchestra Sections Hit Enter for Next Instrument

    16. Oboe The oboe is similar to the clarinet in many ways. Both are made from wood and have metal keys that can produce many notes rapidly. The oboe does not have a mouthpiece, but has two reeds tied together. By placing them between one's lips and blowing air through them, the reeds vibrate and produce a sound. Back to Orchestra Sections Hit Enter for Next Instrument

    17. Clarinet Made from wood, the clarinet produces a fluid sound when air is blown between a single reed and the mouthpiece. By pressing metal keys with the fingers of both hands, the player has the ability to play many different notes very quickly. Back to Orchestra Sections Hit Enter for Next Instrument

    18. Bassoon The bassoon is a large double reed instrument with a lower sound than the other woodwind instruments. When the player blows air between the reeds, the vibrating column of air inside the instrument travels over nine feet to the bottom of the instrument, then up to the top where the sound comes out. Back to Orchestra Sections Hit Enter for Next Instrument

    19. Saxophone Conically shaped, the saxophone is the only woodwind instrument made of brass. Although it is found only occasionally in the symphony orchestra, it is considered a member of the woodwind family because it has a single reed like the clarinet. Back to Orchestra Sections Hit Enter for Brass Instruments

    20. Trumpet The trumpet is the highest sounding member of the brass family. The brilliant tone of the trumpet travels through about 6 - ½ feet of tubing bent into an oblong shape. The player presses the three valves in various combinations with the fingers of the right hand to obtain various pitches. Back to Orchestra Sections Hit Enter for Next Instrument

    21. Trombone The mouthpiece of the trombone is larger than that of a trumpet, and gives the instrument a more mellow sound. Instead of valves, the trombone has a slide which changes the length of its approximately 9 feet of tubing to reach different pitches. Back to Orchestra Sections Hit Enter for Next Instrument

    22. Tuba Made of about 16 feet of tubing, the tuba is the lowest sounding member of the brass family. The tuba has four to five valves and is held upright in the player’s lap. Back to Orchestra Sections Hit Enter for Next Instrument

    23. French Horn The French Horn consists of about 12 feet of narrow tubing wound into a circle. The player obtains different notes on the horn with a clear mellow sound by pressing valves with the left hand and by moving the right hand inside of the bell. Back to Orchestra Sections Hit Enter for Percussion

    24. Snare Drum The snare drum has two calfskin or plastic drumheads stretched tightly over a hollow metal frame. The top head is struck with wooden drumsticks, and is called the batter-head. The bottom head, or snare-head has catgut or metal wires called snares stretched tightly across it. When this drum is struck on the top head, the snares produce a characteristic sharp rattling sound as they vibrate against the bottom head. Back to Orchestra Sections Hit Enter for Next Instrument

    25. Cymbals Made from two large, slightly concave brass plates, cymbals are fitted with leather hand straps and are shaped so that when they are crashed together, only the edges touch. Different sized cymbals produce a wide range of sound effects. Cymbals are also played by being struck with drumsticks or mallets while suspended on a string or stand. Back to Orchestra Sections Hit Enter for Next Instrument

    26. Bass Drum The composer Mozart added the deep, booming, sound of the bass drum to the orchestra in 1782. Constructed like a snare drum, but without snares, the bass drum is much larger and is played on its side, so that either head may be struck. The beater or mallet for a bass drum is large with a soft material such as sheep's wool covering the end. Back to Orchestra Sections Hit Enter for Next Instrument

    27. Tambourine The tambourine is a shallow, handheld drum made of a circular wooden frame with a calfskin or plastic drumhead stretched across the top. The tambourine has small discs called jingles set into its circular frame which produce sound when the tambourine is shaken, rubbed, or struck on the drum head with the knuckles. Back to Orchestra Sections Hit Enter for Next Instrument

    28. Triangle The triangle is made from a small round steel tube, and is played by striking it with a steel beater. Its bright shimmering sound is untuned and resembles that of a bell. The triangle first joined the orchestra in the late 1700s. Back to Orchestra Sections Hit Enter for Next Instrument

    29. Timpani Timpani are constructed of a large copper bowl with a drumhead made of calfskin or plastic stretched across the top. When struck with felt-tipped wooden sticks, or mallets, timpani produce a specific pitch that is determined by the drum's size. That pitch is fine-tuned by tightening the drumhead with keys and foot pedals. Most orchestras use three or four timpani of varying sizes. Back to Orchestra Sections Hit Enter for Next Instrument

    30. Xylophone First used in the orchestra just over a century ago, the xylophone is a tuned instrument made of hardwood bars in graduated lengths set horizontally on a metal frame. With the larger, lower-sounding bars on the left, the notes of the xylophone are laid out much like a piano keyboard. Striking the bars with hard mallets produces a bright, sharp sound. Back to Orchestra Sections Hit Enter for Next Instrument

    31. Chimes Chimes are a tuned instrument consisting of a set of 12 to 18 metal tubes hung from a metal frame. The metal tubes range from 1 to 2 ½ inches in diameter and from 4 to 6 feet in length. The chimes, or tubular bells, are struck with a mallet and sound like church bells when played. The longer the length of tube that is struck, the lower the pitch that is created. Back to Orchestra Sections Hit Enter for Keyboards

    32. Piano Sound is produced on the piano by small hammers striking strings. The hammers are controlled mechanically and strike the strings when the player's hands press the piano keys. Back to Orchestra Sections Hit Enter for Next Instrument

    33. Organ When an organist presses the keys of an organ, air is allowed to flow into corresponding pipes. The vibration of the air in the pipes creates the sound of the organ. One of the largest concert hall organs in the world has four keyboards, 244 keys, 32 pedals and 4,535 pipes. The largest pipe is 32 feet high while the smallest pipe is less than one inch in height. Back to Orchestra Sections Hit Enter for The End

    34. The End