The Different Types of Musical Instruments: Beyond the Orchestra

Look to this page to find instruments not typically found in the orchestra. As I discover and learn about new instruments I will post them here. For each instrument you will find a brief description and image.


The Guitar is one of the most popular instruments that people want to play. This may be due to its popularity in rock and country bands. The guitar can have 6 strings (Most common) or 12 strings. There are a variety of different types including classical, acoustic, acoustic electric and electric. All of these guitars are played in the same manner. There is also the bass guitar which looks a lot like an electric guitar but usually only has 4 strings. It has replaced the double bass in the rhythm section of popular music.



ukuleleThe ukulele is a stringed instrument. It looks like a small guitar but only has 4 strings. These relatively inexpensive instruments can be a real joy to learn to play. Many elementary school music programs have class sets of ukuleles for group instruction.



The recorder is a member of the woodwind family. It is played by blowing into a mouthpiece much like a whistle. Recorders were popular from medieval times up to the baroque era. Its popularity decreased during the 18th century. At this time composers and musicians began to choose orchestral wind instruments (flute, Clarinet, oboe) as opposed to the recorder.

Recorders are made of a variety of materials including plastic, wood, and ivory. Recorders of high quality are often made of hardwoods such as maplewood and plumwood. Cheaper recorders are often made of plastic and manufactured in large quantities.

Today the recorder is often thought of as an instrument mainly for children. This may be due to the fact that many school music programs introduce the recorder in the elementary grades. These recorders are often the cheaper plastic models, as the require little maintenance and can with stand child’s play. However, there are many professional recorder players who can demonstrate the true beauty of the instrument.


DjembeThe djembe is a hand drum that originated out of West Africa. The head of traditional djembe drums are made of animals skin, usually goats skin, and the body is carved from wood. There are many manufacturers who also make djembe drums but often use synthetic materials for the head and alternative materials for the body of the drum.

Although djembe drums are still utilized in West Africa for traditional purposes, they have emerged in other parts of the world for a variety of uses. One popular use is the drum circle which is also based on West African traditions.  Many school music programs have purchased class sets of djembe drums to play in a class setting.

Research has shown that there are many health benefits related to playing the djembe, including releasing stress and lowering blood pressure. This research has led to the use of djembes in some health facilities.

Drum Kit

A drum kit is a collection of drums put together to be played by one individual player. The player uses a set of drumsticks and his feet to to play the instrument.  Most drum kits will consist of a bass drum, snare drum, and one or more cymbals. They also often have more drums added including a tom,  and high hat. Players will often purchase extra drums to customized there drum kit to their needs.

Drum Kit

“Drumming 2” by Louis_Moholo.jpg: Brother Gderivative work: StefanWesthoff (talk) – Louis_Moholo.jpg. Licensed under CC BY 2.0 via Commons –

Drum kits are most often found in popular music and concert band. Many composers have started to include them in some of their compositions for the orchestra. The drum kit is one of the most popular percussion instruments.