Although the variety of musical instruments around the world is huge, there are four specific categories of musical instruments found in the orchestra. These are referred to as instrument families. They are referred to as families because the instruments within each group create sound in a similar way. These four families are brass, woodwind, strings, and percussion. Continue reading to find out what makes each of these families unique.
Instruments in this family include the trumpet, trombone, tuba, french horn, euphonium and baritone. All of these instruments change pitch by pressing valves except for the trombone which has a slide. All of these instruments are made of metal.
Instruments in the woodwind family include the clarinet, bass clarinet, flute, Piccolo, saxophone (soprano, alto, tenor, and baritone), oboe, bassoon and english horn. All of these instruments require a reed except for the flute and piccolo. The clarinet, bass clarinet and saxophone require a single reed, while the oboe, bassoon and english horn require a double reed. All of these instruments have many keys that are pressed to change the pitch. They are made of a combination of materials including plastic, metal, wood and cork.
The string family is a large family if you include instruments not found in the orchestra. The instruments of the orchestra include the violin, viola, cello, and bass. However, there are many more stringed instruments including the guitar, ukulele, and mandolin. These instruments are played by plucking, strumming or bowing. When the strings vibrate sound is created.
The Percussion family is the largest family of the four. It is almost impossible to list all the instruments of this family. They include the bass drum, timpani, snare drum, bells, piano, drum set, hand drums, chimes, and cymbals. This is just a small selection of instruments. These instruments are played in a variety of ways including hitting and shaking. Some of these instruments such as the chimes and bells are capable of creating many pitches (known as pitched instruments) while others such as the snare drum and bass drum are only capable of one pitch (unpitched).
For the majority of the instruments in all families there size will determine how high or low there pitches are. For example, in the woodwind family the piccolo is capable of playing really high notes while the baritone saxophone plays pitches that are much lower. In the brass family the pitches sounded on the tuba are much lower then those sounded on the french horn and trumpet.
Watch the following video to hear and see the instruments of each family.
Click here to learn more about musical instruments not found in the orchestra.