- Slides: 17
Instruments of the Orchestra How they work
The woodwind section l Although called woodwind, not many of these instruments are made of wood any more. Modern wind instruments can be made of wood, metal or even plastic.
What makes a wind instrument? Basically, a woodwind (or wind) instrument is one which is played by vibrating a column of air (by blowing!). You do this either with a reed or by blowing into or across a hole. l Unlike brass instruments, wind players do not blow raspberries. They are much more civilised…. . l
Orchestral wind instruments l The flute (highest), oboe, clarinet and bassoon (lowest) are the four orchestral wind instruments. l All these instruments have relatives, some of whom appear in the orchestra, some of whom appear in other types of ensemble.
The flute The only orchestral wind instrument not to have a reed. l The flute has a smaller relative – the piccolo. l The flute is related to the recorder, and works in a similar way – the vibrating column of air is made longer or shorter by covering holes with your fingers. The more holes covered, the lower the note! l
l The column of air in a flute is made to vibrate by blowing across a hole at the top.
Oboe l The oboe has a double reed – two bits of thin wood bound together which buzz when you blow (ever tried that with two blades of grass? )
Again – holes are covered to make higher or lower sounds. l The oboe has a reedy, bright tone which cuts through the orchestra. It has a larger relative called the cor l anglais
The clarinet l The clarinet has a single reed, attached to a mouthpiece, as shown below
l The clarinet has a more mellow tone than the oboe or bassoon. You can also get bass clarinets and piccolo clarinets. l The saxophone is a relative of the clarinet – and though you don’t usually find it in the orchestra, it is definitely a wind instrument!
The bassoon l The bassoon, and it’s larger relative the double bassoon, are the lowest and biggest wind instruments. l Like the oboe, the bassoon uses a double reed. l Because of it’s size, the bassoon has a complicated mechanism of keys to allow all the holes to be covered.
The wind family l Listen to some examples of wind instruments, and get familiar with their sounds. Click here l Try to place the wind instruments in the right place on a diagram of the orchestra
Brass instruments l Click on the links below to find out about the brass section See and hear brass instruments All about brass instruments
The Percussion Section l This is by far the largest section of the orchestra l Percussionists are different to other musicians as they have to be able to play every instrument in their section. l We can divide percussion into various categories
Percussion instrument types l You can divide percussion instruments up according to the material they use: wood skin
l You can also divide percussion instruments into two groups – tuned (ones which can play actual pitched notes) and untuned (ones which only play sounds) l More about percussion l Detail about percussion instruments
String Instruments l There are four main string instruments – violin, viola, ‘cello and double bass l The harp is also considered a member of the string family by some people, though others think of it as a whole orchestral section by itself! l Click here for information about string instruments l More information