Tips for Classical Musicians

The Great Majority of Classical Musical Instruments

Written on May 2, 2017   By   in Auditions, Musician's Life, Personal Development, Symphony Orchestra

 

Bassoon:

 

 

As the name would suggest, the bass member of the woodwind family, and by far the largest, especially its lower-pitched relation, the extremely bulky double or contra-bassoon. Like the oboe, it is a double-reed instrument, although to facilitate the playing action (the instrument is normally held across and in front of the body) it is connected to the bassoon via a silver-plated, curved crook. Its most notorious cousin is the Baroque serpent, shaped very much as its name would suggest.

 

Winds:

 

Wind instruments are played by blowing into a mouthpiece. There are 2 types of wind instruments: woodwinds and brass

 

Woodwinds:

 

Include the flute, piccolo, clarinet, oboe, saxophone, and bassoon

The great majority of musical instruments fall readily into one of six major categories: bowed strings, woodwind, brass, percussion, keyboard, and the guitar family, the first four which form the basis of the modern symphony orchestra.

 

Strings:

 

 

String instruments are played by pulling a bow along the string, or by plucking the strings with your fingers (almost like a guitar).

The most widely used string instruments are the violin, viola, cello, and double bass. The violin has the highest pitch of the string instruments, followed by the viola, cello, and double bass.

The four principle woodwind instruments of the orchestra all work by means of a system of keys (usually silver-plated) which when variously depressed and released allow air to pass through differing lengths of the instrument resulting in notes of different pitch. In order of descending overall pitch, these are:

 

Flute:

 

Early forebears include the unkeyed fife. The most popular close relation is the recorder family, end-blown and largely unkeyed in the vertical position.

The four principle orchestral string instruments are (in descending order of overall pitch) the violins (usually divided into two sections, playing individual parts), the violas, the cellos and the double basses. Each have four strings arranged in order of pitch, can be played by means of a bow (arco) or plucked (pizzicato), but whereas the violin and viola are played with the instrument resting between the chin and the shoulder, the larger cello (or, to give it its full title, violoncello) is placed facing outwards between and slightly behind the knees, and the bulky double bass is played standing up or seated on a high stool.

 

Clarinet:

 

 

Like the oboe usually wooden, played vertically and held in the mouth, but with a wider bore and consisting of a single reed which when activated vibrates against a detachable mouthpiece. The standard instrument can be pitched in B flat (usually) or A, and the family is unusually extensive including the higher-pitched E flat, the B flat bass, the rarely-used C, the alto (a modern relative of the basset horn), and the even more obscure double-bass or ‘pedal’ clarinet. Occasionally the clarinet’s ‘popular’ cousin can be seen in the concert hall, the saxophone.

 

Oboe:

 

a narrow-bored wooden instrument descended from the medieval shawm, held vertically, and activated by means of placing the end-positioned double-reed in the mouth and blowing under high-pressure so as to force air between the two bound reeds, causing them to vibrate. Other members of the oboe family include the lower pitched cor anglais (or English Horn), and (far more rarely) baritone oboe and heckelphone (bass oboe). The instrument’s most famous predecessor is the Baroque oboe d’amore, often used by Johann Sebastian Bach.

Enthusiasts of Medieval, Renaissance and early Baroque music will encounter earlier varieties of bowed instruments known variously as vielle, viol, or in its earliest form, fidel (hence the modern nickname for a violin, ‘fiddle’). The most popular member of the viol family is the cello’s precursor, the viola da gamba (literally ‘viol of the legs’).

 

Brass instruments

 

are also activated by blowing into them, although instead of using a form of reed over which the mouth is placed, the lips are placed against or inside the cup of a metal mouthpiece, and made to vibrate against its inner rim. In order of descending pitch, these are:

 

Tuba:

 

not unlike the French horn in basic construction, only more oval in shape and much bigger. The piston valve action is similar to the trumpet, only the valves themselves are situated in the middle of the instrument. A variety of sizes and types exist aside from the typical concert instrument in F (bass tuba), including the tenor tuba (higher), and double-bass tuba (lower), often referred to as a bombardon in a military or brass band context.

 

French horn:

 

The modern instrument is the most outwardly complex, consisting of a basic tube, rounded into a compact shape culminating in a conical bore or bell, into which a series of valves are centrally set. Before the valve system had been developed, the changing of basic pitch was facilitated by the insertion of a variety of crooks which altered the length of the basic tube, and the changing of certain notes by holding the hand in a variety of subtly differentiated positions within the bell.

 

Percussion:

 

A percussion instrument is probably best defined as one where a resonating surface is struck by the player, either by hand or by some form of stick. These divide roughly into tuned instruments which have a definite pitch or series of pitches, and those of indefinite pitch

Definite pitch percussion instruments include the marimba, xylophone. timpani or kettle drum, xylophone, glockenspiel, tubular bells, vibraphone. Occasionally, the piano and celesta (see left) are included in scores as part of the percussion section

 

Trombone:

 

The trombone is easily recognisable by its extended elliptical shape culminating in a conical bore, and its distinctive use of a hand-operated slide held out in front, in order to change pitch. The tenor and bass trombone are occasionally seen (especially the latter), although the alto and double-bass are extreme rarities

 

Trumpet:

 

Played horizontally via a series of valves on the top of the instrument which are opened and closed in various combinations to create different pitches. Occasionally, the piccolo (higher) or bass (lower) trumpets are heard (and the trumpet’s ‘popular’ cousin, the cornet), although more common nowadays in ‘authentic’ Baroque orchestras (which use instruments of the correct period or copies thereof), is the ‘natural’ or valveless trumpet

Indefinite pitch percussion instruments include the bass drum, cymbals, triangle, snare drum, gong, castanets, whip, rattle, anvil, tambourine, cymbals (struck and clashing), and a variety of drums (side, tenor, bass, tabor, bongo etc.).

 

Keyboard instruments:

 

Conveniently collected together as any instrument which is operated by means of a standard keyboard, the differences in operation are wide-ranging and carry obvious associations with certain of the above categories. These break down into four main types:

 

Plucked:

 

mostly instruments emanating from the 17th/18th centuries where a series of stretched and tuned strings are plucked by a quill or plectrum (e.g. harpsichord, virginal, spinet).

 

Struck:

 

Where the strings are actually hit, either by a tangent (e.g. 17th/18th century clavichord), or hammers (e.g. piano, celesta).

 

Guitar Family:

 

The ‘classical’ guitar is typically a Spanish-derived, a six-stringed instrument played using a plectrum or the finger-nails, with frets set into the fingerboard. Popular music tends to use amplification for both six-stringed instruments and the four-string bass guitar. The guitar family gradually supplanted the lute which had come to prominence during the Renaissance

 

Electronic:

 

where a number of effects approximating to those derived from any of the above instruments, as well as totally original sounds, can be achieved (e.g. electronic organ, synthesizer).

The standard instrument can be pitched in B flat (usually) or A, and the family is unusually extensive including the higher-pitched E flat, the B flat bass, the rarely-used C, the alto (a modern relative of the basset horn), and the even more obscure double-bass or ‘pedal’ clarinet. Like the oboe, it is a double-reed instrument, although to facilitate the playing action (the instrument is normally held across and in front of the body) it is connected to the bassoon via a silver-plated, curved crook. Played horizontally via a series of valves on the top of the instrument which are opened and closed in various combinations to create different pitches. These divide roughly into tuned instruments which have a definite pitch or series of pitches, and those of indefinite pitch. Definite pitch percussion instruments include the marimba, xylophone.

 

Aerated:

 

where the notes are activated by a column of mechanically propelled air within a series of tuned pipes (e.g. organ).

 

Oboe:

 

a narrow-bored wooden instrument descended from the medieval shawm, held vertically, and activated by means of placing the end-positioned double-reed in the mouth, and blowing under high-pressure so as to force air between the two bound reeds, causing them to vibrate. Other members of the oboe family include the lower pitched cor anglais (or English Horn), and (far more rarely) baritone oboe and heckelphone (bass oboe). The instrument’s most famous predecessor is the Baroque oboe d’amore, often used by Johann Sebastian Bach.

Enthusiasts of Medieval, Renaissance and early Baroque music will encounter earlier varieties of bowed instruments known variously as vielle, viol, or in its earliest form, fidel (hence the modern nickname for a violin, ‘fiddle’). The most popular member of the viol family is the cello’s precursor, the viola da gamba (literally ‘viol of the legs’).

 

Clarinet:

 

Like the oboe usually wooden, played vertically and held in the mouth, but with a wider bore and consisting of a single reed which when activated vibrates against a detachable mouthpiece. The standard instrument can be pitched in B flat (usually) or A, and the family is unusually extensive including the higher-pitched E flat, the B flat bass, the rarely-used C, the alto (a modern relative of the basset horn), and the even more obscure double-bass or ‘pedal’ clarinet. Occasionally the clarinet’s ‘popular’ cousin can be seen in the concert hall, the saxophone

 

Strings:

 

String instruments are played by pulling a bow along the string, or by plucking the strings with your fingers (almost like a guitar).

The most widely used string instruments are the violin, viola, cello, and double bass. The violin has the highest pitch of the string instruments, followed by the viola, cello, and double bass

 

Winds:

 

Wind instruments are played by blowing into a mouthpiece.

There are 2 types of wind instruments: woodwinds and brass

Woodwinds include the flute, piccolo, clarinet, bassoon, oboe, and saxophone

 

most affordable french horn in the world

 

The four principle orchestral string instruments are (in descending order of overall pitch) the violins (usually divided into two sections, playing individual parts), the violas, the cellos and the double basses. Each have four strings arranged in order of pitch, can be played by means of a bow (arco) or plucked (pizzicato), but whereas the violin and viola are played with the instrument resting between the chin and the shoulder, the larger cello (or, to give it its full title, violoncello) is placed facing outwards between and slightly behind the knees, and the bulky double bass is played standing up or seated on a high stool.

 

The great majority of musical instruments fall readily into one of six major categories: bowed strings, woodwind, brass, percussion, keyboard, and the guitar family, the first four which form the basis of the modern symphony orchestral

 

The four principle woodwind instruments of the orchestra all work by means of a system of keys (usually silver-plated) which when variously depressed and released allow air to pass through differing lengths of the instrument resulting in notes of different pitch. In order of descending overall pitch, these are

 

Flute:

 

Early forebears include the unkeyed fife. The most popular close relation is the recorder family, end-blown and largely unkeyed in the vertical position.

 

Bassoon:

 

as the name would suggest, the bass member of the woodwind family, and by far the largest, especially its lower-pitched relation, the extremely bulky double or contra-bassoon. Like the oboe, it is a double-reed instrument, although to facilitate the playing action (the instrument is normally held across and in front of the body) it is connected to the bassoon via a silver-plated, curved crook. Its most notorious cousin is the Baroque serpent, shaped very much as its name would suggest.

 

Brass instruments are also activated by blowing into them, although instead of using a form of reed over which the mouth is placed, the lips are placed against or inside the cup of a metal mouthpiece, and made to vibrate against its inner rim. In order of descending pitch, these are:

 

Trombone:

The trombone is easily recognisable by its extended elliptical shape culminating in a conical bore, and its distinctive use of a hand-operated slide held out in front, in order to change pitch. The tenor and bass trombone are occasionally seen (especially the latter), although the alto and double-bass are extreme rarities

Indefinite pitch percussion instruments include the bass drum, cymbals, triangle, snare drum, gong, castanets, whip, rattle, anvil, tambourine, cymbals (struck and clashing), and a variety of drums (side, tenor, bass, tabor, bongo etc.).

 

Trumpet:

 

 

Played horizontally via a series of valves on the top of the instrument which are opened and closed in various combinations to create different pitches. Occasionally, the piccolo (higher) or bass (lower) trumpets are heard (and the trumpet’s ‘popular’ cousin, the cornet), although more common nowadays in ‘authentic’ Baroque orchestras (which use instruments of the correct period or copies thereof), is the ‘natural’ or valveless trumpet.

 

Percussion:

 

A percussion instrument is probably best defined as one where a resonating surface is struck by the player, either by hand or by some form of stick. These divide roughly into tuned instruments which have a definite pitch or series of pitches, and those of indefinite pitch

Definite pitch percussion instruments include the marimba, xylophone. timpani or kettle drum, xylophone, glockenspiel, tubular bells, vibraphone. Occasionally, the piano and celesta (see left) are included in scores as part of the percussion section.

 

French horn:

 

The modern instrument is the most outwardly complex, consisting of a basic tube, rounded into a compact shape culminating in a conical bore or bell, into which a series of valves are centrally set. Before the valve system had been developed, the changing of basic pitch was facilitated by the insertion of a variety of crooks which altered the length of the basic tube, and the changing of certain notes by holding the hand in a variety of subtly differentiated positions within the bell.

 

Tuba:

 

 

Unlike the French horn in basic construction, only more oval in shape and much bigger. The piston valve action is similar to the trumpet, only the valves themselves are situated in the middle of the instrument. A variety of sizes and types exist aside from the typical concert instrument in F (bass tuba), including the tenor tuba (higher), and double-bass tuba (lower), often referred to as a bombardon in a military or brass band context.

 

Keyboard instruments:

 

Conveniently collected together as any instrument which is operated by means of a standard keyboard, the differences in operation are wide-ranging and carry obvious associations with certain of the above categories. These break down into four main types:

 

Electronic:

 

where a number of effects approximating to those derived from any of the above instruments, as well as totally original sounds, can be achieved (e.g. electronic organ, synthesizer).

 

Aerated:

 

where the notes are activated by a column of mechanically propelled air within a series of tuned pipes (e.g. organ).

 

Plucked:

 

mostly instruments emanating from the 17th/18th centuries where a series of stretched and tuned strings are plucked by a quill or plectrum (e.g. harpsichord, virginal, spinet)

 

Struck:

 

where the strings are actually hit, either by a tangent (e.g. 17th/18th century clavichord), or hammers (e.g. piano, celesta).

The standard instrument can be pitched in B flat (usually) or A, and the family is unusually extensive including the higher-pitched E flat, the B flat bass, the rarely-used C, the alto (a modern relative of the basset horn), and the even more obscure double-bass or ‘pedal’ clarinet. Like the oboe, it is a double-reed instrument, although to facilitate the playing action (the instrument is normally held across and in front of the body) it is connected to the bassoon via a silver-plated, curved crook. Played horizontally via a series of valves on the top of the instrument which are opened and closed in various combinations to create different pitches. These divide roughly into tuned instruments which have a definite pitch or series of pitches, and those of indefinite pitch. Definite pitch percussion instruments include the marimba, xylophone.

 

Guitar Family

 

The ‘classical’ guitar is typically a Spanish-derived, six-stringed instrument played using a plectrum or the finger-nails, with frets set into the fingerboard. Popular music tends to use amplification for both six-stringed instruments and the four-string bass guitar. The guitar family gradually supplanted the lute which had come to prominence during the Renaissance.

 

The four principle orchestral string instruments are (in descending order of overall pitch) the violins (usually divided into two sections, playing individual parts), the violas, the cellos and the double basses. Each have four strings arranged in order of pitch, can be played by means of a bow (arco) or plucked (pizzicato), but whereas the violin and viola are played with the instrument resting between the chin and the shoulder, the larger cello (or, to give it its full title, violoncello) is placed facing outwards between and slightly behind the knees, and the bulky double bass is played standing up or seated on a high stool.

 

Oboe:

 

a narrow-bored wooden instrument descended from the medieval shawm, held vertically, and activated by means of placing the end-positioned double-reed in the mouth and blowing under high-pressure so as to force air between the two bound reeds, causing them to vibrate. Other members of the oboe family include the lower pitched cor anglais (or English Horn), and (far more rarely) baritone oboe and heckelphone (bass oboe). The instrument’s most famous predecessor is the Baroque oboe d’amore, often used by Johann Sebastian Bach.

 

Winds:

 

Wind instruments are played by blowing into a mouthpiece.

There are 2 types of wind instruments: woodwinds and brass.

Woodwinds include the flute, piccolo, clarinet, saxophone, oboe, and bassoon.

 

Strings:

 

String instruments are played by pulling a bow along the string, or by plucking the strings with your fingers (almost like a guitar).

The most widely used string instruments are the violin, viola, cello, and double bass. The violin has the highest pitch of the string instruments, followed by the viola, cello, and double bass.

 

Clarinet:

 

like the oboe usually wooden, played vertically and held in the mouth, but with a wider bore and consisting of a single reed which when activated vibrates against a detachable mouthpiece. The standard instrument can be pitched in B flat (usually) or A, and the family is unusually extensive including the higher-pitched E flat, the B flat bass, the rarely-used C, the alto (a modern relative of the basset horn), and the even more obscure double-bass or ‘pedal’ clarinet. Occasionally the clarinet’s ‘popular’ cousin can be seen in the concert hall, the saxophone.

 

Bassoon:

 

as the name would suggest, the bass member of the woodwind family, and by far the largest, especially its lower-pitched relation, the extremely bulky double or contra-bassoon. Like the oboe, it is a double-reed instrument, although to facilitate the playing action (the instrument is normally held across and in front of the body) it is connected to the bassoon via a silver-plated, curved crook. Its most notorious cousin is the Baroque serpent, shaped very much as its name would suggest.

 

Enthusiasts of Medieval, Renaissance and early Baroque music will encounter earlier varieties of bowed instruments known variously as vielle, viol, or in its earliest form, fidel (hence the modern nickname for a violin, ‘fiddle’). The most popular member of the viol family is the cello’s precursor, the viola da gamba (literally ‘viol of the legs’).

 

The four principle woodwind instruments of the orchestra all work by means of a system of keys (usually silver-plated) which when variously depressed and released allow air to pass through differing lengths of the instrument resulting in notes of different pitch. In order of descending overall pitch, these are:<br />

 

Flute:

 

Early forebears include the unkeyed fife. The most popular close relation is the recorder family, end-blown and largely unkeyed in the vertical position.

 

The great majority of musical instruments fall readily into one of six major categories: bowed strings, woodwind, brass, percussion, keyboard, and the guitar family, the first four which form the basis of the modern symphony orchestra.

 

Brass instruments are also activated by blowing into them, although instead of using a form of reed over which the mouth is placed, the lips are placed against or inside the cup of a metal mouthpiece, and made to vibrate against its inner rim. In order of descending pitch, these are:

 

Trumpet:

 

Played horizontally via a series of valves on the top of the instrument which are opened and closed in various combinations to create different pitches. Occasionally, the piccolo (higher) or bass (lower) trumpets are heard (and the trumpet’s ‘popular’ cousin, the cornet), although more common nowadays in ‘authentic’ Baroque orchestras (which use instruments of the correct period or copies thereof), is the ‘natural’ or valveless trumpet.

Definite pitch percussion instruments include the marimba, xylophone. timpani or kettle drum, xylophone, glockenspiel, tubular bells, vibraphone. Occasionally, the piano and celesta (see left) are included in scores as part of the percussion section.

 

Tuba:

 

Most affordable Tuba instrument

 

Unlike the French horn in basic construction, only more oval in shape and much bigger. The piston valve action is similar to the trumpet, only the valves themselves are situated in the middle of the instrument. A variety of sizes and types exist aside from the typical concert instrument in F (bass tuba), including the tenor tuba (higher), and double-bass tuba (lower), often referred to as a bombardon in a military or brass band context.

 

Trombone:

 

The trombone is easily recognisable by its extended elliptical shape culminating in a conical bore, and its distinctive use of a hand-operated slide held out in front, in order to change pitch. The tenor and bass trombone are occasionally seen (especially the latter), although the alto and double-bass are extreme rarities.

Indefinite pitch percussion instruments include the bass drum, cymbals, triangle, snare drum, gong, castanets, whip, rattle, anvil, tambourine, cymbals (struck and clashing), and a variety of drums (side, tenor, bass, tabor, bongo etc.).

 

French horn:

 

The modern instrument is the most outwardly complex, consisting of a basic tube, rounded into a compact shape culminating in a conical bore or bell, into which a series of valves are centrally set. Before the valve system had been developed, the changing of basic pitch was facilitated by the insertion of a variety of crooks which altered the length of the basic tube, and the changing of certain notes by holding the hand in a variety of subtly differentiated positions within the bell.

 

Percussion:

 

A percussion instrument is probably best defined as one where a resonating surface is struck by the player, either by hand or by some form of stick. These divide roughly into tuned instruments which have a definite pitch or series of pitches, and those of indefinite pitch.

 

Keyboard instruments:

 

Conveniently collected together as any instrument which is operated by means of a standard keyboard, the differences in operation are wide-ranging and carry obvious associations with certain of the above categories. These break down into four main types:

 

Guitar Family:

 

The ‘classical’ guitar is typically a Spanish-derived, six-stringed instrument played using a plectrum or the finger-nails, with frets set into the fingerboard. Popular music tends to use amplification for both six-stringed instruments and the four-string bass guitar. The guitar family gradually supplanted the lute which had come to prominence during the Renaissance.

 

Plucked:

 

Mostly instruments emanating from the 17th/18th centuries where a series of stretched and tuned strings are plucked by a quill or plectrum (e.g. harpsichord, virginal, and spinet).

 

Aerated:

 

Where the notes are activated by a column of mechanically propelled air within a series of tuned pipes (e.g. organ).

The standard instrument can be pitched in B flat (usually) or A, and the family is unusually extensive including the higher-pitched E flat, the B flat bass, the rarely-used C, the alto (a modern relative of the basset horn), and the even more obscure double-bass or ‘pedal’ clarinet. Like the oboe, it is a double-reed instrument, although to facilitate the playing action (the instrument is normally held across and in front of the body) it is connected to the bassoon via a silver-plated, curved crook. Played horizontally via a series of valves on the top of the instrument which are opened and closed in various combinations to create different pitches. These divide roughly into tuned instruments which have a definite pitch or series of pitches, and those of indefinite pitch. Definite pitch percussion instruments include the marimba, xylophone.

 

Struck:

 

where the strings are actually hit, either by a tangent (e.g. 17th/18th century clavichord), or hammers (e.g. piano, celesta).

 

Electronic:

 

where a number of effects approximating to those derived from any of the above instruments, as well as totally original sounds, can be achieved (e.g. electronic organ, synthesizer).

 

How To Be The Best Performer

 

Get more information on Classical Instruments HERE.

 

Here’s an Introduction  to the instruments of the orchestra

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