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Resource for Learning and Playing Musical Instruments

The following is a guide to a variety of musical instruments found in an orchestra. Some, like the violin, are traditionally found in the set-up, while others, such as the saxaphone or the marimba might be only found in special arrangements. There will also be resources for how to practice the instruments as well as take care of them.

Strings

There are a variety of stringed instruments which are typically part of an orchestra and they are instantly recognizable. In recent years, other forms of music, such as pop and rock have adopted orchestral sections to make a song richer.

  • violin- The first violin is usually considered the leader of the orchestra, second only to the conductor. In a typical arrangement there are two sections, comprising upwards of 34 players.
  • viola- There are usually 14 viola players in an orchestra and is the middle voice between violins and cellos.
  • cello- A member of the violin family, cellos have a richer, deeper sound and there are typically 12 players in an orchestra.
  • double bass- The lowest in the register, double bass, also called the upright bass, are also the largest of the violin family. They are also commonly used in traditional jazz.
  • harp- Harps, with their distinctive sound and complex technique are wonderful instruments, but they are very large so be prepared to find a big practice space.

Woodwinds

With the high, reedy sounds, woodwind instruments are easily recognizable. They migrated from more traditional classical music into jazz and blues, but are still an essential part of any orchestra.

Brass

A slightly deceiving name, brass instruments do not need to be made of brass. Rather, they are defined by the sound they produce. Therefore, instruments like the conch shell or the didgeridoo are considered brass instruments.

Percussion

Providing the rhythm for a symphony orchestra, there are more than a dozen instruments in this category. They are utilized according to the needs of the composer.