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This is a popular category of musical instruments that make sounds by being struck or scraped by a beater. It can be struck, scraped, or rubbed with hands also, and by another instrument.
The family of percussion instruments is one of the oldest forms of instruments, after the human voice.
In an orchestra, the percussion section usually contains instruments like the:
There are also instances where other non-percussion instruments were present. Such instruments include sirens, whistles, and a conch shell. The world of the percussion instruments is so wide that almost anything you can beat can serve as a percussion instrument.
This is why percussive techniques can be applied to the body; body percussion. Instruments like the glockenspiel and xylophone are more like the keyboard, but they are played more like percussion instruments.
Hence, they are called keyboard percussion instruments. Getting into percussion instruments, it is important that we know that they are divided into two: Pitched and Unpitched. The Pitched percussion instruments are known to produce notes that have an identifiable pitch.
Unpitched percussion instruments produce notes that have no identifiable pitch. This is why some percussion instruments can produce more melody and harmony than rhythm. Regardless, percussion instruments are known as the backbones of any musical ensemble as they work in collaboration with every other instrument such as the bass guitar.
In some ensembles like jazz, the pianist, bassist, and drummer are usually referred to as the rhythm of the music. This is why a lot of musical pieces written for a full orchestra focused more on the strings, brass, and woodwinds. But it is surprising how at least one timpani is included in the mix.
This is because they usually add accents to the music whenever they are needed. In the early times of the 19th century, other percussion instruments like the triangle and cymbals were added and used, but sparingly.
Ever since then, the use of percussion instruments began to skyrocket. In most styles of music today, percussion instruments play a very vital role. Marching bands such as in the military use the bass of the bass drum to keep the soldiers in step and at a regular speed. The snare also provides the decisive air in tune with the regiment.
In jazz music, everyone always notices the drummer working the ride cymbal and hi-hats. This shows the use of percussion instruments in providing a steady groove for other musicians or personnel to work with.
String instruments are also called chordophones. They are musical instruments that produce their sounds from vibrating strings.
The strings can be played by hands or by other means. A lot of musicians play string instruments by plucking the strings with their fingers or with a plectrum. Other hit the strings with a light object like a wooden hammer or by rubbing the strings with a bow.
The methods used to sound the instrument depends on the nature of the instrument. In instruments like the harpsichord, the musician makes sounds by pressing a key that plucks a string in the instrument.
Bowed instruments are quite different. The sounds are made by pulling a rosined horsehair bow over the strings. This causes the strings to vibrate and produce sounds. In the Hurdy-Gurdy, the musician cranks a wheel with rosined edges that touch the strings.
The bowed instruments are usually part of the string section of instruments in a classical music orchestra. Some strings used includes violin, cello, viola, and double bass. A number of other instruments include violas and gambas, and they are not as frequently used as the ones mentioned before.
The special thing about bow instruments is that they can be plucked with fingers with a technique called the pizzicato. There are also a lot more techniques used to play the string instruments, and this can be seen in playing the lead guitar such as using the fingernails or a plectrum. Strumming and tapping are also used as they provide loud feedback when using a distorted guitar amplifier.
However, we can’t ignore the string instruments that are plucked such as the electric bass guitar and the harp. String instruments produce sounds by vibrations that are transmitted to the body of the instrument. Most of these instruments come with a hollow or enclosed area for the sound vibrations.
The body of the instrument also vibrates, which is why preference is given to the type of wood used in making these instruments. Fun fact; the body of the string instrument has a large role to play in determining how loud the instrument is due to its ability to amplify vibrations. This is the major reason why most string instruments are made hollow.
That being said however, there are a few exceptions. Electric guitars use a pickup system that works without a hollow body. This is why they have a completely solid wooden body.
Brass instruments are instruments that make sounds from vibrations. These vibrations are called sympathetic vibrations of air. They are usually in a tubular resonator, and they are in sympathetic vibration as they work with the vibration of the lips of the player.
These instruments are also called labrosones – meaning that are lip vibrated instruments. The pattern of playing this instrument differs from other instruments in the wind section, and there are several factors affecting the pitch levels.
Some of these factors include the presence of valves, crooks, keys, and slides, as they change the vibratory length of the tubing. This, in turn, changes the harmonic series of the instrument. The embouchure of the player, air flow, and lip tension, help to select some specific harmonics that are produced from the series.
Most scholars believe that the term “brass instrument” is an indicator of the sound of the instrument and not what it is made of. But this is not true, and it is obvious that there are many brass instruments made of wood such as the Cornett, serpent, didgeridoo, and alphorn. However, there is a brass instrument made of brass – the saxophone.
There are many instruments under the brass family, and we would talk about them. The valved brass instruments are operated by the fingers of the player as they introduce a new tubing or crooks to the instrument to change its overall length.
Some of the instruments in this family include the trumpet, euphonium, horn, flugelhorn, tenor horn, sousaphone, baritone horn, mellophone, and tuba. The slide brass instruments use a slide to alter the length of the tubing. Instruments in this family include the trombone, sackbut, and bazooka.
Natural brass instruments are instruments that make sounds that are in the harmonic series of the instrument. They include the bugle and some older variants of the trumpet and horn. Today, some natural brass instruments are still used in live performances and ceremonial functions.
The Keyed or Fingered brass instruments are those with holes along the body of the instrument. These holes are covered by the fingers to change the sound as the player blows air into the instrument – just like a woodwind instrument.
They include the cornett, ophicleide, trumpet, keyed bugle, and the serpent. These instruments are quite difficult to play than the valved instruments. The Whole tube instrument has more pronounced bores that are in relation to the length of the tube. They can easily play fundamental tones with ease.
Instruments in this section include the tuba and euphonium. Half tube brass instruments have smaller bores than the whole tube instruments. They cannot produce tones as accurate as that of the whole tube brass instruments.
Woodwind instruments are some instruments classified under the general category of wind instruments.
There are basically two types of woodwind instruments: flutes and reed instruments. The basic difference between woodwind instruments and other wind instruments is the way they produce their sounds. Woodwinds produce sounds by splitting the air blown into the instrument on a sharp edge such as a fipple or reed.
Woodwinds are made from different materials and not just wood. Some include silver, cane, brass, gold, and platinum. Some woodwinds are even made with earthen materials (ocarinas).
Some woodwind instruments include clarinet, bassoon, flute, saxophone, and oboe. In a modern orchestra, the woodwind section of instruments usually consists of clarinets, oboes, bassoons, and flutes.
Other instruments like the bass clarinet, piccolo, E-flat clarinet, cor anglais, and contrabassoon are used commonly as supplementary woodwind instruments. However, we all know that the concert band contains more woodwind instruments than the orchestra.
These woodwind instruments include:
Focusing on flutes, we would notice that these instruments produce sounds that are produced by directing a focused stream of air to the lower edge of a hole in a cylindrical tube.
The flute family is divided into two: open flutes and closed flutes. In an open flute, the sound is produced by blowing air across a sharp edge that finally splits the stream. The split stream acts in the air column and the air vibrates to produce sounds.
Some examples of open flutes include panpipes, transverse flutes, and shakuhachi. The ancient flutes of this variety were often made with tubular sections of plants such as reeds, grasses, and hollowed-out tree branches.
Today, they are made with metals such as copper, tin, and bronze. Modern concert flutes are made with high-grade metal alloys, and they usually contain silver, nickel, copper, or gold. Producing sounds with a closed flute is a completely different ball game.
The player has to blow air into a duct. This duct acts as a channel that brings air into the sharp edge. The air now moves till it gets to the sharp edge on the inside of the flute. This makes the column of air inside the flute to vibrate and produce sounds. Some flutes in this category include recorders, organ pipes, and ocarinas.
Keyboard instruments are musical instruments that are played using a keyboard – usually a row of keys or levels that are pressed with the fingers. The most common ones are the piano, organ, and electronic instruments.
Other instruments in this category include celestas and carillons. They are housed in a bell tower or in belfries of churches and other municipal buildings. However, the word “keyboard” refers to the electronic synthesizers that are pressed with the fingers. The keyboard was gotten from a word that meant “an instrument whose identity cannot be identified or firmly established”.
In the 18th century, the clavichord and harpsichord and the early keyboard were in competition with each other. Then you could play the same piece on any one of them. The earliest keyboard known to man was the ancient Greek hydraulis. As a result, this was a type of pipe organ that was invented in the 3rd century BC.
The keys of this instrument were balanced, and they could be played with a light touch. From its invention, the organ remained the only keyboard. Fun fact, the organ did not feature a keyboard in any way – it had buttons or large levers that were operated by the whole hand. It was the norm for all keyboards to have 7 naturals in an octave. Now the clavichord and harpsichord appeared in the 14th century.
They became widespread in the 18th century, but their popularity decreased sooner than later. The piano came and revolutionized the keyboard instrument family. They produced notes whenever any key is struck. The piano’s full name is the “gravicembalo con piano e forte”. This means “harpsichord with soft and loud”, but you can still call it a piano-forte – it still means soft-loud in Italian. In the form of piano that we all know, the piano is a product of the late 19th century.
It is completely different, in terms of sound and appearance, from the pianos that people like Beethoven, Mozart, and Haydn knew. That being said, the keyboards were still developed in the 20th century regardless.
It is was in that century that the early electromechanical instruments like the Ondes Martenot were introduced.
Tell Us Which Is Your Preferred Instrument And We Will Send Some Great Ideas Your Way…