Simply put, an orchestra is a musical group that plays classical music and mixes instruments from different families. The concept of orchestra dates back centuries ago and has evolved over the years to what we know today – a group of well-trained musicians who provide us with gorgeous music to listen to and enjoy. There are four main families of instruments in an orchestra: strings, woodwinds, percussion and brass. Today, we’ll review them and understand their specific roles and how they contribute to the beauty of an orchestra.
These instruments that are made of wood, glued to form a sound box, and, to produce different sounds, adjustable strings are plucked. The most common instruments in this category include the violin, viola, cello and the double bass. The violin is high pitched and usually sets the melody. It’s held under the chin and rests on the shoulder of the player. Orchestras usually feature two groups of violins: the first violins and the second violins. Each group has a different set of music written for them.
The viola is pitched lower as compared to the violin and is played to support the violin. It duplicates the violins lower strings but also has an extra lower string played in harmony to accompany the melody from the violin.
The cello’s notes are lower than the viola’s. The instrument is much bigger and contains a pin that rests on the ground to support its weight. The cello is played to support the bass instruments and to reproduce the notes of a tenor voice. The double bass is the lowest-pitched bowed string instrument and consists of five strings rather than four. Owing to its size, this instrument is played from a standing position.
2. The Brass
These are long pipes that widen towards one end and produce sounds when the player buzzes their lips to generate a vibrating wave of air. Most of them have valves that are used to regulate the sound that the instrument produces. The main instruments in this category include the trumpet, French horn, trombone and the tuba.
The trumpet is the smallest and has the highest pitch in this category of instruments. The trombone is a bit larger than the trumpet and, instead of having valves like the rest of the instruments, it bears a movable part that adjusts its length to produce varying pitches of sounds.
These instruments derive their name from their material and are tube-like, with a mouthpiece at one end and an opening on the other. Several instruments fall under the category of woodwinds. These include the flute, piccolo, oboe, English horn, clarinet, bassoon, contrabassoon and the saxophone. Despite being made of brass, the saxophone belongs to this group. These instruments have a row of holes covered with metal caps that are pressed to produce different kinds of sounds.
The percussion family is extensive. Percussion instruments produce specific pitches when tuned and unspecified pitch when not tuned. The percussion family include: timpani, bass drum, snare drum, triangle, gong, vibraphone, piano and cymbals.