What I love about students learning to play piano is that they can take what they have learned and apply it to other instruments. They will have to learn how to physically make the sounds on the new instrument, but will already know how to count, read music, understand phrasing and what I call building blocks. It’s so cool that all the instruments in the orchestra are playing a building block of usually only three or four notes!
There are different families of orchestra instruments: string family (violin, viola, cello, bass); woodwind family (the flute and clarinet are among many); brass family (trumpet, trombone plus others); and, percussion family (triangle, timpani, tambourine plus others).
Instruments in the orchestra not only have different ranges of sound, but different timbres, also known as tone colour or tone quality. Even though instruments may be playing the same pitch and loudness, for example, a piano and trumpet, each instrument has its own distinctive tone quality. The building blocks on the piano all have the same timbre, while the building blocks played by the instruments of the orchestra all have different timbres, making it a different and thrilling sound!
Sometimes you have to learn to read music in another clef when you play an instrument in the orchestra. The range of notes of, for example, a viola, would mean that ledger lines would have to be used in either the treble or bass clef. So, the composer writes the music in what’s called a C clef. For the viola, that specific C clef is called an alto clef. I’m not going into more detail! You will learn about C clefs in Advanced Rudiments!
There are even instruments that are called transposing instruments! The player reads and plays one note, and another note sounds out of the instrument! When a clarinet player plays a clarinet in B flat, and plays a written C, his/her instrument sounds a B flat. More more detail, either do a search on the internet, or read about transposing instruments in Advanced Rudiments.
Below are a list of some of the websites you can go to to listen to the instruments of the orchestra. Enjoy!
Dallas Symphony Orchestra Kids offers an interactive website where students can learn and listen to the instruments of the orchestra.
The orchestral players in England’s Philharmonia Orchestra guide you through the instruments that they play.
The San Francisco Symphony has an interactive website. The subtitle is “Fun & Games With Music”! Among other things, you can play around with the orchestra’s instruments.