Lets explore the instrument families of the orchestra.

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Each musical instrument in the orchestra is considered apart of a music family. We call them a family because are related to each other by being made of the same types of materials, usually look similar to one another, and produce sound in comparable ways.

Watch the following video to get a quick introduction to all the Orchestra families.

Instrument Families
Austin Symphony Orchestra - Meet the Instruments

Click on" Austin Symphony Orchestra - Meet the Instruments" to further explore each family.

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The instruments in the woodwind family are not all made of wood. At some point in history they were, but now they are made of other materials as well; such as metal, plastic, or some combination. All woodwind students have a mouthpiece where you blow are into, a narrow cylinder or pipe with finger holes, and an opening at the bottom. By either covering the finger holes with your finger or a metal cap called a key, you can alter the pitch of the instrument.

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The brass family acquired it name based on the material it’s made out of. These instruments are essentially very long pipes that widen at their ends into a bell-like shape. The pipes have been curved and twisted into different shapes to make them easier to hold and play. These instruments (like the woodwind family) have a mouthpiece that you blow into. In order to produce a sound, you need to vibrate your own lips by buzzing them against the metal cup-shaped mouthpiece. The mouthpiece then helps to amplify the buzzing of the lips. Most brass instruments have button looking keys called valves attached to their long pipes. When you press down on the valves, they open and close different parts of the pipe. You change the pitch and sound by pressing different valves and buzzing your lips harder or softer.

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All the string family instruments look very similar in design. They are all similarly shaped, with curvy wooden bodies and wooden necks. The strings stretch over the body and neck and attach to small decorative heads, where they are tuned with small tuning pegs. Since the body is made of wood and the inside is hallow it allows the sound of the vibrating sting to vibrate within them The strings are made of nylon mostly, but have also been made of steel and sometimes gut. The strings are played most often by drawing a bow across them. The handle of the bow is made of wood and the strings of the bow are actually horsehair from horses' tails. The sting can also be played will use the musicians fingers to pluck the strings.

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Percussion instruments include any instrument that makes a sound when it is hit, shaken, or scraped. The different instruments need to be hit with the right amount of strength, in the right place and at the right time. Some percussion instruments are tuned and can sound different notes, like the xylophone, timpani or piano. Other percussion instruments are untuned with no definite pitch, like the bass drum, cymbals or castanets. Percussion instruments keep the rhythm, make special sounds and add excitement and color to the music pieces.

Instrument Family Assessment

Click on "Instrument Family Assessment" to answer a few questions.