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Types of Instruments

How many types of instruments are there? There are five instrument families: strings, brass, woodwind, percussion, and keyboards.

Now let’s get into exactly what they are and which instruments are in each instrument family.

Wednesday, October 6th

The five main types of instrument families:

  • Strings
  • Brass
  • Woodwind
  • Percussion
  • Keyboards

Strings

Instruments under the “strings” category produce sound by employing a vibrating string or strings. The strings can be plucked, bowed, struck, or touched in other ways to make them vibrate.

The performer controls the pitch by controlling the speed of the vibration. The vibration is then sent out to the instrument’s body, where it is amplified. 

Brass

Instruments are known to us as “brass” and got their name from the material originally used to make them.

However, although most “brass” instruments are still made of brass, some (like the didgeridoo, for example) are made of wood or other materials.

They are considered members of the brass family, though, because of how the sound is produced: by using the lips to vibrate air as it is blown into the instrument.

Woodwinds

Woodwinds can produce sound because vibration occurs when air passes over an edge, such as a hole or reed. 

Some instruments made out of brass (such as a saxophone) are woodwinds because of the reed that produces

Not all woodwind instruments are made of wood. They can also be made of metal, cane, or even clay. Within the woodwind family, there are two subgroups: flutes and reeds. 

Percussion

Percussion instruments produce sound through an impact (the percussive action of one object striking another). The category includes what are thought to be the oldest musical instruments in history.

Percussion instruments can be either pitched (producing an identifiable musical note) or unpitched. They can be used in a musical piece to play either the melody, harmony, or rhythm part.

Sometimes an instrument is considered part of the orchestra’s percussion section, but it is not a percussive instrument. Examples of this case would be a siren or conch shell. 

Keyboards

The final member of the musical instrument family is Keyboards. Again, there have been opinions on whether or not instruments like the piano fit into the family of instruments.

Some considered pianos to be string instruments. After all, a piano has over 200 strings, and it is the vibration of the strings that is responsible for the piano’s sound.

The piano is sometimes considered a percussion instrument because of the percussive action of a hammer against the string that sets off its vibrations.

With the invention of electronically keyed instruments such as electric pianos and synthesizers, it has become common practice to think of all instruments that are played by striking keys as members of the “keyboard” family.


This article is a re-post, with minor modifications, of “Types of Instruments (Family, Classifications, Orchestra)” published on promusicvault.com

 

 

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