An orchestra is a large instrumental ensemble that contains sections of string, brass, woodwind, and percussion instruments. The term orchestra derives from the Greek ορχήστρα, the name for the area in front of an ancient Greek stage reserved for the Greek chorus. The orchestra grew by accretion throughout the 18th and 19th centuries, but changed very little in composition during the course of the 20th century.
A smaller-sized orchestra for this time period (of about fifty musicians or fewer) is called a chamber orchestra. A full-size orchestra (about 100 musicians) may sometimes be called a "symphony orchestra" or "philharmonic orchestra"; these modifiers do not necessarily indicate any strict difference in either the instrumental constitution or role of the orchestra, but can be useful to distinguish different ensembles based in the same city (for instance, the London Symphony Orchestra and the London Philharmonic Orchestra). A symphony orchestra will usually have over eighty musicians on its roster, in some cases over a hundred, but the actual number of musicians employed in a particular performance may vary according to the work being played and the size of the venue. A leading chamber orchestra might employ as many as fifty musicians; some are much smaller than that. Orchestras can also be found in schools. The term concert orchestra may sometimes be used (e.g., BBC Concert Orchestra; RTÉ Concert Orchestra)—no distinction is made on size of orchestra by use of this term, although their use is generally distinguished as for live concert. As such they are commonly chamber orchestras.
The typical symphony orchestra consists of four proportionate groups of similar musical instruments called the woodwinds, brass, percussion, and strings. Other instruments such as the piano and celesta may sometimes be grouped into a fifth section such as a keyboard section or may stand alone, as may the concert harp and electric and electronic instruments. The orchestra, depending on the size, contains almost all of the standard instruments in each group. In the history of the orchestra, its instrumentation has been expanded over time, often agreed to have been standardized by the classical period and Beethoven's influence on the classical model.
An orchestra video is here
Apart from the core orchestral complement, various other instruments are called for occasionally. These include the classical guitar, heckelphone, flugelhorn, cornet, harpsichord, and organ. Saxophones, for example, appear in a limited range of 19th and 20th century scores. While appearing only as featured solo instruments in some works, for example Maurice Ravel's orchestration of Modest Mussorgsky's Pictures at an Exhibition and Sergei Rachmaninoff's Symphonic Dances, the saxophone is included in other works, such as Ravel's Boléro, Prokofiev's Romeo and Juliet Suites 1 and 2, Vaughan Williams Symphony No.6 and Symphony No.9 and William Walton's Belshazzar's Feast, and many other works as a member of the orchestral ensemble. The euphonium is featured in a few late Romantic and 20th century works, usually playing parts marked "tenor tuba", including Gustav Holst's The Planets, and Richard Strauss's Ein Heldenleben. The Wagner tuba, a modified member of the horn family, appears in Richard Wagner's cycle Der Ring des Nibelungen and several other works by Richard Strauss, Béla Bartók, and others; it has a prominent role in Anton Bruckner's Symphony No. 7 in E Major. Cornets appear in Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky's ballet Swan Lake, Claude Debussy's La Mer, and several orchestral works by Hector Berlioz. Unless these instruments are played by members doubling on another instrument (for example, a trombone player changing to euphonium for a certain passage), orchestras will use freelance musicians to augment their regular rosters.
The 20th century orchestra was far more flexible than its predecessors. During composers Beethoven and Felix Mendelssohn's time, the orchestra was composed of a fairly standard core of instruments which was very rarely modified. As time progressed, and as the Romantic period saw changes in accepted modification with composers such as Berlioz, followed by Johannes Brahms and eventually Gustav Mahler, the 20th century saw that instrumentation could practically be hand-picked by the composer. Today, however, the modern orchestra has generally been considered standardized with the modern instrumentation listed below.
With this history in mind, the orchestra can be seen to have a general evolution as outlined below. The first is a typical classical orchestra (i.e. Beethoven/Haydn), the second is typical of an early/mid-romantic (i.e. Brahms/Dvořák/Tchaikovsky), late romantic/early 20th century (i.e. Wagner/Mahler/Stravinsky), to the common complement of a present day modern orchestras (i.e. Adams/Barber/Copland/Glass).
The violin is a string instrument, usually with four strings tuned in perfect fifths. It is the smallest, highest-pitched member of the violin family of string instruments, which also includes the viola and cello.
The violin is sometimes informally called a fiddle, regardless of the type of music played on it. The word violin comes from the Medieval Latin word vitula, meaning stringed instrument; this word is also believed to be the source of the Germanic "fiddle". The violin, while it has ancient origins, acquired most of its modern characteristics in 16th-century Italy, with some further modifications occurring in the 18th and 19th centuries. Violinists and collectors particularly prize the instruments made by the Gasparo da Salò, Giovanni Paolo Maggini, Stradivari, Guarneri and Amati families from the 16th to the 18th century in Brescia and Cremona and by Jacob Stainer in Austria. Great numbers of instruments have come from the hands of "lesser" makers, as well as still greater numbers of mass-produced commercial "trade violins" coming from cottage industries in places such as Saxony, Bohemia, and Mirecourt. Many of these trade instruments were formerly sold by Sears, Roebuck and Co. and other mass merchandisers.
A person who makes or repairs violins is called a luthier. The parts of a violin are usually made from different types of wood (although electric violins may not be made of wood at all, since their sound may not be dependent on specific acoustic characteristics of the instrument's construction), and it is usually strung with gut, nylon or other synthetic, or steel strings.
Someone who plays the violin is called a violinist or a fiddler. The violinist produces sound by drawing a bow across one or more strings (which may be stopped by the fingers of the other hand to produce a full range of pitches), by plucking the strings (with either hand), or by a variety of other techniques. The violin is played by musicians in a wide variety of musical genres, including Baroque music, classical, jazz, folk music, rock and roll, and Soft rock. The violin has come to be played in many non-Western music cultures all over the world.
The viola is similar in material and construction to the violin. A full-size viola's body is between 1 inch (25 mm) and 4 inches (100 mm) longer than the body of a full-size violin (i.e., between 15 and 18 inches (38 and 46 cm)), with an average length of 16 inches (41 cm). Small violas for children typically start at 12 inches (30 cm), which is equivalent to a half-size violin. For a child who needs a smaller size, a fractional-sized violin is often strung with the strings of a viola. Unlike the violin, the viola does not have a standard full size. The body of a viola would need to measure about 20 inches (51 cm) long to match the acoustics of a violin, making it impractical to play in the same manner as the violin. For centuries, viola makers have experimented with the size and shape of the viola, often adjusting the proportions or shape to make a lighter instrument with shorter string lengths, but which still has a large enough sound box to create an unmistakable "viola sound".
The cello is a bowed string instrument with four strings tuned in perfect fifths. It is a member of the violin family of musical instruments, which also includes the violin and viola.
The cello is used as a solo instrument, as well as in chamber music ensembles, string orchestras, and as a member of the string section of symphony orchestras. It is the second-largest bowed string instrument in the modern symphony orchestra, the double bass being the largest.
Cellos were derived from other mid- to large-sized bowed instruments in the 16th century, such as the viola da gamba, and the generally smaller and squarer viola da braccio, and such instruments made by members of the Amati family of luthiers. The invention of wire-wrapped strings in Bologna gave the cello greater versatility. By the 18th century, the cello had largely replaced other mid-sized bowed instruments.
The double bass, also called the string bass, upright bass, bass fiddle, bass violin, doghouse bass, contrabass, bass viol, stand-up bass or bull fiddle, is the largest and lowest-pitched bowed string instrument of the violin family in the modern symphony orchestra, with strings usually tuned to E1, A1, D2 and G2 (see standard tuning). The double bass is a standard member of the string section of the orchestra and smaller string ensembles in Western classical music. In addition, it is used in other genres such as jazz, 1950s-style blues and rock and roll, rockabilly/psychobilly, traditional country music, bluegrass, tango and many types of folk music. A person who plays the double bass is usually referred to as a bassist.
The double bass stands around 180 cm (six feet) from scroll to endpin, and is typically constructed from several types of wood, including maple for the back, spruce for the top, and ebony for the fingerboard. It is uncertain whether the instrument is a descendant of the viola da gamba or of the violin, but it is traditionally aligned with the violin family. While the double bass is nearly identical in construction to other violin family instruments, it also embodies features found in the older viol family.
Like many other string instruments, the double bass is played either with a bow (arco) or by plucking the strings (pizzicato). In orchestral repertoire and tango music, both arco and pizzicato are employed. In jazz, blues, and rockabilly, pizzicato is the norm, except for some solos and also occasional written parts in modern jazz that call for bowing.
When playing the double bass, the bassist either stands or sits on a high stool and leans the instrument against the bassist's body with the bass turned slightly inwards in order to more easily reach the strings. This stance is also a key reason for the bass's sloped shoulders, which mark it apart from the other members of the violin family, as the narrower shoulders facilitate playing of the strings in their higher registers.
The double bass is a transposing instrument and sounds one octave lower than notated.
Video of a tuba
A brass instrument is a musical instrument that produces sound by sympathetic vibration of air in a tubular resonator in sympathy with the vibration of the player's lips. Brass instruments are also called labrosones, literally meaning "lip-vibrated instruments".
There are several factors involved in producing different pitches on a brass instrument: One is alteration of the player's lip tension (or "embouchure"), and another is air flow. Also, slides (or valves) are used to change the length of the tubing, thus changing the harmonic series presented by the instrument to the player.
The view of most scholars (see organology) is that the term "brass instrument" should be defined by the way the sound is made, as above, and not by whether the instrument is actually made of brass. Thus one finds brass instruments made of wood, like the alphorn, the cornett, the serpent and the didgeridoo, while some woodwind instruments are made of brass, like the saxophone.
A trumpet is a musical instrument. It is the highest register in the brass family. Trumpets are among the oldest musical instruments, dating back to at least 1500 BC. They are played by blowing air through closed lips, producing a "buzzing" sound that starts a standing wave vibration in the air column inside the instrument. Since the late 15th century they have primarily been constructed of brass tubing, usually bent twice into a rounded oblong shape.
There are several types of trumpet. The most common is a transposing instrument pitched in B♭ with a tubing length of about 148 cm. Earlier trumpets did not have valves, but modern instruments generally have either three piston valves or, more rarely, three rotary valves. Each valve increases the length of tubing when engaged, thereby lowering the pitch.
A musician who plays the trumpet is called a trumpet player or trumpeter.
The horn (also known as the corno and French horn) is a brass instrument made of about 12–13 feet (3.7–4.0 m) of tubing wrapped into a coil with a flared bell. A musician who plays the horn is called a horn player (or less frequently, a hornist). In informal use, "horn" refers to nearly any wind instrument with a flared exit for the sound.
Descended from the natural horn, the instrument is often informally known as the French horn. However, this is technically incorrect since the instrument is not French in origin, but German. Therefore, the International Horn Society has recommended since 1971 that the instrument be simply called the horn. French horn is still the most commonly used name for the instrument in the United States.
Pitch is controlled through the adjustment of lip tension in the mouthpiece and the operation of valves by the left hand, which route the air into extra tubing. Most horns have lever-operated rotary valves, but some, especially older horns, use piston valves (similar to a trumpet's) and the Vienna horn uses double-piston valves, or pumpenvalves. A horn without valves is known as a natural horn, changing pitch along the natural harmonics of the instrument (similar to a bugle).
Three valves control the flow of air in the single horn, which is tuned to F or less commonly B♭. The more common double horn has a fourth valve, usually operated by the thumb, which routes the air to one set of tubing tuned to F or another tuned to B♭. Triple horns with five valves are also made, tuned in F, B♭, and a descant E♭ or F. Also common are descant doubles, which typically provide B♭ and Alto F branches. This configuration provides a high-range horn while avoiding the additional complexity and weight of a triple.
The trombone is a musical instrument in the brass family. Like all brass instruments, sound is produced when the player’s vibrating lips (embouchure) cause the air column inside the instrument to vibrate. Nearly all trombones have a telescoping slide mechanism that varies the length of the instrument to change the pitch. Instead of a slide, the valve trombone has three valves like those on a trumpet.
The word trombone derives from Italian tromba (trumpet) and -one (a suffix meaning "large"), so the name means "large trumpet". The trombone has a predominantly cylindrical bore like its valved counterpart the baritone horn and in contrast to its conical valved counterparts, the euphonium and the orchestral horn. The most frequently encountered trombones are the tenor trombone and bass trombone. The E♭ alto trombone became less common as tenor technique extended the upper range of that instrument, but is now enjoying a resurgence as the importance of its lighter sonority in many classical and early romantic works is appreciated. The most common variant, the tenor, is pitched in B♭, an octave below the B♭ trumpet and an octave above the B♭ tuba. Trombone music, along with music for euphonium and tuba, is typically written in concert pitch, although exceptions do occur, notably in almost all brass band music where tenor trombone is presented as a B♭ transposing instrument.
A person who plays the trombone is called a trombonist or trombone player.
The tuba is the largest and lowest-pitched brass instrument. Sound is produced by vibrating or "buzzing" the lips into a large cupped mouthpiece. It is one of the most recent additions to the modern symphony orchestra, first appearing in the mid-19th century, when it largely replaced the ophicleide. Tuba is Latin for trumpet or horn. The horn referred to would most likely resemble what is known as a baroque trumpet.
A person who plays the tuba is known as a tubaist or tubist. In the United Kingdom a person who plays the tuba in an orchestra is known simply as a tuba player; in a brass band or military band they are known as a bass player.
A video of a saxophone is here
A video of a bassoon is here
A video of an oboe is here.
Woodwind instruments (also called woodwinds) are a family of musical instruments within the more general category of wind instruments. There are two main types of woodwind instruments: flutes and reed instruments (otherwise called reed pipes). What differentiates these instruments from other wind instruments is the way in which they produce their sound. Woodwinds can be either soprano, alto, tenor or bass.
Flutes produce sound by directing a focused stream of air across the edge of a hole in a cylindrical tube. The family flute can be divided into two sub-families: open flutes, and closed flutes.
To produce a sound with open flutes, the player is required to blow a stream of air across a sharp edge that then splits the airstream . This split airstream then acts upon the air column contained within the flutes hollow causing it to vibrate and produce sound. Examples of open flutes are the transverse flute, panpipes and ocarinas.
Ancient flutes of this variety were often made from tubular sections of plants such as grasses, reeds, and hollowed-out tree branches. Later, flutes were made of metals such as tin, copper, or bronze. Modern concert flutes are usually made of high-grade metal alloys, usually containing nickel, silver, copper, or gold.
To produce a sound with a closed flute, the player is required to blow air into a duct. This duct acts as a channel bringing the air to a sharp edge. As with the open flutes, the air is then split; this causes the column of air within the closed flute to vibrate and produce sound. Examples of this type of flute include the recorder (instrument), and organ pipes.
Reed instruments produce sound by focusing air into a mouthpiece which then causes a reed, or reeds, to vibrate. Similar to flutes, Reed pipes are also further divided into two types: single reed and double reed.
Single-reed woodwinds produce sound by placing a reed onto the opening of a mouthpiece (using a ligature). When air is forced between the reed and the mouthpiece, the reed causes the air column in the instrument to avibrate and produce its unique sound. Single reed instruments include the clarinet, saxophone, and others such as the duduk and the chalumeau.
Double-reed instruments use two precisely cut, small pieces of cane bound together at the base. This form of sound production has been estimated to have originated in the middle to late Neolithic period; its discovery has been attributed to the observation of wind blowing through a split rush. The finished, bound reed is inserted into the instrument and vibrates as air is forced between the two pieces (again, causing the air within the instrument to vibrate as well). This family of reed pipes is subdivided further into another two sub-families: exposed double reed, and capped double reed instruments.
Exposed double-reed instruments are played by having the double reed directly between the player's lips. This family includes instruments such as the oboe, cor anglais (also called English horn) and bassoon, and many types of shawms throughout the world.
On the other hand, Capped double-reed instruments have the double reed covered by a cap. The player blows through a hole in this cap that then directs the air through the reeds. This family includes the crumhorn and the cornamuse.
A piper playing the bagpipes
Bagpipes are unique reed pipe instruments since they use two or more double or single reeds. However, bagpipes are functionally the same as a capped double reed instruments since the reeds are never in direct contact with player's lips.
Free reed aerophone instruments are likewise unique since sound is produced by 'free reeds' – small metal tongues arranged in rows within a metal or wooden frame. The airflow necessary for the instruments sound is generated either by a players breath (e.g. harmonica), or by bellows (e.g. accordion).
A video of Timpani
A video of a marimba
A video of mallets
A percussion instrument is a musical instrument that is sounded by being struck or scraped by a beater (including attached or enclosed beaters or rattles), or struck, scraped or rubbed by hand, or struck against another similar instrument. The percussion family is believed to include the oldest musical instruments, following the human voice.
The percussion section of an orchestra, however, traditionally contains in addition many instruments that are not, strictly speaking, percussion, such as whistles and sirens. On the other hand, keyboard instruments such as the celesta are not normally part of the percussion section, but keyboard percussion instruments (which do not have keyboards) are included.
Percussion instruments are most commonly divided into two classes: Pitched percussion instruments, which produce notes with an identifiable pitch, and unpitched percussion instruments, which produce notes without an identifiable pitch.
Main article: Idiophone
See also: Category:Idiophones
"Idiophones produce sounds through the vibration of their entire body." Examples of idiophones:
Main article: Membranophone
See also: Category:Membranophones
Most objects commonly known as "drums" are membranophones. "Membranophones produce sound when the membrane or head is struck."
Examples of membranophones:
The lion's roar and the cuíca are friction instruments which are not struck like other drums, but the sound is produced by applying friction to a string (lion's roar) or to a stick (cuíca) that is attached to the center of the membrane. In both cases, it is the membrane that vibrates, not the string nor the stick, thus ensuring their classification as membranophones. In the case of the lion's roar, a resined string (or gut) is fastened through a hole in the membrane. In the case of the cuíca, the stick is attached (tied) to the membrane before it is stretched and tightened to the body of the instrument, and the stick is accessible by placing one hand inside the body, rubbed with a wet cloth.
Wind machines: A wind machine in this context is not a wind tunnel and therefore not an aerophone. Instead, it is an apparatus (often used in theatre as a sound effect) in which a sheet of canvas (a membrane) is rubbed against a screen or resonator; this action produces a sound which resembles the blowing of wind.
Main article: Chordophone
See also: Category:String instruments
Most instruments known as "chordophones" are defined as string instruments, but some such as these examples are percussion instruments also.
Hammered dulcimer, Cimbalom
Main article: Aerophone
See also: Category:Aerophones
Most instruments known as "aerophones" are defined as wind instruments such as a saxophone whereby sound is produced by a person or thing blowing air through the object. Examples of aerophones played by percussionists:
Apito or samba whistle
Whistle or police whistle
By musical function or orchestration
When classifying instruments by function it is useful to note if a percussion instrument makes a definite pitch or indefinite pitch.
For example, some percussion instruments (such as the marimba and timpani) produce an obvious fundamental pitch and can therefore play melody and serve harmonic functions in music. Other instruments (such as crash cymbals and snare drums) produce sounds with such complex overtones and a wide range of prominent frequencies that no pitch is discernible.
Main article: pitched percussion instrument
Percussion instruments in this group are sometimes referred to as "pitched" or "tuned".
Examples of percussion instruments with definite pitch:
Main article: unpitched percussion instrument
Instruments in this group are sometimes referred to as "non-pitched", "unpitched", or "untuned". Traditionally these instruments are thought of as making a sound that contains such complex frequencies that no discernible pitch can be heard.
In fact many traditionally unpitched instruments, such as triangles and even cymbals, have also been produced as tuned sets.
Examples of percussion instruments with indefinite pitch:
Slapstick or whip