It’s the big night and you take your seat in the concert hall ready to hear some classical music. You look up and see almost 100 people in the orchestra. Here’s a breakdown of the instruments they’re playing:

  • Violin: The instrument is made of wood; the bow is made of horsehair; the four strings are made of metal; the sound is sweet, singing, and divine. They’re divided into two sections, First and Second Violins, each with different music to play.

  • Viola: Slightly larger than a violin, playing slightly lower notes, with a breathier or throatier sound than a violin.

  • Cello: Played sitting down, with the instrument between the legs. Makes a beautiful, rich, singing sound.

  • Bass (or Double Bass): Enormous, bigger around than the average human being. Plays the lowest notes of all the strings, providing the foundation for the orchestra’s sound. Played sitting on a tall stool or standing up.

  • Flute: Blown across, just like a bottle; produces a sweet, silvery sound.

  • Oboe: Played by blowing into a reed, a whittled-down flat piece of sugar cane. Produces one of the most beautiful sounds on earth: clear, vibrant, sweet, plaintive, and full.

  • Clarinet: A dark, tubular woodwind instrument that creates a full, round sound, very pure, without the edge of the oboe’s sound.

  • Bassoon: Looks like a plumbing pipe; sounds like a dream. High notes sound throaty, even otherworldly. Middle notes sound luscious, full, mellow; low notes can be very powerful.

  • French Horn (or just Horn): The most noble-sounding brass instrument; has a full, round, dark tone, great for majestic hunting calls.

  • Trumpet: The most powerful orchestral instrument and the highest-pitched brass instrument. Executes impressive runs and leaps in a single bound.

  • Trombone: A powerful low brass instrument with a slide to change notes. Essential for parades, as well as symphonies.

  • Tuba: Lowest of the brass instruments. Can produce a wall of low, blasting sound.

  • Percussion: The player is expected to be a master of a vast range of different instruments: timpani (the great big kettledrums), bass drum, snare drum (for marches), cymbals (for crashing together), xylophone (played with mallets), and other oddities.

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