Welcome to the Woodwinds lecture! By the end of this lecture, you will be able to

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Welcome to the Woodwinds lecture!
By the end of this lecture, you will be able to:

  • Identify historical and physical characteristics of the flute, the piccolo flute, the clarinet, the oboe, the English horn, the bassoon and the contrabassoon.

  • Identify the role and use of the flute, the piccolo flute, the clarinet, the oboe, the English horn, the bassoon and the contrabassoon.

  • Recognize the characteristic sounds of the flute, the piccolo flute, the clarinet, the oboe, the English horn, the bassoon and the contrabassoon.

  • Visually recognize the flute, the piccolo flute, the clarinet, the oboe, the English horn, the bassoon and the contrabassoon.

Why do loud, obnoxious whistles exist at some factories?

  • To give us some sort of appreciation for flutes.

The flute may perhaps be the most exciting of all the woodwind instruments. Its versatile character allows it to be a regular fixture in all musical genres. Why is this so? Let’s go find out!

Engaging the Past
The flute is the oldest woodwind instrument. Historians estimate that flute-like instruments can be traced as far back as the 9th century B.C. Prehistoric artwork shows evidence of the use of flute like instruments.

The modern mechanism of the flute was invented by Theobald Boehm. He was a German goldsmith who was an adept mechanical artist. He lived in Munich from 1794 to 1881.

A flute player himself, Mr. Boehm designed and built flutes with his own key mechanism. His key system revolutionized the modern design of the flute since it allowed flute players to play difficult passages with ease. Boehm’s system has been adopted by other instruments within the woodwind family.
Semantic Issues
There are two possible Latin origins of the word flute. One of them stems from the word flutus, meaning breath. The other word is flare, which means to flow.
The Ancients
The term flute has been used for many instruments whose origins go back all the way to ancient civilizations.

The flageolet, and the fife and considered direct ancestors of the modern flute. The panpipes are flute-like instruments used by many native tribes around the world for dance and entertainment purposes.

Another important ancestor of the flute is the recorder flute. Today, the recorder flute is still in use, and is commonly taught in elementary schools.

Body and Soul
The flute used to be made out of bone or wood. Today’s flutes are generally made of silver so they can create a bright, clear and penetrating sound. Nickel, or sometimes even gold, is also used to make flutes.
Putting the Pieces Together
The following parts are considered to be the most important parts of the flute.

  • Head joint

  • Embouchure

  • Tuning slide

  • Body joint or barrel

  • Tail joint

Cool Facts
The oldest member of the woodwind family is the flute.

The modern flute is about 26 inches long.

Out of all the woodwind instruments, the flute and its variations do not require the use of a reed.

There are a wide variety of flutes from all parts of the world.

The two main flute groups are: the recorder family and the transverse family.

The flute has a smaller version called the piccolo flute, which plays an octave higher.

The piccolo flute is exactly the same as the flute, but it is shorter and sounds much higher.

The first major composer to use the piccolo in one of his composition was Beethoven.

Job Description
Today, flutes are able to play music which previously had been too technically demanding for pre-Boehm instruments.

The extended range used by composers of the Romantic era demands a flute which can play in excess of three octaves. This is still true today, as the flute is a vital piece of any orchestra.

Contemporary flute soloists enjoy a vast repertoire of great solo pieces that have been written by prominent composers such as Brahms, Strauss, and Tchaikovsky.
Let the Show Begin
The flute has three main parts: the mouthpiece, the body and the tail.

The mouthpiece hole is where the player blows air to produce sound. The other holes of the flute were replaced with keys by Theobald Boehm in the 17th century.

With the help of special keys or foot joints, the flute is capable of playing a range of over three octaves.
Alley Oop
Learning how to play the flute is not very difficult. However, one must produce a beautiful sound with the instrument. This is what takes a long time to master.

Circular Breathing is a special playing technique that requires a performer to hold the sound of the flute indefinitely with no audible breathing interruptions.

Flutter tonguing is another special technique that is produced by rolling the front of the tongue, as in the Spanish "rr,“. The tone produced is articulated very rapidly.
Hall of Fame
Miyazawa flutes are state of the art flutes that use new flute technologies to facilitate performances.

Sir James Galway is regarded as both a supreme interpreter of the classical flute and a consummate entertainer.

Ludwig van Beethoven was the first major composer to use the piccolo flute in a symphony.

What's the difference between an oboe and an onion?

    • You don't cry when you're cutting up the oboe.

The oboe is the instrument that tunes the symphony orchestra before a concert performance. Its stable sound provides the consistent pitch necessary for all instruments to match their tones.

Don’t just get the idea that the oboe is only good for tuning the orchestra! Follow me through this tour where we’ll explore the universe of the oboe.

The history of the oboe is not as extensive as the history of its woodwind counterparts. Most of the oboe’s history is represented in paintings and drawings of ancient civilizations. These documents give us the idea that some kind of double reed instruments existed and played a very important role in past civilizations.

The oboe was invented in the 17th century by two French musicians, and gained its place in the orchestra by the early part of the 18th century.

The "modern oboe" was developed by the Triebert family in the later part of the 18th century.

Their oboe design became the quintessential model used at the Paris Music Conservatory.

Origin of the Name
The word oboe comes from the French hautbois which means high pitched woodwind instrument.
Ancestors or close relative
The aulos was an ancient instrument considered to be an important part of the cultural and social life of Greece.

The aulos is the earliest reference to double reed instruments and bagpipes.

Historically, the oboe descended from the shawm instrument family that divided into the hautbois and gros-bois: the high woods and the great woods.

The shawm is the closest relative of the oboe. This instrument was introduced in Europe during the Crusades as invading armies used the instrument for war and entertainment purposes.

The body of the oboe is made of ebony wood, granadilla wood, rosewood or cocus wood. The oboe keys are mostly silver plated.

The reed of the oboe is made of two pieces of very thin cane. Both pieces are threaded in such a way as to leave a small opening of air for the player to blow through.

The oboe has three important sections: the upper joint, the lower joint, and the bell. Each part fits inside a smaller inner tube that is covered with cork to avoid air leakage.
Parts of the Oboe
The following parts are considered to be the most important parts of the oboe.

  • Upper joint

  • Cane reed

  • Body or middle joint

  • The bell

Cool Facts
The oboe is known as a double reed instrument.

A musician that plays the oboe is called oboist.

The oboe is the instrument that tunes the symphony orchestra.

Along with the recorder flute, the oboe is one the oldest woodwind instruments.

The oboe is about the same length as the flute; about 26 inches.

The technique for playing requires great breathing control.

The oboe is capable of playing a range of three octaves. However, it is a very difficult instrument to play.
Role of the instrument
For many years after its inception, the modern oboe was used mostly as a prominent member of the woodwind family of the orchestra. The improvements upon the oboe have inspired oboe makers and musicians to attain a superb level of instrumental construction and musical performance and composition.

Within the orchestra, the oboe plays small solo parts or doubles the melodies played by the violins. The oboe was not regularly used as a solo instrument until the middle part of the 20th century, when oboist began to push the envelope of oboe technique.

Today, we enjoy the oboe to its fullest capacity. It is a major component of the woodwinds of the orchestra and is used to play major solos within the symphony orchestra and chamber orchestra.

Oboe concerti are pieces that feature the oboe as a soloist with orchestral accompaniment. These concerti allow the instrument to display its unique and penetrating sound.

Use of the instrument
The oboe is seldom used in other musical genres. When it is used outside of the symphony orchestra, the oboe is used in recordings of jingles and television commercials. It is rarely used for jazz or pop music. Occasionally, some folk musical genres feature the sound of the oboe.

The oboist’s reed is actually a double reed. This double reed is made of two pieces of cane tied into another piece of tubing which fits into the end of the oboe.

Special playing techniques
Although the oboe is a melodic instrument, a veteran player is capable of producing more than one note on the instrument. This is called multiphonics and it is considered an extended technique.

There are several fingering positions that produce multiphonics on the oboe and sometimes the experienced oboist may produce several other multiphonics.

This extended technique is of great interest for contemporary composers who are always looking for new sonic alternatives on modern instruments.
Hall of Fame
Marcel Tabuteau (1881-1966) was one of the founders of the French-American school of oboe playing and teaching.

Heinz Holliger is considered one of the world's most celebrated oboists. Numerous original compositions have been written for him.

Marigaux is a renowned brand for oboes. For over 50 years, it has been acclaimed by the greatest solo and orchestral oboists.

English Horn
What is the difference between hearing an English horn solo and being tortured?

  • Listening to the English horn is far more painful to your ears.

Even thought the English horn is an instrument that is rarely used by classical composers, it is capable of enthralling one’s senses with its warm and enigmatic sounds.

Let’s enter the mystifying world of the English horn!
Engaging the Past
Early prototypes of the instrument appeared before the end of the 17th century. The actual English horn did not appear until the middle of the 1800s.

The English horn is not of English descent. Actually, the English horn is of French origin.

Primarily, it was used by Italian composers as an instrument capable of producing dark and mysterious sounds. The character of the instrument changed when Berlioz, a famous French Romantic composer, took advantage of the wide dynamic range of the instrument and its expressive qualities.

For many years, military bands and popular ensembles have used the English horn for their musical activities.

Semantic Issues
There are many interpretations for the origin of its name. One says that its French name cor anglé translates as bent horn. Although the English horn is not bent by any means, you can see that the metal crook on top of the instrument is bent.

This metal crook is where the player inserts the double reed which produces the unique sound of the instrument.

Another interpretation claims that the name English horn comes from a variation of its original name: The word engellisch means both English and angelic. Thus, it could be called an English horn or Angelic horn.
The Ancients
The oboe da caccia is a baroque instrument that predates the English horn and shares some of the physical characteristics of the modern English horn.

The early music of Baroque composer Johann Sebastian Bach uses the sounds of the oboe da caccia.

Body and Soul
The reed of the English horn is made of two very thin pieces of cane. Both pieces are threaded in such a way as to leave a small opening of air for the player to blow through.

The body of the English horn can be made of ebony wood, granadilla wood, rosewood or cocus wood. The oboe keys are mostly silver plated.

Putting the Pieces Together
The following parts are considered to be the most important parts of the English horn.

  • Reed crook

  • The reed

  • Upper joint

  • Body or middle joint

  • The bell

Cool Facts
The English horn belongs to the oboe family, but it is somewhat different from the oboe. The English horn is shaped like the oboe, but it has a pear-like shape bell and a curved crook that holds the reed in place. It is also tuned a fifth lower than the oboe.

The sound of the English horn is dark and enigmatic.

The English horn is longer than the oboe. It is 32 inches long.

This instrument is linked to Italian opera of the 18th century.

Job Description
The English horn is an instrument that is usually played by an oboist. This is common practice among oboists because the repertoire for the English horn is not as extensive as the oboe.

There are quite a few solos written for the English horn within the orchestral and opera repertoire. The sound of the English horn could be described as expressive and melancholic. It is mainly featured during slow movements or slow sections of the music.

Let the Show Begin
During the Romantic period of music, composers such as Berlioz and Meyerbeer introduced the instrument to their musical compositions. It caught on well among other composers, and the English horn gained a prominent position within the orchestral music repertoire.

The English horn is commonly used by movie music composers to complement a dark, sinister or even melancholic scene.

Alley Oop
The English horn is a melodic instrument designed to play tones and semitones.

By altering the position of the lips on the reed and the regular fingering on the keys of the instrument, the English horn is capable of producing sound intervals that are smaller than its native tones and semitones.

The resulting effect of these extended techniques is known as quarter tones and microtones.
Hall of Fame
Luigi Bulgerhoni is a famed maker of professional grade English horns.

Joaquin Rodrigo wrote the most beautiful solo for the English horn in the second movement of his Concierto de Aranjuez for guitar and orchestra.

Johann Sebastian Bach may have been the first composer to use a similar instrument called oboe da caccia in one of his compositions.

What's the definition of "nerd?"

    • Someone who owns his own alto and bass clarinet.

Clarinetists are obsessed with the condition of their playing reeds. They associate a perfect reed with perfect sound. Let’s learn about this instrument of perfectionists!
Engaging the Past
The Egyptians used clarinet-like instruments for their ritual ceremonies as early as 3000 B.C. Some clarinet prototypes have been found in other parts of Western and Eastern Europe.

There are painting references to single reed instruments used during the Middle Ages for dance and entertainment purposes.

Johann Cristoph Denner is credited with the development of the modern clarinet. Denner was a well respected maker of woodwind instruments in the later part of the 17th century.

Many composers then felt compelled to write music for the early clarinet. By the 18th century, more keys were added to the instrument.

These improvements opened the doors for composers and performers to expand the repertoire and technique of the clarinet.
Semantic Issues
The origin of the word clarinet comes from the French word clarinette. The word clarinette is a diminutive of clarine that means clarin, or little bell in English.
The Ancients
The early ancestor of the clarinet is an instrument called the chalumeau. It appeared during the 1600s and is considered to be the first single reed instrument that resembled the modern day clarinet.

Body and Soul
Grenadilla wood is preferred over other types of wood to build a clarinet. This dark wood gives the instrument its characteristic mellow sound. Student clarinet models use less sonorous materials such as artificial rubber.

The keys for the clarinet are usually silver plated. It is common to have keys made from a mixture of metals such as nickel, copper and zinc. This mixture allows the keys to keep their silverish look.

The finest clarinets use pure silver keys and sometimes gold plated keys.

Other materials used for the clarinet include the cork pads to soften the sound made by the movement of the keys. Also, cork lining may be used for lining the joints or the separate parts of the clarinet.

Putting the Pieces Together
The following parts are considered to be the most important parts of the clarinet.

  • The mouthpiece

  • The reed

  • The body with keys

  • The bell

Cool Facts
The clarinet is a single reed instrument.

It is known as a single reed instrument because it has one piece of cane placed against the mouthpiece that is kept in place by the ligature.

The clarinet has a mellow, yet smooth tone and color.

The clarinet notes, or pitches, are controlled by a system of keys that are attached to the body.

The clarinet is a versatile instrument that can be featured in classical and popular styles because it is capable of playing all melodic ranges.

The clarinet was one of Mozart’s favorite instruments, and his concerto for clarinet is one of the most beautiful pieces that he ever wrote.

Job Description
The clarinet is the most important solo instrument in the woodwind family within the symphony orchestra.

The sound of the clarinet is perfectly fitted for the bold and majestic melodies of the symphonic repertoire.

Clarinets are commonly associated with the sounds of Jazz, Dixieland and other popular music genres because of its warm and smooth sounds.
Let the Show Begin
The clarinet is known as the most versatile woodwind instrument because it is capable of playing well at different loudness levels. It can also play brilliant and difficult passages with ease.

It is featured often in the orchestra as a solo instrument for its extended range of 4 octaves.

Alley Oop
Clarinetists often use a technique called alternate fingerings. This technique allows the player to use an unusual fingering to play a passage that otherwise could be hard to play or even unplayable.
Hall of Fame
Buffet Crampon is a maker of high-quality woodwind instruments, and is famous for the quality of their clarinets.

Benny Goodman is an American clarinetist known as the King of Swing.

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart wrote one of the most beautiful concertos for the clarinet. The clarinet was one of his most favorite instruments.

Why is a bassoon better than an oboe?

    • Because the bassoon burns longer.

The bassoon is referred to as the grandfather of the woodwind family. Why don’t you join me to find out?
Engaging the Past
Double reed instruments have been present since ancient times. However, the bassoon is a rather new instrument since references to it go back for approximately 500 years.

French luthiers developed an instrument very similar to the bassoon called the dulcian during the latter part of the 17th century. The bassoon was probably developed during the 18th century.

The bassoon underwent major changes during the 19th century by French makers.
Semantic Issues
The term bassoon comes from the French basson with means grand bass or big bass sound. Dulcian is a Latin word that translates to English as “soft and sweet”.

In German the bassoon is called fagot, in Italy is called the fagotto.

The Ancients
The dulcian was an instrument that shared many similarities with the modern bassoon. The use of the dulcian increased throughout Europe as composers used it in many of their compositions.

In the 19th century, the bassoon went through several changes that added keys, changed the size of the instrument, and provided a more precise mechanism that allowed players to be more in tune with other more advanced woodwind instruments.

Adam Heckel was the creator of this new mechanism known as the Heckel system. This innovation allowed the bassoonist to play more in tune by using an easier fingering system.

Body and Soul
Modern bassoons are usually made of maple, rosewood, ebonite, or plastic.

Maple wood bassoons produce the best and most professional sound.

The student model bassoons are made of plastic material and are considerably less expensive although they are more resistant to the beginning student’s use and abuse.
Putting the Pieces Together
The following parts are considered to be the most important parts of the bassoon.

  • the bass joint

  • the tenor joint

  • the double joint

  • the bell joint

Cool Facts
The bassoon is a double reed instrument that has a 9 foot long air column. It is the lowest sounding member of the woodwind family.

It is considered the bass voice of the woodwind family.

One who plays the bassoon is called a bassoonist.
Job Description
The role of the bassoon is to provide a rhythmic foundation for the woodwind family as well as for the whole symphony orchestra. The instrument is very versatile, as it is also capable of producing expressive and warm melodies when used as a solo instrument. Generally, a symphony orchestra uses two bassonists as regular members of the orchestra.
Let the Show Begin
The bassoon is a regular member of the woodwind quintet.

Musicians play the bassoon by putting their lips on the double reed, blowing through the instrument, and changing fingerings on the keys and holes to create different tones.

The bassoon is mostly used as a symphonic and chamber music instrument. Although the bassoon is not commonly played as a jazz instrument, it is occasionally performed in the symphonic jazz genre. It is common to hear the bassoon in jingle and commercial recordings.
Alley Oop
Fluttertonging is an extended technique commonly used in Jazz and popular music genres.

Other woodwind and brass instruments use this technique, which require the player to roll their tongue as they play their instrument to add a “frrrr” type of noise on top of the musical note being played.

Hall of Fame
The Heckel company, founded in 1831 in Wiesbaden, Germany, is undoubtedly one of the oldest bassoon construction workshops.

Judith Leclair, American bassoonist, is the principal bassoon with the New York Philharmonic and a faculty member at the Julliard School. She premiered the John Williams Bassoon concerto in 1995.

Karl Almenrader is credited with contributing to the development of the modern bassoon.

How do you get a contrabassoon player off of your front porch?

  • Pay for the pizza.

The contrabassoon is a rather unusual instrument that is used occasionally by composers for its dark and sinister sounds. Are you scared now? Let’s go in and learn about the contrabassoon.

Engaging the Past
Egyptians used double reed instruments made of pressed barley straws inserted into a small pipe. These ancient Egyptian instruments used holes to produce sounds and were made in different sizes.

Alfranio Canon de Ferrara designed the modern shape of the bassoon. De Ferrara constructed the instrument in such a way that the bell was facing upwards giving the instrument its characteristic look.

Contrabassoon makers used bassoon-making techniques to build the first contrabassoon in the later part of the 16th century. It used the same construction principles as the bassoon. However, the contrabassoon had a more compact look because of its many folding wooden tubes.

As with all instrument prototypes, the contrabassoon had holes instead of keys. Later, makers added keys to the instrument to facilitate its playing and intonation.

Semantic Issues
The contrabassoon has two parts to its name. In the previous lecture you learned that the origin of the word bassoon comes from the French bassoon with means grand bass or big bass sound.

The prefix contra means that the instrument sounds an octave lower than the bassoon.

The Ancients
The tibiae were reed instruments with similar characteristics as the early Egyptian instruments. The ancient Romans used the tibiae for their social and religious events.

The contrabass sarrusophone is another ancestor of the contrabassoon. Use of the instrument was discontinued because the sarrusophone had a poor tone quality and was not able to produce good intonation.

The Contrabassophone is another extinct prototype of the contrabassoon.

Body and Soul
Modern contrabassoons are usually made of maple, rosewood, ebonite, or plastic.

The maple wood contrabassoons are considered to produce the best and most professional sounds.

Putting the Pieces Together
The following parts are considered to be the most important parts of the contrabassoon.

  • Body of the instrument

  • Bocal

  • Detachable bell

  • Water key

  • Tuning slide

Cool Facts
The contrabassoon is a double reed instrument that belongs to the oboe group of the woodwind family.

It is similar to the bassoon, but it sounds an octave lower.

The contrabassoon has 16 feet of tubing and is 10 feet long when all the parts are joined together.

The contrabassoon instrument uses a different fingering than the bassoon.

The sounds produced by the contrabassoon are very dark and lugubrious.

Job Description
The contrabassoon is the lowest voice of the woodwind family. However, the instrument does not play lower than the tuba. Generally, the contrabassoon plays the same notes as the bassoon, the double bass, the bass trombone and the tuba. This is known as doubling the sound.
Let the Show Begin
The contrabassoon is rarely used in the symphony orchestra. However, some Romantic composers of the 19th century used the instrument because of its doomful, evil and sometimes graceless sound. When it is used, it reinforces the sounds of the instruments it doubles, providing an ostentatious and voluptuous sound.
Alley Oop
Key clicks is an extended technique that is done quite effectively on the contrabassoon because of its booming and resounding characteristics. The performer must click on the instrument keys while blowing air through the contrabassoon. The result is a percussive and loud pitched sound that resonates inside of the instrument. It is used as a sound effect for movies and avant garde music.
Hall of Fame
The Heckel company, founded in 1831 in Wiesbaden, Germany, is undoubtedly one of the oldest workshops that builds contrabassoons.

Susan Nigro is the world's premiere contrabassoon soloist.

Johannes Brahms wrote an important solo for the contrabassoon in his First symphony.
Final Words on the Woodwind Instrument Family
Now that we have completed this tour, you can:

  • Identify historical and physical characteristics of the flute, the clarinet, the oboe, the English horn, the bassoon and the contrabassoon.

  • Identify the role and use of the flute, the clarinet, the oboe, the English horn, the bassoon and the contrabassoon.

  • Recognize the characteristic sounds of the flute, the clarinet, the oboe, the English horn, the bassoon and the contrabassoon.

  • Visually recognize the flute, the clarinet, the oboe, the English horn, the bassoon and the contrabassoon.

Why are orchestra intermissions limited to 20 minutes?

  • So you don't have to retrain the percussion section.

The final instrument family in this tour is the Percussion family. This section of the symphony orchestra is also known as the “kitchen department” because of its extensive variety of rhythmical instruments and accessories.

The percussion section brings tremendous amounts of excitement to music, so let’s take a look at the last instrument family of the orchestra!
Cool Facts
To qualify as a member of the percussion family, an instrument must produce its sound when it is either hit or stricken.

Percussion instruments are some of the oldest of all musical instruments.

The percussion family is approaching the importance achieved by the string or wind family because today's composers are exploring more complex rhythms and unusual sounds.

The main function of percussion instruments is to provide a beat and keep the rhythm. Nevertheless, there are some percussion instruments that are capable of playing melodies in the orchestra. These are used often and create a very unique sound color.

Historic Background
The origin of percussion instruments dates all the way back to prehistoric men beating out rhythms on hollow tree trunks, or by working with their hunting tools.

Rhythm dates back further than recorded civilization. Musical references to rhythm and percussion-like instruments can be found in prehistoric art, such as paintings on ceramics or in caves.

Role of Percussion
The role of the percussion family has changed over the centuries. Their main musical function has been to provide rhythm stability. However, percussion instruments now play melodic passages within the symphony orchestra.

The instruments in the percussion family do not play all the time, because the constant beating sound could create an overpowering effect within the orchestra.

Composers are particularly careful when they use percussion instruments because of their high volume levels.

The use of percussion instruments must contribute to the balance and articulation of the composition.

Use of Percussion
Prior to the 1900s, composers used percussion instruments to emphasize certain strong moments in their music.

The main role of the percussion was to set the rhythmic platform for the melodic instruments.

Un-pitched Group
The following series of instruments are classified as part of the un-pitched group of the percussion family.

Un-pitched means that these instruments are capable of producing sounds or rhythms without a definitive pitched sound. Let’s visit them in detail!

- The Bass Drum - The Snare drum

- The Tambourine - The Cymbals

- The Woodblock - The Chinese Temple Block

- The Gong (Tam Tam) - The Triangle

- Miscellaneous Percussion

Please note the following un-pitched group instrument pictures. They will be on the exam and you will have to recognize pictures of these instruments.

The Bass Drum
The bass drum has two heads and it is generally played from the right side. The right side of the bass drum is known as the upper head.

Drummers do not play on the lower head. This part of the bass drum adds to its vibration and resonance.

The sound of the bass drum is low and thunderous.
The Snare Drum
The snare drum is the drum that you are probably most familiar with, as it is part of the drum set used by rock bands.

One feature that is common between all snare drums is that they have two heads.

The upper head is used for playing, while the lower one has a stretched set of strings that vibrates when the drum is beaten.

The sound of the snare changes significantly if you disengage the set of metal strings. Take a look at the set of metal strings that is located over the lower drum head.

The Tambourine
The Tambourine is another popular instrument that is part of the percussion section of the symphony orchestra.

When the tambourine is shaken or stricken, it jingles to add a sparkling or festive atmosphere to the music being played.

The Cymbals
There are two types of cymbals: the handheld cymbals and the suspended cymbals.

The handheld cymbals are played by hand, while the suspended cymbals are stricken with soft mallets.

The cymbals have the most striking appeal within the percussion instrument, and perhaps within the entire orchestra.

Their characteristic sound color creates excitement every time that they are played.

The Woodblock
The woodblock is a small, partially hollow piece of wood that produces a tic tock sound, like a big clock, when tapped with a hard stick or mallet.
The Chinese Temple Blocks
The Chinese temple blocks sound like galloping horses.

The bigger blocks produce a sound that is deeper than the smallest block.

The Gong or Tam Tam
The Gong is of Chinese origin. The gong is also known as the Tam Tam. This instrument is made of a bronze alloy and can be flat-shaped or saucer-shaped.

When a musician strikes a tam tam, the resulting sound is like an atomic bomb. At first, the sound is quiet and then opens and expands to a loud, crashing sound.

Its size varies and it can be very expensive.
The Triangle
The triangle is one of the smallest instruments of the percussion family.

The sound it produces is high, clear, and very penetrating.

Miscellaneous Percussion
These pictures show miscellaneous percussion instruments such as the: sleigh bells, castanets, and slap stick.

They are common instruments that are found in the percussion section of a musical ensemble and they make a good set of miscellaneous musical instruments used by percussionists of all musical genres.

Pitched Group
The following series of instruments are classified as part of the pitched group of the percussion family.
A pitched percussion instrument is capable of producing pitched sounds when hit or stricken.

Let’s now take a look at the pitched group of the percussion family.

- Timpani - Glockenspiel

- Xylophone - Chimes (Tubular Bells)

- Piano - Harpsicord

- Celesta

Please note the following pitched group instrument pictures. They will be on the exam and you will have to recognize pictures of the instruments.

The Timpani
The timpani was the first percussion instrument to gain permanent access to the orchestra.

The timpani has been used since the Baroque period of music.

The timpani produces a variety of pitches, as where most other drums can only produce a sharp or crisp accent without a definite pitch.

Generally, four timpani are used within the symphony orchestra. A tuning machine allows them to be tuned while the orchestra is playing.

Smaller timpani allow for brighter sounds, or pitches.

The timpani and other tuned drums, SUCH AS, play higher notes if their heads are stretched tightly. If the head is loosened, then the note will be lower.

By using different sticks, timpani players are able to get different sounds qualities and colors.

Commonly, percussionists will carry a little case with a wide variety of sticks and mallets. A percussionist will used these to accommodate for the ample diversity of tonal color that conductors or composers require.

Notice the differences between the mallets that are shown in the picture.
The Glockenspiel
The Glockenspiel is also known as orchestra bells.

It contains about 30 steel plates of different sizes that are arranged like a piano keyboard and mounted in a case.

It produces a very metallic sound.
The Xylophone
The xylophone is one of the most popular melodic percussion instruments.

Its plates, or bars, are made of rosewood instead of steel. It is used in both classical and popular music.

The Chimes or Tubular Bells
Since it is very impractical to have real church bells in an orchestra setting, they are substituted with long steel tubes of varying lengths.

These tubes are stricken at the top with a small hammer.

They are called tubular bells or chimes.
The Piano
I am sure that pianists will disagree that the piano is included in the pitched category.

However, there are times when the piano is used for a more percussive effect rather than a solo role.

For the purpose of this class, the piano is also included as a member of the percussion family.

Its vast network of little hammers strike the strings, causing them to vibrate.

The Harpsichord
The harpsichord was the largest keyboard instrument from the sixteenth through the mid-eighteenth century.

During the latter part of the eighteenth century, the harpsichord began to lose favor, due mainly to the introduction of the piano.

Since keyboard instruments were not able to play volume changes, one keyboard was used for loud passages and the other for soft passages. Note that it has two rows of keys.
The Celesta
The Celesta is a keyboard instrument patented in 1886 by Auguste Mustel of Paris.

As you can see, it resembles an upright piano.

The celesta consists of a set of steel bars that are fastened over wood resonators. These resonators are stricken by hammers that are operated from the keyboard.

The celesta has a range of four octaves and its tone is delicate and ethereal.

The Russian composer Peter Tchaikovsky was one of the first composers to write music for the celesta when he wrote his famous Nutcracker Suite.
Final Words on the Percussion Instrument Family
The wide assortment of percussion instruments provides a potpourri of musical and rhythmical options to the symphony orchestra. Its ample selection of colors and sounds add another dimension to the texture of any composition.

By completing the tour of all instrument families, you are now prepared to meet the composers behind the masterpieces written for these unique and special instruments.

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