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Instruments and Ensembles

Categories of Instruments

Aerophones: instruments where sound is produced by the air.

  • Aerophones use many mechanisms to make the air in the instrument vibrate, thus creating sound waves.

Chordophones: instruments where sound is produced by strings.

  • Chordophones can be played in a variety of ways: they can be plucked, struck, strummed, or played with a bow.

Membranophones: instruments where sound is produced by a stretched membrane (plastic, animal skin, fiberglass, etc.).

Idiophones: instruments where sound is produced by the body of the instrument itself

Electrophones: instruments where sound is produced by electric or electronic means

Western Categories of Instruments

There are 3 families of instruments in western categories: strings, wind, and percussion.

  • Strings: instruments where sound is produced by vibrating strings

    • Examples: the violin, viola, bass, and cello

  • Wind: instruments where sound is produced by a vibrating column of air

    • This category can be subdivided into woodwinds and brass

      • Woodwinds: flute, clarinet, oboe, English horn, saxophone, and bassoon

      • Brass: trumpet, French horn, tuba, and trombone

  • Percussion: instruments where sound is produced by the instrument being shaken or struck

    • Examples: timpani, snare drum, bass drum, triangle, cymbals, xylophone, tambourin, castanets, and chimes

The piano, harpsichord, and organ constitute a separate category of instruments. The harpsichord might be classified as a plucked string, the piano as both a string and a percussion instrument since its strings are struck by felt-covered hammers, and the organ as a wind instrument with it’s pipes being a collection of air-filled tubes. Because the mechanism of the keyboard allows the player to produce several tones at once, keyboard instruments have traditionally been treated as self-sufficient rather than as members of an orchestral section.

Ensembles

Ensemble: a group of various musicians and instruments

  • Ensembles can be made up of singers alone, instruments alone, singers and instruments together, two performers or hundreds

Large ensembles: performers are usually divided into sections, each with a particular material or function, and a conductor or lead performer responsible for keeping everyone together

  • Examples: symphony orchestra, marching band, jazz band, gospel choir, West Indian steel pan band, African drum ensemble

  • Instruments from different sections often double each other, one instrument playing the same material as another, although perhaps in different octaves

  • The most important large ensemble in Western tradition is the symphony orchestra

    • The players are grouped by family into sections – winds, brass, percussion and strings.

Small ensembles: consists of 2-9 musicians, each with a separate and unique part.

  • An important feature of small ensembles is the overall balance among the individual performers so tone does not overpower the others. Instead, every member of the group plays an essential role in the presentation and development of musical ideas.

Instead of a conductor, the performers rely on eye contact, careful listening and sensitivity to each other that may have developed over years of rehearsing and playing together

TR

Instruments and Ensembles

Categories of Instruments

Aerophones: instruments where sound is produced by the air.

  • Aerophones use many mechanisms to make the air in the instrument vibrate, thus creating sound waves.

Chordophones: instruments where sound is produced by strings.

  • Chordophones can be played in a variety of ways: they can be plucked, struck, strummed, or played with a bow.

Membranophones: instruments where sound is produced by a stretched membrane (plastic, animal skin, fiberglass, etc.).

Idiophones: instruments where sound is produced by the body of the instrument itself

Electrophones: instruments where sound is produced by electric or electronic means

Western Categories of Instruments

There are 3 families of instruments in western categories: strings, wind, and percussion.

  • Strings: instruments where sound is produced by vibrating strings

    • Examples: the violin, viola, bass, and cello

  • Wind: instruments where sound is produced by a vibrating column of air

    • This category can be subdivided into woodwinds and brass

      • Woodwinds: flute, clarinet, oboe, English horn, saxophone, and bassoon

      • Brass: trumpet, French horn, tuba, and trombone

  • Percussion: instruments where sound is produced by the instrument being shaken or struck

    • Examples: timpani, snare drum, bass drum, triangle, cymbals, xylophone, tambourin, castanets, and chimes

The piano, harpsichord, and organ constitute a separate category of instruments. The harpsichord might be classified as a plucked string, the piano as both a string and a percussion instrument since its strings are struck by felt-covered hammers, and the organ as a wind instrument with it’s pipes being a collection of air-filled tubes. Because the mechanism of the keyboard allows the player to produce several tones at once, keyboard instruments have traditionally been treated as self-sufficient rather than as members of an orchestral section.

Ensembles

Ensemble: a group of various musicians and instruments

  • Ensembles can be made up of singers alone, instruments alone, singers and instruments together, two performers or hundreds

Large ensembles: performers are usually divided into sections, each with a particular material or function, and a conductor or lead performer responsible for keeping everyone together

  • Examples: symphony orchestra, marching band, jazz band, gospel choir, West Indian steel pan band, African drum ensemble

  • Instruments from different sections often double each other, one instrument playing the same material as another, although perhaps in different octaves

  • The most important large ensemble in Western tradition is the symphony orchestra

    • The players are grouped by family into sections – winds, brass, percussion and strings.

Small ensembles: consists of 2-9 musicians, each with a separate and unique part.

  • An important feature of small ensembles is the overall balance among the individual performers so tone does not overpower the others. Instead, every member of the group plays an essential role in the presentation and development of musical ideas.

Instead of a conductor, the performers rely on eye contact, careful listening and sensitivity to each other that may have developed over years of rehearsing and playing together