Musical Instruments

Learn about string, brass & woodwind instruments

If you're musically inclined but never quite felt at home learning the guitar, bass, drums or piano, you might strike the right chord with one of the many other musical instruments used in compositional arrangements. Whether you're more inclined to play as part of a symphony or take part in a local marching band, you should familiarize yourself with the many different brass instruments, woodwind instruments and string instruments that are used to enrich the highs and lows of musical compositions.

Categorizing Musical Instruments

To determine where your musical talents would be best applied, you should get to know the familiar faces you'll encounter in the various musical instrument families. Broadly speaking, band instruments can be classified into the following categories:

  • Brass instruments. Also known as labrosones, brass instruments produce music when the performer blows air into a tubular resonator, which can be manipulated to create notes of varying length, pitch and timbre. Common examples of brass instruments include the trumpet, trombone, tuba and French horn.
  • String instruments. Producing notes through the vibration of taut strings, chordophones or string instruments are well known and very popular with musical hobbyists. Common examples include the violin, cello and harp; lesser-known members of the string instrument family include the baryton, lirone and rebab.
  • Woodwind instruments. This instrument family gets its name from the fact that players blow into a resonator through a wooden reed to produce musical notes. The flute, oboe, clarinet and saxophone rank among the best-known woodwind instruments. A second family of similar instruments, known simply as wind instruments because they don't rely on wooden reeds to produce sound, is closely related – the harmonica is a good example of a free reed wind instrument.
  • Percussion instruments. These instruments are used to create and maintain beats and rhythms in time with music. They are usually classified as pitched or unpitched, with pitched percussion instruments producing sounds in a predefined pitch range and their unpitched counterparts producing flat sounds. The triangle, cymbal and bongo are common examples.
  • Keyboard instruments. As the name suggests, keyboard instruments generate sound when the player pushes on keys. The piano is the best known member of this group, which also includes the organ, harpsichord and accordion.

Places to Play Your Music Instruments

Most musicians don't like to function inside a vacuum, so you should have an idea where you might like to perform once you master your new hobby. While it can be tough to crack the lineup of your local philharmonic or symphony, you can check with theater companies, churches and non-profit community groups to find opportunities, particularly if you live in a larger city.

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