Oregon Symphony

 

Education & Community

Instrument Families

When we talk about musical instruments, we often talk about them as being part of a family. That's because, just like in human families, the instruments in a particular family are related to each other. They are often made of the same types of materials, usually look similar to one another, and produce sound in comparable ways. Some are larger and some are smaller, just as parents are bigger than children.

pianoother percussion instruments

The Percussion Family

The percussion family is the largest in the orchestra. Percussion instruments include any instrument that makes a sound when it is hit, shaken, or scraped. It's not easy to be a percussionist because it takes a lot of practice to hit an instrument with the right amount of strength, in the right place and at the right time. Some percussion instruments are tuned and can sound different notes, like the xylophone, timpani or piano, and some are untuned with no definite pitch, like the bass drum, cymbals or castanets. Percussion instruments keep the rhythm, make special sounds and add excitement and color. Unlike most of the other players in the orchestra, a percussionist will usually play many different instruments in one piece of music. The most common percussion instruments in the orchestra include the timpani, xylophone, cymbals, triangle, snare drum, bass drum, tambourine, maracas, gongs, chimes, celesta and piano.

 

 

 


SSL

The String Family The String Family The String Family The Percussion Family The Brass Family The Woodwind Family