Musical Instuments: Musical Sections

Seating plan of an orchestra

Musical Sections:

Most people think of the bowed strings as the primary instruments of classical music. These are the violins, violas, cellos and double basses. Each has four strings arranged in order of pitch. They can be played with a bow or be plucked. The violin and viola are played sitting down with the instrument resting under the musician’s chin. The cello also is played sitting down with the instrument standing on the floor and between the musician’s legs. The double bass is usually played by the musician standing up or sitting on a tall stool.


The woodwinds consist of the flute, clarinet, oboe and bassoon. The flute, while not actually made of wood, is sliver plated and played by blowing air into the mouthpiece while holding it horizontally. The clarinet is played vertically by blowing air into a mouthpiece that has a reed. Music is created when the reed vibrates against the mouthpiece. The oboe is played vertically and has a double reed, which creates music when air is blown between the reeds to cause a vibration. The bassoon is the largest of the woodwinds and also is a double reed instrument. It is usually held in front and across the body.

The Brass Family

The brass instruments are the trumpet, French horn, trombone and tuba. Music is created when air is blown through the metal mouthpiece causing a vibration in the instrument’s inner rim. The trumpet is one of the oldest instruments and is played horizontally through a series of valves that can be opened and closed to create different sounds. The French horn and tuba also feature valves that, when opened and closed, create different sounds. The trombone is played using a hand-operated slide that changes notes when it is moved in and out.

The Percussions

Percussion instruments are instruments that create sound when they are struck, either by hand or a stick. Percussion instruments are broken down into two categories: tuned and indefinite pitch. Tuned percussion instruments include the xylophone, timpani, kettle drum, marimba, vibraphone and glockenspiel. Indefinite pitch instruments include the gong, whip, tambourine, cymbals, triangle, rattle and drums.

The Keyboards

The Conductor

A conductor directs the musicians with a stick, called the baton. But he does important things before the performance . He chooses the music that is to be played at a concert and decides how it should be played- loud or soft, fast or slow. Then he calls the musicians to rehearsals where he often lets sections or individual musicians play their parts over and over again until the sound is perfect.
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