Activity of the Day
Instruments of the Orchestra!
This week we will be learning about the instruments in the symphony orchestra. This week is meant to help 4th graders figure out what instrument they would like to learn in 5th grade. All of the instruments are super fun to learn to play! (In order to become a music teacher you learn to play the basics of all of the instruments.) The instruments you can choose from (in orchestra order) are violin, viola, cello, bass, flute, oboe, clarinet, saxophone, trumpet, french horn, trombone, baritone, or percussion (bells/ snaredrum).
Today's activity is a preview of all of the instruments and the rest of the week each day will focus on one of the four instrument families. I hope you enjoy these two short read alongs of "The Amazing Farkle McBride" and "Zin! Zin! Zin! A violin!"
You can also explore each individual instrument through the DSO kids website.
Activity of the Day
Woodwind instruments are made of a long hollow tube of wood or metal. Their sound is made by blowing air through a very thin piece of shaved wood called a reed, or for flute across a small mouthpiece. In fifth grade you can learn how to play the flute, clarinet, oboe, or saxophone.
FLUTE: The flute is the highest pitched instrument of the woodwind section. It is made of three silver sections, the head joint, the body and the foot joint. To produce sound on a flute, a flutist blows a stream of air against the edge of the mouthpiece which causes the air within the body of the instrument to vibrate.
OBOE:The oboe is a double reed instrument. A double reed consists of two flattened blades of bamboo that produce sound through the vibrations of one reed against the other.
CLARINET: The clarinet is a single reed instrument. The reed is secured to the mouth piece by a screw clip, know as the ligature. To produce a sound a clarinetist grips the mouthpiece, reed down, between his lips or lower lip and upper teeth. (Fun fact: Ms.McWilliams is an incredible clarinetist!)
BBC National Orchestra of Wales - Woodwind Section
Grant Llewellyn, conductor of the BBC National Orchestra of Wales introduces the Woodwind section of the orchestra and the instruments that are within the Wo...
Activity of the Day
Brass instruments are essentially very long pipes that widen at their ends into a bell-like shape. The pipes have been curved and twisted into different shapes to make them easier to hold and play. Like the woodwind family, brass players use their breath to produce sound, but instead of blowing into a reed, you vibrate your own lips by buzzing them against a metal cup-shaped mouthpiece. The mouthpiece helps to amplify the buzzing of the lips, which creates the sound. Most brass instruments have valves attached to their long pipes; the valves look like buttons. When you press down on the valves, they open and close different parts of the pipe. You change the pitch and sound by pressing different valves and buzzing your lips harder or softer. The brass family members that are most commonly used in the orchestra include the trumpet, French horn, trombone, and the tuba. (credit to Oregon Symphony.org)
TRUMPET: The trumpet is the highest sounding and smallest brass instrument and it has three valves which are pressed in certain combinations to produce different pitches. Fun fact, if you stretched out the trumpet to its full length, it would be 6 ½ feet long!
FRENCH HORN:The french horn originally comes from the French hunting horn of the 1600s. It has 18 feet of tubing that is rolled up into a circular shape, with a large bell at its end. To play the French horn, hold it with the bell curving downward and buzz into the mouthpiece. Your left hand plays the three valves and you can change the type of sound you make by the way you place your right hand in the bell.
TROMBONE: The trombone is the only instrument in the brass family that uses a slide instead of valves to change pitch and is made of long thin brass pipes. Two U-shaped pipes are linked at opposite ends to form an "S." One pipe slides into the other so the total length of the pipe can be extended or shortened. You play the trombone by holding it horizontally, buzzing into the mouthpiece, and using your right hand to change pitch by pushing or pulling the slide to one of seven different positions. If you stretch the trombone out straight, it is about 9 feet long. A fun fact is the trombone's ancestor was called a sackbut from the French words sacquer and bouter, meaning to 'pull' and 'push.'
BARITONE/ TUBA: The tuba is the largest and lowest brass instrument. It's metal body is curved into an oblong shape and has a huge bell at the end. Tubas can range in size from 9 to 18 feet; the longer they are, the lower they sound. You play the tuba sitting down with the instrument on your lap and the bell facing up. You blow and buzz into a very large mouthpiece and use your hand to press down on the valves which changes the sound. (The tuba is too large for fifth graders to play so you start on the baritone. You can think of it as a mini tuba.)
Activity of the Day
Today we are wrapping up our week of learning about the percussion family. There are many percussion instruments but in fifth grade you start with the bell kit and snare drum.
In an orchesstra the percussion family includes any instrument that makes a sound when it is hit, shaken, or scraped. 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. 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.
Snare drum: The snare drum is made of wood or brass with drumheads made of calfskin or plastic stretched over both ends of a hollow cylinder. It has a set of wire-wrapped strings stretched across the bottom head called the snares. These give the snare drum its unique "rattling" sound when the drum is hit. A small switch on the side of the drum allows the player to turn the snare on or off depending on the requirements of the piece. The snare drum is an untuned drum, so it doesn't sound distinct pitches
Bells: The bell kit is a smaller, metal version of the xylophone, marimba, vibraphone, and glockenspiel.
The xylophone originally came from Africa and Asia, but has a Greek name that means "wood sound." Today's xylophone has wooden bars arranged like the keys of the piano, which the player plays with a mallet. You can change the timbre, (tone color) of the note by using harder or softer mallets. Under the wooden bars are metal tubes called resonators, where the sound vibrates. This gives the xylophone its bright bell-like sound. The marimba, is a slightly larger version of a xylophone with wood resonators attached to the bottom of the wooden keys, which give it a mellower, more rounded sound. The vibraphone has both metal bars and metal resonators, with small rotating disks inside. The disks are attached to a rod, which is turned by an electric motor. When you play a sustained note on the vibes and the motor is running, the disks create vibrato. The glockenspiel which is the smallest mallet instrument has metal bar and no resonating tube. A percussionist uses hard mallets to play the glockenspiel, which sounds like clear tinkling bells.
Fifth grade percussion kit:
Want to learn more about the percussion instruments? Check out this great page from the Oregon Symphony (This is the source for most of my information on percussion instruments).
Meet the percussion! Seattle Symphony Principal Percussion Michael A. Werner performs short pieces and leads an exploration of the percussion section. Afterw...
Grant Llewellyn, conductor of the BBC National Orchestra of Wales introduces the Percussion section of the orchestra and the instruments that are within the ...
Activity of the Day
As you already know my favorite instrument family are the string instruments! String instrument are wooden and hollow inside which allows sound to vibrate within them. The part of the instrument that makes the sound are the strings, which are made of nylon, steel and originally were made of animal gut. String instrument make sound when you draw the bow across the strings. The handle of the bow is made of wood and the strings of the bow are actually horsehair from horses' tails! (Don't worry it is just like when you get a haircut, they cut the hair from the horse's tail.) String musicians can also use their fingers to pluck the strings.
The strings are the largest family of instruments in the orchestra and they come in four sizes, the violin, which is the smallest, viola, cello, and the biggest, the double bass, sometimes called the contrabass. (Bass is pronounced base, as in baseball not bass like the fish.) The smaller instruments, the violin and viola, make higher-pitched sounds, while the larger cello and double bass produce low rich sounds. They are all similarly shaped, with curvy wooden bodies and wooden necks. The strings stretch over the body and neck and attach to small decorative heads, where they are tuned with small tuning pegs.
VIOLIN: You play the violin by resting it between your chin and left shoulder. Your left hand holds the neck of the violin and presses down on the strings to change the pitch, while your right hand moves the bow or plucks the strings.
VIOLA: The viola is slightly larger than the violin and has thicker strings. I love the viola because it produce a richer, warmer sound than the violin. You play the viola the same way as you do the violin, by resting it between your chin and shoulder. Your left hand holds the neck of the viola and presses down on the strings to change the pitch, while your right hand moves the bow or plucks the strings.
CELLO: The cello looks like the violin and viola but is much larger, and has thicker strings than either the violin or viola. It can make a wide variety of tones, from warm low pitches to bright higher notes. Since the cello is too large to put under your chin, you play it sitting down with the body of the cello between your knees, and the neck on hovering over your left shoulder. The body of the cello rests on the ground and is supported by a metal end pin. You play the cello in a similar manner to the violin and viola, using your left hand to press down on the strings, and your right hand to move the bow or pluck the strings.
BASS (Double Bass or String Bass): The bass can be over 6 feet long and is biggest member of the string family. Since it has the longest strings it can play very low notes. They are so big that you have to stand up or sit on a very tall stool to play them. Like the cello, the body of the double bass stands on the ground, supported by a metal end pin, and the instrument rests against the musician's body. You produce sound just like on a cello, using the left hand to change pitch and the right to move the bow or pluck the string.