Choosing an Instrument

Which instrument do you want to learn?

The Woodwind Family

Flute: The flute is the smallest and highest pitched instrument in the band. It is made of metal and does not use a reed to produce sound. In order to produce a tone on the flute, the player blows air across the tone hole of the mouthpiece. In high school, you can learn to play the piccolo. The flute is used primarily in concert bands and symphony orchestras.

Oboe: The oboe is a member of a family called "double reeds". Just like the clarinet and saxophone, tone is produced by a vibrating reed, but instead of having one reed, this instrument uses two reeds put together to make a sound. This instrument is not easy to play and takes a lot of practice and sometimes the help of a private teacher. At first, this instrument may sound very bright and "duck-like." Over time, however, an oboist is considered a rare gem! Professional oboe players also learn to play the English horn. The oboe is used in bands and is a highlighted instrument in the symphony orchestra.

Clarinet: The clarinet is slightly larger and sounds lower than the flute. While professional clarinets are made of wood, most student clarinets are made of plastic. Sound is produced by a vibrating single reed that is attached to the mouthpiece. The clarinet is used primarily in concert bands and symphony orchestras. You can also learn to play the bass clarinet.

Saxophone: The saxophone is a member of the woodwind family even though it's made almost entirely of metal. The sound is produced the same way as the clarinet, with a vibrating single reed. The saxophone is used primarily and concert bands and jazz bands. While the majority of students in this section play the ALTO saxophone, students can also learn the TENOR or BARITONE saxophone.

The Brass Family

Trumpet: The trumpet is the smallest and highest pitched member of the brass family. As with all brass instruments, sound is produced by buzzing the lips into a mouthpiece. Some students may play a 'cornet', which is very similar to the trumpet. This instrument is relatively easy to learn and very popular to play. Professional trumpet players may also learn to play the flugelhorn, piccolo trumpet, as well as other types of trumpets. The trumpet is used in concert bands, symphony orchestras, brass quintets and also jazz and rock bands.

Trombone: The trombone is one of the larger instruments in the band. As with all brass instruments, sound is produced by buzzing lips into a mouthpiece. A unique feature of the trombone is the slide. While other brass instruments change pitches by pressing valves, the trombone player simply moves the slide in and out. In high school, you can learn to play the alto trombone and bass trombone. The trombone is used in concert bands, symphony orchestras, brass quintets and also jazz or rock bands. The trombone is considered one of the most widely used instruments. Good trombone players are considered very valuable assets!

Baritone: You may think of a baritone as a type of small TUBA. Both instruments produce sound in the same way as a trumpet and trombone. The baritone has a deep, beautiful tone and is very easy to learn! The tuba is the lowest and largest instrument in the band. Both the baritone and tuba are featured instruments in symphonies, concert bands and professional military bands!

The Percussion Family

The Percussion Family is very unique because every member of the percussion section in a band must play every instrument in the section. Everyone learns two types of instruments, pitched and unpitched.

The xylophone and marimba are examples of "pitched" percussion instruments. Sound is created by striking pieces of metal with a plastic or wood mallet. The notes are configured like a piano keyboard.

The many instruments included in the percussion family are those that are struck, shaken or scraped in order to produce sound. Percussion students have the opportunity to play crash cymbals, the bass drum, timpani, wood blocks, maracas, the triangle, claves, snare drum and many more.

Percussion instruments are heard in nearly every type of instrumental music group including, concert bands, symphony orchestras, jazz and rock groups.

Students who have a piano background are prime candidates for joining the percussion section!

The String Family

All string instruments produce sound from one or more vibrating strings, transferred to the air by the body of the instrument. The three most common techniques used to vibrate the strings are plucking, bowing, and striking.

In a typical school orchestra, the four most common instruments are the violin, viola, cello and string bass.

The violin (also known as the fiddle) is the smallest and highest pitched string instrument.

The viola is slightly larger than a violin and has a deeper, lower pitch.

The cello is the second largest instrument in the string family. It has a deep, mellow, low sound.

The string bass (also known as the double bass) is the largest and lowest pitched instrument in the string family.

In addition to these instruments being a major part of any orchestra or symphony, they are often a part of modern day jazz, blues and pop venues.