If you're seeing this message, it means we're having trouble loading external resources for Khan Academy.

If you're behind a web filter, please make sure that the domains *.kastatic.org and *.kasandbox.org are unblocked.

Instruments of the orchestra
Learn about the different instruments of the orchestra as they are presented and demonstrated by principal players from famous symphony orchestras.
All content in “Instruments of the orchestra”

Strings

The largest group within the orchestra is comprised of instruments that produce sound from vibrating strings. The vibrations – resulting from the strings being played by a bow, or being plucked with the fingers – resonate within the body of each instrument. The violin, viola, cello and contrabass are all primary played with a bow. The harp is plucked and stroked with the hands. Principals from the All-Star Orchestra introduce the special qualities and histories of each instrument.

Woodwinds

This family of instruments is situated in the middle of the orchestra, and is comprised of three groups: the flutes (flutes, piccolo), single reeds (clarinets, bass-clarinet), and double reeds (oboe, English horn, bassoons, contra-bassoon) Watch and listen as principal players of the All-Star Orchestra demonstrate their instruments and tell about their musical lives.

Brass

Each of the instruments in this family are made to sound by the vibrations of the player's lips combined with a steady stream of breath. Learn from the All-Star Orchestra players themselves about the special attributes of the trumpet, French horn, trombone, bass trombone and tuba.

Percussion

This large family, including timpani, drums, cymbals, xylophones, gongs, bells, and rattles, is comprised of musical instruments played by striking with the hand or with a stick or beater, or by shaking or rubbing. The All-Star Orchestra percussion section demonstrates the remarkable variety of sounds that can be produced. Also included in this group are orchestral keyboard instruments like the piano and celesta.