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Instrument Groups - Strings


  • Smallest of the strings, and therefore highest in pitch (soprano).
  • Many different tones: bright, dark, mellow, powerful etc.
  • Very important in orchestras, often play the melody or harmony.
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Instrument Groups - Strings


  • Slightly smaller than the violin, therefore slightly lower in pitch (a fifth, alto).
  • Tone is thought to be mellow or sweet.
  • Important in an orchestra, usually plays harmony and sometimes melody.
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Instrument Groups - Strings


  • Larger than a viola, and therefore lower in pitch (tenor).
  • Tone can be described as rich, or deep.
  • Important in orchestras, playing a dramatic role, or providing vital accompaniment. Can provide intimate role in chamber music - very versatile instrument.
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Instrument Groups - Strings

Double bass 

  • The largest of the string family and therefore the lowest in pitch (bass).
  • Tone is very deep.
  • Many different roles, can play walking bass in a jazz band, pizzacato bass in chmaber music or providing accompaniment in an orchestra.
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Instrument Groups - Woodwind


  • Smallest of the woodwind group, and therefore the highest (an octave higher than the flute).
  • Tone can be descibed as squeaky, like a bird. Very distinctive sound.
  • Often played alongisde the flute or violin in orchestras.
  • Often heard in marching bands.
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Instrument Groups - Woodwind


  • Slightly larger than the piccolo, and therefore slightly lower.
  • Can be descibed to sound like a bird, light feeling.
  • Often the solo instrument in an orchestra, provides 'colour'.
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Instrument Groups - Woodwind


  • Slightly larger than the flute, and thereofore slightly lower.
  • Can sound harsh of sweet, a wide range of moods inbetween.
  • Often heard as the solo in emotional sections of music, carries colour.
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Instrument Groups - Woodwind


  • Slightly larger than an oboe, and therefore slightly lower.
  • Can create many different tones, smooth and creamy, warm and resonant low down, bright and clear up high.
  • Important role in bands, orchestras, jazz groups etc.
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Instrument Groups - Woodwind


  • Slightly larger than the clarinet, and therefore slightly lower.
  • Can be described as deep.
  • Usually head in classical music, can make comical sounds, often played very quickly.
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Instrument Groups - Woodwind


  • Can sound mellow, deep, smooth, soulful.
  • Unless the saxophone is feautured as a solo instrument in an orchestra, it does not have a role in it. Typically it is found in jazz bands and popular music.
  • It is a woodwind instrument because it is played with a single - reed mouth piece, similar to that of a clarinet.
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Instrument Groups - Brass

Trumpet (very similar to the cornet)

  • Smallest of the brass family, and therefore highest in pitch (soprano).
  • Many different tones, harsh, smooth, depends on the genre of music.
  • Usually plays the lead or harmony in an orhestra.
  • There difference between the trumpet and the cornet is that trumpets are designed to be heard sharp and clear over an orchestra, whilst a cornet is much more mellow sounding.
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Instrument Groups - Brass

French horn 

  • Slightly larger than the trumpet, and therefore slightly lower.
  • Can be described as similar sounding to a trumpet, but could be considered less bright sounding.
  • Can play the melody in an orchestra.
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Instrument Groups - Brass


  • Slightly larger than the french horn, and therefore slightly lower.
  • Can be described as heavy or dark.
  • Usually the supporting role in an orchestra. Trombones add some richness to a chord and can give it more colour, but it can also provide added bass or support. 
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Instrument Groups - Brass


  • Largest of the brass family, and therefore the lowest in pitch.
  • Can be descibed as sounding almost cartoon like.
  • Usually plays the harmony in an orchestra. May play expressive bass melodies, due to its low tone, it can be heard looming over the orchestra.
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Instrument Groups - Percussion

Drum Kit

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Instrument Groups - Keyboard Instruments

  • Piano (percussion)
  • Keyboard
  • Harpsichord - sounds 'twangy'
  • Organ (woodwind)
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Instrument Groups - Indian Instruments

  • Sitar - can be high pitched and usually sounds 'buzzy', natural reverb 
  • Tabla (drums) - made up of two parts, (bayan - bis bass drum) and (dayan), a rhythmic instrument
  • Sarangi (bowed instrument used for accompanying singing) 'hums' or 'cries'
  • Bandura (Indian flute) - strings plucked
  • Shenhai (Indian oboe) - creates a sense of sanctity and auspiciousness
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Instrument Groups - African Instruments

  • Djembe drums 
  • Conga drums
  • Bongos
  • Xylophone
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Instrument Groups - Caribbean

  • Steel pans
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Voice Types

Female Voices:

  • Soprano - highest
  • Mezzo soprano - moderately high
  • Alto - low
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Voice Types

Male Voices:

  • Treble - unbroken, high male voice (boys)
  • Tenor - high, broken voice (adult)
  • Baritone - medium male voice
  • Bass - low male voice
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Instrumental Techniques - String

  • Con arco (arco) - with the bow.
  • Pizzicato (pizz) - plucked.
  • Con sordino - with a mute (sounds quiter and thinner).
  • Double stopping - playing two notes at the same time.
  • Tremolo/tremolando - wobbling the bow quickly up and down so it sounds shimmery.
  • Glissando - sliding from one note to another.
  • Vibrato - making the note wobble in pitch by moving the left hand. This creates a warmer sound.
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Instrumental Techniques - Woodwind

  • Glissando - sliding from one note to another.
  • Flutter tonging - rolling your 'r' while blowing down a flute to create a fluttering effect.
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Instrumental Techniques - Brass

  • Glissando - sliding from one note to another (can only be done on a trombone)
  • Mute - makes a more piercing sound. This is used a lot in jazz music.
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Instrumental Techniques - Percussion

  • Drum roll - rapidly alternating sticks to create a continous sound.
  • Drum fill - a break from the main beat during gaps on the vocals/melody.
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Instrumental Techniques - Guitar

  • Glissando - sliding from one note to another
  • Pitch bend - using the left hand finger to bend the string to change the pitch of the note.
  • Hammer-on - using the force of the left hand to sound a new note father than plucking it again.
  • Power chord - a chord which only has the root and fifth (no third) which is used in rock music and sounds aggressibe and bassy.
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Instrumental Techniques - Keyboards

  • Glissando - sliding from one note to another.
  • Susatin pedal - holding down a pedal so that all notes sustain into one another.
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Instrumental Techniques - Voice

  • Falsetto - when a male finger sings very high (much higher than their normal range).
  • Vibrato - making the note wobble in pitch to create a warmer sound.
  • Glissando/portamento - sliding from one note to another.
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Electronic Effects

  • Distortion - often used in rock music on the guitar, this effect makes the sound fuzzy and aggressive.
  • Reverb - created the effect of performing in a large space like a hall of cathedral. The sound lasts longer.
  • Chorus - a reocrded voice or instrument in multiplied electronically so that is sounds like many.
  • Vocoder - works like auto-tune and can be used to change the character of the sound to make it sound more elctronic and robotic.
  • Multi-tracking - a recording technique where the different instruments are recorded seperately on different tracks.
  • Sequencer - an electronic device used to record, edit and play back music using MIDI.
  • Compression - boosts the leve of the quiter sounds in a piece to create a more balanced sound.
  • Panning - the sound is passed from one speaker to another or separated into different speakers.
  • Looping - patterns are recorded and then played on repeat.
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  • Orchestra - combines strings, woodwind, brass and percussion.
  • String Quartet - violin, violin, viola, cello.
  • String Ensemble - a larger group of string plaers with more than one player per part.
  • Wind Quintet - flute, clarinet, oboe, french horn and bassoon.
  • Brass Band - brass and woodwind instruments often with percussion.
  • Barbershop - a small male voice group (usually four people) which sing in close harmony.
  • Female voice choir - choir of women
  • Male voice choir - choir of men (and sometimes boys with unbroken voices)
  • Mixed choir - choir of female and male voices.
  • A cappella - means that is is unaccompanied i.e. just voices with no instruments.
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Dynamic Terms

  • Piano (p) - soft
  • Forte (f) - loud
  • Mezzo-piano (mp) - moderately soft
  • Mezzo-forte (mf) - moderately loud
  • Pianissimo (pp) - very soft
  • Fortissimo (ff) - very loud
  • Pianississimo (ppp) - very very soft
  • Fortississimo (fff) - very very loud
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Dynamic Terms

  • Fortepiano (fp) - loud then immediately soft.
  • Sforzando (sfz/fz/sf) - accented, forced.
  • Sforzando piano (sfp) - suddenly accenting a note floowed by immediately playing quietely.
  • Molto - much/more e.g. molto crescendo means get much quiter.
  • Poco a poco - little by little (i.e. change very slowly).
  • Crescendo or cresc or cres - gradually getting louder.
  • Diminuendo or dimin or dim - gradually getting quiter.
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