Teaching the instruments of the Western orchestra is a common lesson in the music classroom and there is no shortage of resources! I thought I’d take a look at some of my favorites, a good sequence for teaching instruments, and some of my favorite games to play for recognition.
DSO Kids – Resources, Listening examples, and more
SFSymphony – Lost of fun instruments of the orchestra activities
Carnegie Hall Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra
Inside the Orchestra
Symphony Storytime – From the Oregon Symphony, books with a featured instrument accompaniment
Oregon Symphony – Instrument Families
Meet the Orchestra – Making Music Fun
BSO Meet the Instruments
The Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra – Animated “Red and the Kingdom of Sound”
The Remarkable Farkle McBride
George Meets the Orchestra
Instrument Families (PBS)
This AMAZING video showing the timpani part for O Fortuna from Carmina Burana from the London Symphony Orchestra
Break it Down
Covering instruments every year is pretty common. This sequence should help you find what works for your students!
- Differentiate between pitched and unpitched percussion
- Differentiate between types of unpatched percussion including timbre in the discussion – skins, woods, metals
- Teach the types of ways instruments make sound – wind, strings, striking, or more detailed like what causes the vibration: lips, reeds, etc
- Families – woodwinds, brass, strings, percussion, keyboard
- Basic instruments in the families
- Extended instruments and their families (EX: English horn, contra…, piccolo, bass trombone, saxophone family, etc)
- Historical instruments! These are always fun!
You know I’m ALL about the books, but there are SO many books for instruments of the orchestra. Take peek at www.theultimatemusicedbooklist.com and check out the options.
Games I Love for Instruments
- 20 Questions: This is fun in small groups. Put several cards in a pile and make sure they cannot be read through the back. Students hold up the card to a group. (Or you can have a group member chose for them while their eyes are closed). Students must ask 20 yes or no questions to guess what instrument they are. EX: Am I a brass instrument? Do I make a low sound? Do I have a lot of keys? Do I have valves? Am I an easy to carry?
- Match Up: Like 20 questions, except now everyone in the class has an instrument taped to their back or forehead. They must ask questions to find their pair in the class.
- I Have Whoo Has: This is a fun way of practicing identifying 2 instruments by sight. Student must identify the instrument on their card. “I have…” then identify the instrument that comes after them “Whoo has?” This cute set plays a little pun on who and is owl themed which is sure to catch your students’ attention.
- Memory: This is a great game for centers and the rules are something students are usually familiar with so it doesn’t take much explanation!
- Bingo: A great one for subs, there are lots of different instrument bingo games out there that help identify the instruments by sight. This one from my friend Chrissy at Hutzel House of Music has real pictures of the instruments.
- Four Corners: Another sight identification game, this one lets them get up and run around!
I hope this gives you some ideas to spice up your instruments of the orchestra lessons!
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How do you play Four Corners with the instruments of the Orchestra cards?
I printed them last year but don’t know how to play it
This is like the playground game Four Corners. In four corners, one student sits in the middle and covers their eyes. (I have my younger students put their heads down!) Count, loudly, to 10. The rest of the students have those 10 seconds to move to one of the four corners of the room.
If a student is not in a corner on “10”, they are out. The student who is in the middle keeps their head down/eyes closed and points to one of the corners of the room. The students in that corner are out.
The Musical Add On: The students who are in the other three corners then will each draw a card from the pile and identify the instrument, or the instrument and the family it belongs to. This buys them their “freedom” from the corner, or the right to move again for the next round. IF the student cannot identify the instrument, they must stay in the same corner for the next round and the person in the middle will know they are there.