How It’s Made: Exploring Orchestral Instruments

by Kirk Webb

Classical instruments are not simply music making machines. They have each evolved over the centuries to have their own personalities, creating sound that can move people to laughter or tears, while presenting themselves as beautiful works of visual art. When an instrument is observed in use, it becomes more than simply the sum of its mechanical parts; it is a perfect between medium between the physical world and the creativity of the human spirit.

After a while we become so used to the surreal effect of music that we forget to see the instruments as what they are on a physical level. In order to see classical instruments from a different perspective, I have included several links to videos showing how different instruments we will encounter in this class are made. We can appreciate the instruments a little more when we can see all of the hard work that goes into creating them:

The violin is one of the most important instruments in classical music. It stands out in a crowd of sounds, so is usually used to perform melodies. It is extremely agile, and can play rapid series of notes:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WcJfbjcUDoo

The flute can be found sharing melodies with the violin in an orchestra, but will always sound its best in a solo:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DHSu0trGkRg

The piano is an extremely versatile instrument, its roles ranging from basso continuo to harmony to striking and intricate melodies:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qdFejZgOHDA

The pipe organ is used mostly for religious services, but can have a dramatic influence on an orchestra as well. It can be visually very powerful to behold:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rBskjhd076o

This video shows an original take on a traditional instrument, the cello. The cello’s range is similar to that of the human voice, and can take on a vast variety of responsibilities in an orchestra:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6_pIbZ0J1mA

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LHMJPJ8eYoY

Kirk Webb

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