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The Orchestra Topic Guide

Some pieces of music, such as symphonies, are written to be played by a large group of musicians, playing different instruments.

The orchestra is made up of different families of instruments; in the string family, you will find violins, violas, cellos and double basses. Drums, xylophones and cymbals are just a few of the percussion instruments, played by hitting. Most orchestras will also have a woodwind and a brass section.

Teach your children about the orchestra using our handy topic guide!

Choose a section:
Teaching Ideas | Resources | Facts | Videos | Books | Links

Teaching Ideas

  • Encourage young children’s listening skills with this fun match-up game, where they find the partner making the same sound as they are.
  • Show children this interactive image of the orchestra. Ask them to predict the pitch (high or low) of the sound an instrument will make, before clicking on the link to hear it.
  • Play this Conductor game to help children understand the role of a conductor.
  • Sort the instruments of the orchestra into their families, using this resource from Doncaster Music Education Hub.
  • Play the children the fourth movement of Beethoven’s 6th symphony, which depicts a storm. Use the first project in this pack from the London Symphony Orchestra, to create a picture inspired by the music.
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Resources

Orchestra Facts

  • An orchestra is a group of musicians, playing different instruments, who make music together.
  • There are different types of orchestra; symphony orchestras are large, whereas a chamber orchestra is much smaller.
  • An orchestra is directed by a conductor, who helps the musicians to play together successfully. The conductor uses a baton to direct the orchestra.
  • People have always made music together. The orchestra began to develop in the 17th century. An Italian composer, named Claudio Monteverdi, specified which instruments should play the music for his opera Orfeo (1607). Before this, composers wrote music without saying BETTER VERB which instrument should play it.
  • The largest ever orchestra had 8,097 musicians. It performed the Russian National Anthem on the 1st of September 2019, in Saint Petersburg, Russia.

Videos

Berlioz the Bear

One of large series of videos from the Oregon Symphony orchestra, which uses an orchestral instrument to provide accompaniment to a children’s story. At the end of the story, the musician talks about their instrument, in this case the double bass.

Running time: 14:05

George Meets the Orchestra

George meets an orchestra and is introduced to the the different instruments.

Running time: 6:01

People in Your Neighborhood — Conductor

Murray Monster and Ovejita meet a conductor and find out what he does.

Running time: 4:03

Books

The Story Orchestra

Join two young brothers as they discover the Carnival of the Animals.

Zin! Zin! Zin! a Violin

A beautiful counting book that introduces the instruments of the orchestra.

How to Build an Orchestra

Follow the conductor Simon Rattle as he auditions musicians for his orchestra.

The Ultimate Guide to Music

A fascinating introduction to music and the instruments of the orchestra

Orchestra

A beautiful guide to the orchestra.

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