The Amazing Instruments of the Orchestra

Explore the amazing instruments of the orchestra with musicians of the Louisville Orchestra as your guides. How do string instruments produce sound? What is so special about an oboe?  From the piccolo to the tuba, we have the answers!



The Amazing VIOLA

Assistant Principal Violist Evan Vicic explains the role of the viola in the orchestra and how he uses parts of the instrument to hold, tune, and play a wide range of musical genres.

Terms introduced: Bourrée, Glissando, Melody


Musician Francisco Joubert Bernard demonstrates the similarities (and differences) between the bassoon and the biggest instrument in the woodwind family, the contrabassoon.

Terms introduced: Octave, Baroque Era, Chromatic Scale

The Amazing tuba

The tuba is the lowest-pitched instrument in the brass family. Andrew Doub walks us through how he uses air and vibration to create sound in this surprising instrument.

Terms introduced: Embouchure, Trill, Range

the Amazing ENGLISH HORN

Jennifer Potochnic introduces this lesser-known member of the woodwind family, the English Horn, and demonstrates the instrument’s unique timbre.

Terms introduced: Range, Bocal, Double Reed

the Amazing harp

The Concert-Grand Pedal Harp has a unique role in the orchestra. From instrument construction to a demonstration of how the harp’s pedals can alter the pitch of a note, Rachel Miller shows us the basics of this elegant string instrument.

Terms introduced: Pitch (flat, natural, sharp), Cadenza, Character

Amazing Keyboard Percussion

Percussionist Matthew Hawkins demonstrates the differences and similarities between a variety of keyboard (or mallet) percussion instruments.

Instruments introduced: Xylophone, Marimba, Vibraphone, Glockenspiel

The Amazing VIOLIN

Violinist Maria Semes explores the fundamentals of music and the techniques used to change the sound of her instrument. Listen to the way different sounds can affect our emotions and response to music.

Terms introduced: Shifting, Tempo, Dynamics, Scale

The Amazing Clarinet & Bass Clarinet

Clarinetist Ernest Gross playfully demonstrates the unique characteristics of the B-Flat Clarinet and its bigger, deeper cousin, the Bass Clarinet.

Terms introduced: Al Niente, Concerto, Octave

The Amazing Conductor

The conductor [cun-DUCK-tor] directs the orchestra in every way. Guiding the ensemble to play together and setting the musical mood, the conductor’s job is to lead and inspire the musicians and the audience.

Terms introduced: Ictus, Rhythm, Score, Baton

The amazing violin II

The violin [vie-uh-LIN] is important in the orchestra as the highest voice of the string family.

Terms introduced: Glissando, Trill, Vibrato, Fiddle, F-hole


The Amazing VIola II

The viola [vee-OH-luh] has a deep and soulful sound because of its size and the thickness of its strings. It provides the balanced center of the string family.

Terms introduced: Staccato, Legato, Pizzicato

The Amazing Cello

The cello [CHEL-oh] carries the lower pitches of the string family with a warm, deep sound. Their beautiful voice is often heard in sweeping, passionate melodies.

Terms introduced: Ponticello, Double-stop, Pizzicato

The Amazing Bass

The double bass [BASE] is the biggest and lowest of the string family. Their powerful low notes can rumble and roar but their top notes can dance with surprising agility.

Terms Introduced: Pizzicato, Arco, Amplification

The AMAZING Flute & Piccolo

The flute [FLOOT} is a member of the woodwind family. Together with its smaller (and higher) little sister, the piccolo [PICK-a-low], they are some of the highest-pitched instruments in the orchestra.

Terms introduced:  Keys, Adagio, Octave

The Amazing Oboe

The oboe [OH-boe] is from the woodwind family and has a bright and penetrating voice. It makes sound by blowing air between two thin reeds.

Terms introduced: Double reed, Composer, Timbre, Tempo

The Amazing Bassoon

The bassoon [buh-SOON] is a member of the woodwind family with a low, dry sound that is versatile and full of character. Like the oboe, it produces sound by blowing air between two thin reeds.

Terms introduced:  Pitch, Reed, Vibration, Bocal, Multiphonics


The horn, often called the “french horn,” is a member of the brass family bringing a mellow romantic sound to the orchestra and are well-known for their exuberant and powerful horn calls.

Terms introducedHarmonic series, Hand-stopping, Valves, Pitch

The Amazing Trombone

The trombone [trom-BONE] is a strong and magnificent instrument of the brass family. Sometimes menacing and other times comical, the trombone has many moods.

Terms introduced: Amplification, Slides, Glissando, Vibration


The timpani [TIM-puh-nee] is the foundation of the percussion family. Also known as the “kettle drums” because of their shape, these drums often provide the beat for an orchestra.

Terms introduced:  Mallet, Articulation, Rhythmic Pattern

Tuning The Amazing Instruments

Learn how and why the oboe sets the pitch that all the instruments match to play together in tune.

Terms introduced: Concert “A”, Timbre, Pitch