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 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

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

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 Trumpet

The trumpet [TRUM-pit] is a bold, bright instrument of the brass family that can croon and sigh as well as dance and dazzle.

Terms introduced:  Trill, Pitch, Chromatic scale

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