What Are the Different Types of Musical Instruments?


Quick Answer

Types of musical instruments include brass, percussion, woodwind, bowed string, keyboard and guitar, with a number of instruments comprising each type. Modern symphony orchestras typically include the first four types.

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Full Answer

To play a brass instrument, the musician blows through a cupped metal mouthpiece, vibrating his lips. Examples of brass instruments include trumpets, trombones, tubas and French horns. Percussion instruments fall into one of two categories: indefinite pitch and tuned. Tuned percussion instruments such as xylophones and glockenspiels produce a number of notes, while indefinite-pitch instruments such as drums, triangles and tambourines produce a single tone. Musicians play percussion instruments by striking, shaking or using other repetitive, rhythmic motions.

Musicians play woodwind instruments by blowing into them while manipulating a system of keys on the instrument's body to produce different notes. The woodwind family includes clarinets, oboes, bassoons and flutes. Although most woodwinds include a mouthpiece fitted with single or double reeds, flutes do not. Bowed string instruments include violins, cellos and violas, as well as the double base. The musician plays a bowed string instrument by plucking or drawing a bow across the strings over the body of the instrument while manipulating the strings over the instrument's neck.

Keyboard instruments include pianos and organs, as well as electronic keyboards and synthesizers. Musicians play these instruments by pressing keys to produce notes and chords. The guitar family includes classical and electric guitars, which musicians play by strumming and manipulating the instrument's strings.

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