The five instrument groups in an orchestra include the strings, the woodwinds, the brass family, the percussion and the keyboards. There are several different kinds of orchestras, so the groups in each can vary slightly; for example, not all orchestras incorporate keyboards.
The strings family of an orchestra includes instruments such as the violin, the viola, the cello and the bass. It also includes harps and guitars. Performers play string instruments with bows or by plucking strings using their fingers.
The brass family consists of the trumpet, the cornet, the French horn, the baritone and the trombone. It also includes the tuba and the sousaphone. The brass group's instruments are aerophones, which means they produce sound when air vibrates through their tubes. Musicians play them using valves or slides to lengthen or shorten the tube length and change notes.
The woodwind family contains the flute, the clarinet, the oboe, the saxophone and the English horn. The bassoon, the recorder, the bass clarinet and the piccolo are also included in the woodwind family. A woodwind instrument produces sound when the player blows into the mouthpiece or reed.
The percussion family includes idiophones, instruments that make sounds when struck with a mallet or stick. Percussion instruments include the drums, the cymbals, the timpani, bongos and maracas.