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These are the Four Main Types of Music Instruments

Updated: Jul 5, 2023

You likely know that there are different types of musical instruments, but do you know how they are categorized? Can you classify different instruments into their groups? There’s a difference between knowing a musical instrument’s name and being able to categorize it. Understanding how each type of instrument produces sound and being able to properly classify instruments can give you a deeper understanding of how they work, and this can help you when you’re playing.

Here is all the information you need to properly identify the four types of musical instruments and explain why they go into each category.

Understanding Instruments Based on the Sounds they Make

As mentioned, musical instruments can be classified by how they make sounds. There are other ways to categorize instruments but grouping them based on how they produce sound is one of the most common.

Classifying instruments in this manner can be a great way to learn more about each instrument and is an important part of musical education.

Wind Instruments

Wind instruments, as the name suggests, make sounds by using wind. However, for an instrument to be classified as a wind instrument, it needs to create sound by blowing air across the edge or something or between two pieces.

For instance, a flute produces sound when the musician blows wind across a hole, while instruments such as a clarinet make a sound when someone blows air between a surface and a reed. A reed is a thin strip of material that vibrates to produce sound.

Percussion Instruments

Percussion instruments are one of the earliest musical instruments for kids. This is a very broad category that includes drums, cymbals, maracas, tambourines, and much more. These instruments make a sound when directly hit, shaken, scraped, or otherwise made to vibrate.

While these instruments are often introduced at a young age, it can take a lot of time and practice to learn how to use the right amount of intensity to create the desired tone and sound.

Percussion instruments are typically used to keep the rhythm in a song.

String Instruments

The sound produced by string instruments is created by plucking, bowing, or striking their strings. The strings then vibrate to produce sound. A few examples of string instruments are the guitar, harp, violin, cello, or bass.

Interestingly enough, there is some discussion about whether the piano should be classified as a string instrument or a percussion instrument. While a piano contains strings that produce sound when a key is pressed, a hammer is lifted inside the piano, and this hits the string to play a sound. For this reason, a piano is usually classified as a percussion instrument, since its sound comes from one object striking another.

Brass Instruments

Brass instruments are, as the name suggests, typically made from brass. They also produce sound when air is blown into them. However, a musician needs to make a “buzz-like” sound and vibrate their lips when blowing into the instrument. This causes vibration, which creates sound. These instruments can typically be played louder than other instruments.

It’s important to note that not all instruments that are made from brass or metal are considered brass instruments. For instance, a flute is a wind instrument as is a saxophone, since it requires a reed to produce sound.

Some examples of brass instruments are the trumpet, French horn, trombone, and tuba.

At Allegro Music School, we work with students of all ages and skill levels to help them learn about music, improve musical skills, and get joy and confidence from their musical skills. For more information, please contact us online or give us a call at 613-837-6040.

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