Strings – Double Bass

November 17, 2006


The bass is sometimes called a double bass, contrabass, or bass viol.  It is the largest and lowest-pitched viol instrument.  In the first form the bass only had three strings.  As the design of the base developed, it now has four strings.  This instrument is used in orchestras, concert, and jazz bands.  The base stands six feet tall.  Due to this large size the player must stand. 



Strings – Viola

November 17, 2006


The viola is comparable in shape to the violin. This instrument is played by resting the Viola on the left shoulder.  The right hand holds a bow.  The bow is made from horse hair and is longer than the violin. The sound is in the tenor range and violas are occasionally used as a solo instrument. It is larger than the violin, from 14 to 17 inches. The strings used are thicker than the violins.  Music that is written fro the viola is in the alto clef, which is not typically used for many instruments.  Music that contains notable viola parts include: six string quintets by Mozart and Opus 18 by Johanns Brahms.




Percussion – Cymbals

November 17, 2006


In 3000 B.C., cymbals can be found in Indus civilizations.  The name cymbal comes from the Greek word kymbalon, meaning hollow of a cup.  As early as 1680, cymbals can be seen used in the orchestra during the production of Esther, in Hamburg, Germany.  This instrument could be described as having the shape of a broad-brimmed hat.  The boss is located in the center.  Attached to the boss is a piece of leather.  The sound comes from the collision of two cymbals together or hitting one cymbal with a beater.  Cymbals can come in a variety of sizes, but typically are 14 to 15 inches in diameter.




Percussion – Xylophone

November 17, 2006



Xylophones are used for special sound effects and sometimes for solo playing.  This instrument can be traced by to similar instruments used by oriental and Slavic people.  The early xylophones were constructed from glass or pinewood.  Now the wooden bars are typically made from rosewood.  The tone is created when these bars are struck by mallets.  The first xylophones were made without resonators and produced a higher pitch than marimba.  However, Xylophones now incorporate metal resonators in construction.



Percussion – Triangle

November 17, 2006


In the 14th century triangles were used in Europe.  The term was first used in 1589.  This instrument is made from a steel rod shaped into a triangle.  The triangle is hung from a string and hit with a steel beater.




Percussion – Timpani

November 17, 2006


Timpani are also called kettledrums.  One drumhead, made from calfskin is placed over a globe.  This is the only drum that can be adjusted to a definite pitch.  The pitch can be altered by changing the screws which keep the head in place.  A few timpani have petals, which allow for faster changes in tone.  There are typically two globes constructed from brass or copper.  Padded sticks are used, and different sticks create various tones.



Percussion – Tamborine

November 17, 2006


Tambourines are used in orchestras and by folk dancers.  This instrument is made from a wooden hoop with metal disks attached.  A skin is stretched across one side of the hoop.  There is no definite pitch and the sound is produced by shaking or striking the instrument.