What Would You Like to Play?
As a beginning band or orchestra student, you are entering a new, exciting world! The first step in your new adventure will be choosing the instrument you’d like to play. We can help you with this decision — there are many factors involved, including the shape of your mouth and teeth, the size of your hands, even whether or not you have braces or expect to get braces soon. We want to help you find the instrument that will give you the best band and orchestra experience possible. Your personal preference is always our first consideration, but your band or orchestra director may want to give you some input. Your parents may want to give you some input also, since the cost of instruments varies greatly. In any case, we want you to be happy with your chosen instrument, and we wish you the very best in your new endeavor!
The woodwind family includes flute, clarinet, saxophone, oboe and bassoon. All of these instruments read treble clef, and all involve keys that you press to change the pitch of the notes.
Flute - The flute is the only woodwind you blow across, instead of through a mouthpiece. If you play flute for several years, you may get to play the piccolo, a smaller version of the flute whose name means “tiny.”
Clarinet - The clarinet is the foundational woodwind instrument, and there’s no such thing as “too many” in a band. The clarinet is a single reed instrument; if you play clarinet, you can easily later pick up saxophone, oboe or bassoon!
Saxophone - The saxophone is a single-reed instrument with a mouthpiece and reed just like the clarinet’s, only larger. There are actually 8 saxes in the saxophone family, all with the same fingering, but only the alto & tenor are considered “beginning” instruments.
Oboe and Bassoon - Double reed instruments like the oboe and bassoon, are sometimes not considered beginner instruments, but are usually played by those who have a year or two experience on clarinet or sax.
The brass family includes trumpet, trombone, French horn, baritone and tuba. All of these instruments have a cup-shaped mouthpiece that you buzz into to make the sound.
Trumpet - The trumpet is the highest voice in the brass family. Most beginners start with a lacquer (brass) trumpet, but by 8th or 9th grade, it’s time for a silver-plated one!
French Horn - The French horn is an important part of every band. You will do best on French horn if you have a great ear, and love doing things that are a little more unique!
Trombone - The trombone is unique, because it has a slide that you move in & out to change the pitch of the notes. It has a wide range, and can play a wide variety of music. Every band director hopes for a big trombone section!
Euphonium / Baritone - The euphonium (baritone) looks like a small tuba, and with the tubas, provides the foundation of the band’s sound. While the mouthpiece of a baritone is the same as a trombone’s, this instrument has 3 or 4 valves to press instead of a slide.
The percussion family includes a wide variety of rhythm instruments— it’s not “just drums!” Most beginners start with bells, and a practice pad; and will eventually get to play snare, bass drum, cymbals, and much more!
Percussionists have “rudiments,” which are like scales — certain rhythmic patterns that are best practiced on a practice pad. Your band director will tell you exactly what percussion equipment you need for class. Some band directors may also require that you have a year or two of piano lessons, or that you audition before choosing to play percussion.
There are four basic instruments in the string orchestra – violin, viola, cello and string bass. The primary consideration in choosing a string instrument is the student’s preference, as all of these instruments come in partial and full sizes so that all students can succeed on their chosen instrument regardless of their size. A teacher or your Musical Innovations representative would be happy to give you the opportunity to try all four of the string instruments, and to measure you to be sure you get the correct size.
Violin - The smallest and highest voice of the string family, the violin often plays the melody. If you enjoy higher sounds, you will like the sound of the violin! Violins have been around for nearly four hundred years. They are played by placing the instrument under the chin and holding it at the neck with your left hand; and either plucking the strings or using a bow with the right hand. All band and string instruments are the same whether the student is right or left-handed; there is no such thing as a “left-handed” violin, trombone, flute or cello
Viola - The viola looks like the violin, but is the “alto voice” of the string family. Some call it the violin’s “big sister.” If you enjoy singing harmony and listening to lower pitches, you will probably love the viola! It is held the same way as a violin, but the viola reads the alto clef and plays lower notes than the violin can - it can play six half steps lower, to be exact! While violins and cellos are measured in fractional sizes (¼, ½, ¾ and 4/4), violas are sized in inches - 12”, 13”, 14”, 15” and so on.
Cello - The cello is shaped like a violin or viola, but is larger and can play much lower notes. It is played while sitting down, held between your legs, and rests on a long metal rod on the bottom called an endpin. The cello is the “tenor voice” of the string family, and reads bass (and sometimes tenor) clef. People often enjoy the many roles the cello plays in the orchestra - sometimes it plays the melody, sometimes it plays harmony, and sometimes plays along with the bass line.
String Bass - Also called bass viol, or upright bass, this is the largest member of the string family and is often taller than the person playing it! Like the cello, it rests on the floor on a metal endpin. Its four strings are the same as the four strings on a bass guitar, and the music is written in bass clef. The bass player will either stand up or sit on a stool next to the instrument. But don’t worry, it also comes in 1/4 and 1/2 size if the full size is too tall for you! If your ear is drawn to very low pitches, and you enjoy singing low notes, the bass may be the right instrument for you!