Lesson Plan - Get It!
If you owned a music store and were stocking the shelves, how would you arrange the musical instruments pictured above? By color, shape, cost, construction, or something else?
Like most other things in the world, musical instruments can be classified, or grouped, according to shared characteristics.
Musical instruments can be grouped according to different qualities, like the materials used to make them, the ways in which the instruments produce sound, or other traits.
You are probably already familiar with many of the common Western musical instruments, like the guitar, the piano, the trumpet, the violin, and other instruments used to make some of the most well-known popular and classical music. These instruments and the way in which they are classified have a specific history.
As you learn about the families of musical instruments in the Western tradition, write down answers to the following questions:
- What are the families of musical instruments?
- What are three or four of the instruments included in each family?
- What is the rationale for grouping each of the families that way?
Now, watch How Musical Instruments are Classified, by Christopher Wright:
Collect your information and ideas, then reflect on the following questions and record your thoughts in a journal entry:
- Why might it be useful to classify instruments into families?
- What might be some other ways to classify them, other than the one applied in the video you watched?
- What instruments do you know that were not mentioned in the video? With which families would you group them?
The classification of musical instruments is useful for composers, who may select and group instruments for a particular piece or passage of music. Musicologists, or scholars who study the production and use of music around the world, classify instruments to better study their features.
In the Got It? section, expand your understanding of classification by examining the musical instruments of India!