A musical instrument is a device constructed or modified for the purpose of making music. In principle, anything that produces sound can serve as a musical instrument. The term "musical instrument", however, is generally reserved for items that have a specific musical purpose.
The piano is a musical instrument played by means of a keyboard that produces sound by striking steel strings with felt hammers that immediately rebound allowing the strings to continue vibrating at their resonant frequency. These vibrations are transmitted through a bridge to a soundboard that amplifies them.
The harp is not like any other member of the string family. It has about 45 strings stretched across its tall triangular frame. The strings are plucked by hand while seven pedals at the bottom of the harp adjust the length of the strings to produce additional notes.
With a name that means, "the hitting of one body against another," instruments in the percussion family are played by being struck, shaken, or scraped. In the orchestra, the percussion section provides a variety of rhythms, textures and tone colors.
Chimes are a tuned instrument consisting of a set of 12 to 18 metal tubes hung from a metal frame. The chimes, or tubular bells, are struck with a mallet and sound like church bells when played. The longer the length of tube that is struck, the lower the pitch that is created.
The xylophone is a tuned instrument made of hardwood bars in graduated lengths set horizontally on a metal frame. Striking the bars with hard mallets produces a bright, sharp sound. The xylophone was originally modeled after an African instrument and its name is Greek, meaning "wood sound".
The tambourine is a shallow, handheld drum made of a circular wooden frame with a calfskin or plastic drumhead stretched across the top. The tambourine has small discs called jingles set into its circular frame which produce sound when the tambourine is shaken, rubbed, or struck on the drum head with the knuckles.
The bass drum is much larger than a snare drum and is played on its side, so that either head may be struck. The beater or mallet for a bass drum is large with a soft material such as sheep's wool covering the end.
Cymbals are made from two large, slightly concave brass plates, are fitted with leather hand straps and are shaped so that when they are crashed together, only the edges touch. Although cymbals are untuned instruments, different sized cymbals produce a wide range of sound effects.
The oboe is similar to the clarinet in many ways. Both are made from wood and have metal keys that can produce many notes rapidly. It has two reeds tied together. By placing them between one's lips and blowing air through them, the reeds vibrate and produce a sound.
Conically shaped, the saxophone is the only woodwind instrument made of brass. Although it is found only occasionally in the symphony orchestra, it is considered a member of the woodwind family because it has a single reed like the clarinet.
The flute is now made from silver or gold and is about 2 feet in length. It looks like a narrow tube with a row of holes covered by keys along one side. The player blows air across the small hole in the mouthpiece to produce a sound that can be either soft and mellow or high and piercing.
Brass Family instruments produce their unique sound by the player buzzing his/her lips while blowing air through a cup- or funnel-shaped mouthpiece. To produce higher or lower pitches, the player adjusts the opening between his/her lips. The mouthpiece connects to a length of brass tubing ending in a bell.
The trombone is larger than that of a trumpet, and gives the instrument a more mellow sound. Instead of valves, the trombone has a slide which changes the length of its approximately 9 feet of tubing to reach different pitches.