Describing musical


Short discussion
Is there a difference between the sound of an instrument playing solo and a group of those instruments violin and a group of violins? Would you say that they all start at exactly the same time?

Describe the sound of the instruments you hear you click on the following icons. The sound of the MIDI instrments depend on the quality of your soundcard.

  1. grieg - holberg suite   MIDI strings. 
    Does a group of violins sound rich or tinny? Write down your answer in your notebook before listening to the next extract.
  2. unknown composer  MIDI woodwind. 
    Is this family warm? bright? buzzy? screechy?
    Choose one
    (You are not describing the music itself - just the sound of the instruments.)
  3. unknown composer  MIDI percussion. There is a mixture of sounds here.  
    How can you tell one instrument apart from another?
    Listen again.

  4. scarlatti  Solo MIDI keyboard instrument. 
    Is it booming, rattly or soulful? Any other word?
    Is it a piano? an organ? a typewriter? a harpsichord?

  5. floral dance mp3  Real brass instruments in a school band. mp3.
    In your opinion, does a trumpet sound fragile or majestic? 
    The actual piece of music is neither fragile nor majestic.)

Discuss the answers with your teacher and the rest of the class.


In case you are not sure of how some of these instruments look here are some pencil drawings of instruments you may have heard above. Match the pictures and names.


So how are we able to distinguish between the various instuments? The answer is that...

each instrument has its own timbre which our ears can identify. We do not need to see the instrument (although it helps).

The different types of sounds could be classified into different groups.  Click here to see a wordscreen and to get your next assignment.

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