Instruments of the orchestra

Students will explore the instruments of the orchestra through a Prezi containing a series of videos.

They will develop deep knowledge of the instruments, their families, expressive techniques and the role of a professional musician.


4.8 demonstrates an understanding of musical concepts through aural identification and discussion of the features of a range of repertoire.


5-6 lessons.


Exploring varied sound sources of the four families of instruments within the western symphony orchestra.


The four families of the western symphony orchestra are:

  • strings
  • woodwinds
  • brass
  • percussion.

The Orchestra Sway and accompanying prompt sheet (PDF 4.28 MB) will assist in the introduction of the orchestra families and their sound sources for Stage 4 students.

  • information and communication technology
  • work, employment and enterprise
  • literacy
  • gender
  • environment (life-skills).


All activities require students to demonstrate their learning and are all assessment for learning activities.

Teaching and learning activities

Students will:

  • discuss the layout of the families. Ask students:
    • Who do you think sits in each colour?
    • Why do you think they are that size?
    • Why do you think they sit in that position?
  • observe and discuss:
    • the roles and responsibilities of the conductor
    • the roles and responsibilities of professional musicians
    • the instruments of the string family, including associated expressive techniques-
      • pizzicato (featured in the first violin sway video)
      • arco (featured in the first violin sway video)
      • vibrato (featured in the first violin sway video)
      • glissando (featured in second cello sway video).
      • the instruments of the woodwind family
      • the instruments of the brass family
      • the instruments of the percussion family.

Students will:

  • learn the names of the instruments of each orchestral family
  • learn the metalanguage associated with expressive techniques on string instruments.



Students could:

  • investigate and explore how orchestras and their layouts have changed over the centuries
  • investigate and explore the expressive techniques possible on woodwind and brass instruments

Life skills


  • LS 4 a student experiments in making musical sounds.

Students could:

  • complete a mind map of the instrument families and members of the families:
    • strings
      • violin
      • viola
      • cello
      • double Bass
      • harp and piano are visitors - not regular members
    • woodwinds
      • flute and piccolo
      • oboe
      • clarinet
      • bassoon
    • brass
      • trumpet
      • french horn
      • trombone
      • tuba
    • percussion
      • timpani
      • castanets, triangle, snare drum, bass drum, gong, chimes, xylophone (to name a few)
  • read through the information sheet in the resource section on the layout of the orchestra (PDF 4.37 MB). Turn it into a cloze passage if desired.
  • watch the YouTube clip on The Vegetable Orchestra Literally Plays with Their Food (02:45) discuss, and make instruments.


Formative feedback students will contribute to class discussion

Summative feedback create an account and sign in to Kahoot!. Students will participate in a Kahoot! about the instruments of the orchestra.


Please note:

Syllabus outcomes and content descriptors from Music 7–10 Syllabus (2003) © NSW Education Standards Authority (NESA) for and on behalf of the Crown in right of the State of New South Wales, 2017.

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