The instruments of an orchestra are divided into four different families: brass, woodwind, string and percussion. Members of the families are constructed out of similar materials, and produce sound in similar ways. Ready to learn more? The multimedia capabilities of the Internet make it the perfect first stop for an introduction to musical instruments. Just remember to turn on your speakers for today's musical tour.
From "accordion" to "xylophone," Classics for Kids (companion website to the weekly radio show) describes more than fifty orchestra instruments. Each instrument is defined, illustrated, pronounced and most entries include audio samples in RealAudio format. Exploring the rest of the site, my favorite clicks are Games, Activity Sheets, and Hear the Music.
Best reason to visit the Dallas Symphony Orchestra Kids site is the terrific assortment of audio snippets for each instrument: a short solo riff; Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star; and a few seconds of the instrument playing with an orchestra. Some of the audio files were missing, and a few were mislabeled, but DSO Kids is still a worthwhile stop on today's tour.
Take a virtual, animated visit to the instrument storage room of the New York Philharmonic. Highlights are the interesting histories of each instrument family and individual instruments. When browsing the instrument popup boxes, be sure to click on the binoculars, ear and friend icons for more detail. "Trumpets and horns have a very, very ancient history. Two trumpets were found in the tomb of the Egyptian King Tutankhamun: one was made of silver, the other of bronze."
Listen to the audio sample, and then match it to the picture of the correct instrument. If your answer is right, you'll be rewarded with a small description of the instrument, and a diagram showing where in the orchestra it is seated. Click "Play More" to continue playing the game, or tap on the orchestra seating chart to learn more about where each instrument family sits.
SFSKids is my pick of the day site because of its friendly animated interface. Learn about the instrument families, and then explore the rest of the site. My favorite feature is The Radio, which consists of six channels, each featuring a different musical theme. For example, Channel Two is Big Moments, and includes Richard Wagner's Ride of the Valkyries, Aaron Copland's Fanfare for the Common Man, and Igor Stravinsky's Rite of Spring (among others.)