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Vocabulary, part 2

Instrument Family – the orchestra is divided into different instrument “families”, with each family of instruments having specific characteristics in common.

  • Strings – violin, viola, cello, and bass; strings can be bowed or plucked, and sounds effects can be created by touching parts of the bow to the wood;
  • Woodwinds – clarinet, flute, oboe, and bassoon;
  • Brass – trumpet, trombone, French horn, and tuba;
  • Percussion – timpani, marimba (xylophone), tam-tam (gong), bass drum, and cymbals.

Movement – self-contained section of a larger work, such as a symphony or a concerto.


Pizzicato – plucking of the strings. An example is at the beginning of “Dream of a Witches Sabbath”, when the string section plucks the strings as the music swells and crescendos.


Repetition – restatement of a musical idea (theme) or section of music. An example is in Danse Macabre, when the entire string section plays the character Death’s theme, which is previously played by the solo violin.


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