Orchestra (with a teacher)
This activity is for classroom use. Your teacher will have further material to use alongside the clips and information below.
SECTION 1: What is an orchestra?
We’re going to list as many ideas as we can about the orchestra, using what you know. For example, can you name any instruments, or types of music that an orchestra plays?
SECTION 2: ‘Happy Families’
Everyone is going to be given a card with an animal written on it. You have five minutes to organise yourselves into groups of animals that share similar features.
Are you able to think of specific features that make some animals similar?
An orchestra is divided into four sections or families: Strings, Woodwind, Brass, Percussion. Just like the animal groups, each section has instruments that share similar features. See whether you can put into the correct families the instruments shown below.
The members of each orchestral family share similar features in the way that they make a sound. Which description fits which family?
- This family makes a sound when you make a reed vibrate or blow across an open hole.
- This family makes a sound when you make a string vibrate.
- This family makes a sound when you tap, shake or scrape the instruments.
- This family makes a sound when you vibrate your lips in a mouthpiece.
SECTION 3: A guide to the orchestra
You’re now going to watch an orchestra perform a famous piece by a composer called Benjamin Britten. The Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra demonstrates the four orchestral sections, and then focuses on each instrument. All you need to do is move to the area of the room that matches whichever instruments are playing! Your teacher will tell you which area of the room is for which section of the orchestra.
SECTION 4: The conductor
Because the orchestra is made up of so many instruments, a conductor is needed to lead them all and help keep the music together. Can you think of any specific things that the conductor is responsible for?
How do the players know how fast to play? What else might the conductor be able to show them?
How well could you lead a group of musicians? Get ready to play ‘Hi-Ya’!
Conductor: The person responsible for directing a group of musicians – e.g. a choir or orchestra
Dynamics: The volume (degrees of loud and quiet) in a piece of music
Orchestra: A large group of instruments (strings, woodwind, brass and percussion) that play together
Pitch: Whether a note is high or low
Tempo: The speed of a piece of music
All media credits – titles, composers, artists, sources etc. – may be found in the Teacher Sheet, accessed from the Info box at the top of this page.