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"In music, instruments perform the function of the colors employed in painting." —HONORÉ DE BALZAC

Key Points

  • The four families of Western instruments are strings, woodwinds, brass, and percussion.
  • String instruments (chordophones) are sounded by bowing and plucking.
  • Bowed strings include violin, viola, cello, and double bass; plucked strings include harp and guitar.
  • Woodwind instruments (aerophones) include flute, oboe, clarinet, bassoon, and saxophone.
  • Brass instruments (aerophones) include trumpet, French horn, trombone, and tuba.
  • Percussion instruments include idiophones (xylophone, cymbals, triangle) and membranophones (timpani, bass drum); some instruments are pitched (chimes) while others are unpitched (tambourine).
  • Keyboard instruments, such as piano and organ, do not fit neatly into the Western classification system.

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