Musical instruments can be found in all sorts of materials. It does not necessarily define which musical family they end up in when it comes to their position within an orchestra. For instance, the saxophone does not make it to the brass section of an orchestra because it is made from brass, it is still defined as a woodwind instrument.
So, lets us explore the different materials that the various musical instruments are made from.
Many of the musical instruments that are made from brass will form the brass section of the orchestra. These include the trumpet, trombone, cornet, and tuba. The tuba is the largest of the brass instruments and makes the deepest sound. The trombone has the novelty of a slider that is used to find the note positions. It is important not to be too close to someone when playing the trombone.
Also, a saxophone and a flute will be made from brass, although in the woodwind section of the orchestra. This is not to lower their esteem as instruments. Every instrument in an orchestra is equally important and plays its part in the overall sound of a composition. An oboe, one of the woodwind instruments, should feel important because before an orchestra plays a concert they will tune to the A that the oboe plays.
Although a flute is normally made from brass it can also be made from wood or other metallic materials. Famous virtuoso flautist, flutist, or flute player, Sir James Galway from Belfast, had one made from solid gold. For this reason, he was named “the man with the golden flute.” His specially commissioned Nagahara is worth £20,000. So, that was a nice present he gave himself to mark his achievements in flute playing.
Many of the stringed instruments of the orchestra will have a wooden body. In the case of a violin, viola, cello, or double bass, this will be accompanied by four strings. This is because a guitar, which generally has six strings, will often not feature in a traditional orchestra that is playing classical compositions. Another exception to the four strings rule is the harp. Most modern harps will have 47 strings and 7 pedals. The pedals will lower or raise the pitch of the groups of strings.
The different parts of the violin will be made from different types of wood. Traditionally, it is spruce for the soundboard of the body, maple for the bridge, and ebony and rosewood for the fingerboard. Stradivarius remains the most famous maker when it comes to violins. The “Messiah Stradivarius” is valued at $200 million.
The bodies of acoustic guitars, electric guitars, and ukuleles will be made from wood. Typical woods used for the body and neck include mahogany, ash, maple, walnut, alder, poplar, spruce, holly, basswood, and the Agathis evergreen. Those nearer the front of this list are most often used. It is considered that the denser the wood used, the better the sustain that can be achieved from the instrument. Sustain is how long a musical note is held for.
The clarinets used by beginners will generally be made from a hard rubber such as ABS or resonate. They look like plastic to look at. However, professional musicians will have wooden ones. They cost more but produce a better tone. Most modern clarinets will be made from African blackwood (Dalbergia melanoxylon). Different trees from the African blackwood genus include grenadilla, black cocus, Mozambique ebony, and East African ebony. The heavy, dark wood is responsible for giving clarinets their distinctive colour.
So, that covers most materials you will find musical instruments made out of. As we have discovered, you can often buy the same kind of musical instrument in different materials, with the more expensive alternatives used by professional musicians.