Instruments often play solos, but they may also play together in groups, or musical ensembles. Some ensembles, such as the Indonesian gamelan or the modern symphony orchestra, almost always incorporate the same collection of musical instruments. Others, however, may include a wide range of different instruments depending on the specific type of music being performed at the time.

Instruments in orchestras


The First Orchestras date from around 1600 when royal palaces had resident musicians, and composers tended to write music for whatever instruments were available. The orchestra as we know it today emerged after the string family was established as a group in the mid-17th century. Over the next two centuries, woodwind, brass, and percussion were added to form the modern symphony orchestra.

List of instruments in chamber groups/span>

Chamber groups

A small group of musicians playing classical music is called a chamber group. Chamber music is small-scale, intended to be played in the home or a small hall, and is enjoyed just as much by the players as by the audience. Any blend of instruments can be used, but some have proved particularly successful. The string quartet, wind octet, and various string combinations with piano have been firm favorites with composers for over two centuries.

Instruments in wind bands

Wind bands

A large group of musical instruments that includes woodwind, brass, and percussion, but excludes strings, can be called a wind band. Many different types of band are now common. Marching bands, originally associated with military ceremonies, are now widespread. Town bands, mainly comprising brass instruments, are found in many parts of Europe, while the concert wind band is very popular in the United States.

Instruments in rock bands

Rock bands

The term "Rock band" covers a fabulous variety of groups, from the simplicity of the 1950s to the technical sophistication of today. A rock band usually has around five members, including a lead singer and possibly back-up vocalists. The exciting intensity of the music is generated by the powerful beat of the bass and drums, the raw energy of electric guitars, and, lately, the limitless sounds of the synthesizer.

Instruments in jazz bands

Jazz bands

A Jazz band might comprise a trumpeter and guitarist in a tiny, dim nightclub, or a twenty-piece big band in a concert hall, jazz has taken a variety of forms during this century. Yet there are features common to all styles. As well as the distinctive sound of its chords, jazz is characterized by improvisation - musicians adding to the tunes as they go along - and syncopation - putting unexpected accents on certain beats.

Instruments in steel bands

Steel bands

A Steel band chiefly consists of instruments produced front 55-gallon oil drums. The superb musical properties of these drums were first realized in the 1940s, when it was discovered that by carefully cutting, treating, and tuning the heads of the oil drums, attractive percussion instruments could be made at very small cost. Since then, the sound of the steel band has become familiar far beyond the Eastern Caribbean islands of Trinidad and Tobago where it originated. Wherever they exist, steel bands tend to be an important focus for the social and cultural life of the community, producing the joyous sounds associated with traditional carnivals.

Instruments in gamelans


Gamelan is the name given by Indonesians to their traditional orchestra, consisting of a matched set of tuned gongs, gong chimes, metallophones, and drums. All the instruments of a particular gamelan are made by the same craftsmen, who decorate them in a similar style, and they are always played together. The music is based on repetitive melodic patterns intricately interwoven among the different instruments. The gamelan dates back over 1300 years, and in Java is still associated with ancient rituals and court ceremonies. In the 16th century, some Javanese noblemen introduced the gamelan to the nearby island of Bali, where it flourished in a variety of forms.