Musical Instruments Lesson for Kids: Types & Sounds

Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Andrew Coley

Andy is an instructional coach and curriculum specialist. He's working on a Masters of Educational Leadership and is also an aspiring author for kids.

In this lesson, we'll look at the different instruments families, how they use and manipulate vibrations to make sounds, and find out why a tuba sounds so different from a violin. Updated: 02/12/2020

Instrument Families

Close your eyes and imagine you're at the symphony. Can you hear the violins and cellos playing? What about the clarinets and flutes? And you can't forget about the tuba! What if I told you all those instruments sound different because of vibrations?

Musical instruments come in all shapes in sizes and are put in families, or groups, depending on how they create sound. Each group has a unique way of manipulating sound waves through vibrations that give them a distinctive way of being played and creating the sound that we hear.

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  • 0:04 Instrument Families
  • 0:34 Strings
  • 1:07 Woodwinds
  • 1:46 Brass
  • 2:21 Percussion
  • 2:39 Lesson Summary
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The string family is a really popular group to see playing at fancy events like weddings. As you can imagine, this includes all instruments that use strings, like the harp, the guitar, and the violin.

The string instruments work like this. When the string is plucked on a guitar, it causes a vibration. That vibration is amplified, or made louder, by the air inside of the guitar.

All string instruments use the strings to create vibrations, but they do it in different ways. For the violin and cello, a bow is gently pulled across the strings to create the flowing sound, whereas many other string instruments are plucked.


The woodwind family is a group of instruments that are usually hollow tubes and, a long time ago at least, were made out of wood. They produce sound by blowing into either a mouth piece or small hole, and the air vibrates through the tube. This includes flutes, clarinets, and the saxophone.

Most instruments in the woodwind family have a little reed that is inserted in the mouth piece and will vibrate when air goes across it. So when you blow on it, the reed sends vibrations through the instrument.

You can change the sound it makes by using the key holes on the side, which change how much air is getting out. They either open up the tube or close it, changing the size of the air column the instruments create and drastically changing the sound.


The brass family are big instruments with lots of tubes that run throught the instrument. These are instruments like the trombone and trumpet. The vibrations from this instrument are all from the player's lips. When the player vibrates their lips, it's amplified in the instrument.

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