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Classical Music Instruments in English

In last month's October edition of the Yabla English Lesson, we discussed the Performing Arts, one of which is music. Let's take a look today at the English names of some of the most common musical instruments used in classical music.

The piano is one of the main instruments in western musical traditions, and many musicians who specialize in other instruments and singing are often required to learn some basic piano skills. This is because of the piano's large range, from deep bass to high treble, which allows it to cover all of the ranges used by orchestral instruments. The piano is also important for musical composition, and many works for orchestra have been composed using the piano. A person who plays the piano is called a pianist or a piano player.


Well, when I write songs, I sometimes will write it on a piano.

Caption 27, Bee and Flower: Interview

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Warren Beatty's a good pianist.

Caption 71, Chevy Chase: talks about his acting life

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The violin also has another common name in English: the fiddle. This term is usually more casual and used especially in country, folk, and bluegrass music. A person who plays the violin is called a violinist or a fiddler.


Good. Did you mind if I play the violin? -No, go right ahead.

Caption 10, Sherlock Holmes: The Case of the Cunningham Heritage

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So, I picked up an instrument that was called the fiddle.

Caption 17, Sigrid: An American in Italy

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Of the remaining bowed string instruments, the viola is played by a viola player. The cello, actually short for "violoncello," is played by a cellist. The double bass—also called the upright bass or acoustic bass—is the deepest of the string instruments. It's played by a bassist, or double bass player, upright bass player, etc.


I'm Jasmine Beams. I'm from Milwaukee and I play viola.

Caption 9, Making Tracks: Dewayne Everettsmith & Jasmine Beams musical journey

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I grew up playing the cello.

Caption 10, Justin James: Booking Submission Video

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And did you take bass lessons when you were young?

Caption 12, Bee and Flower: Interview

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The highest of the woodwind reed instruments are the clarinet and the oboe. The clarinet is played by a clarinetist and the oboe by an oboist, although "clarinet player" and "oboe player" are fine too. The deepest is the bassoon, played by a bassoonist, or bassoon player.


I play the clarinet. -I play the bassoon.

Caption 8, Making Tracks: A musical journey inspired by Australia

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I played the oboe in middle school band.

Caption 85, Jennifer Lawrence & Chris Pratt: Answer the Web's Most Searched Questions

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There are also several non-reed woodwind instruments such as the flute and the recorder. A flute player is called a flutist (or flautist), and a recorder player is called just that.


When I was a girl, I studied flute like many girls,

Caption 36, Sigrid: An American in Italy

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And so I started playing recorder.

Caption 44, Sigrid: An American in Italy

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Of the brass instruments, the most commonly used are the trumpet and the French horn. The players of these instruments are a trumpeter (or trumpet player) and a French horn player. In the lower registers there's also the tuba, played by a tuba player.


Oh, yes, yes, practice trumpet every day.

Caption 23, They Might Be Giants: The Seven Days Of The Week

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Lastly, the main percussion instruments used are the marimba, the snare drum, and the timpani. The person in the orchestra playing these instruments is called a percussionist.


We know where the certain snare-hits are.

Caption 27, OK Go - Needing/Getting: Behind The Scenes

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Further Learning
Go to Yabla English and watch the videos above relating to musical instruments. You can also search for the names of the instruments and find other videos. Find a tandem partner in your class and make up some sentences in English using these musical instrument words, then compare what you both came up with. In next month's lesson, we'll talk about the different kinds of musical instruments used in pop music!

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