Musically Montessori: Resource Round-up for Teaching The Instrument Families of the Orchestra


Photos in this post are from Adobe Stock

Here is my "Round-up-from-around-the-web" of activities, articles, and resources for creating your Music Unit on "Instrument Families of the Orchestra for Young Children".

Even Preschool children enjoy exploring the instrument "families" of the Orchestra. I have often thought that our little ones like the way we categorize the instruments according to the "family" they belong to. Families are very important to young children!

When I offer lessons about the Orchestra instrument families, I categorize into these four sections:
  • STRINGS: Violin, Viola, Cello, Bass
  • WOODWINDS: Flute, Clarinet, Oboe, Bassoon
  • BRASS: Trumpet, Trombone, French Horn, Tuba
  • PERCUSSION: Snare drum, Timpani drum, Bass Drum, and your choice of rhythm instruments, such as triangle, tambourine, maracas, xylophone, piano, etc. You can spend months on the Percussion Family!

I usually spend at least 2 weeks on each family so that I can introduce just 2 instruments at a time, each week, from each "family". As well, the initial introduction to each family is focused on 2 of the members of the "family" that have a distinctly different sound (pitch) from each other, generally the lowest pitched (largest) and the highest pitched (smallest).

For example,  when introducing the String Family, we first explore the Violin and the Upright Double Bass. These are the most different in size and in sound. This aids the children in their "visual" and "auditory" discrimination skills development. These vastly different members of the String Family are easier for the young child to distinguish.

When I introduce the Woodwinds I start with:
Flute and Bassoon
When I introduce the Brass I start with:
Trumpet and Tuba
When I introduce the Percussion I start with:
Snare drum and Timpani

You can review some of my Musically Montessori blog posts on the Instrument Families for more ideas and activities:






I have found that children love hearing short (30 sec or less) excerpts of the instrument all on its own. This helps the child isolate the difficulty, an important hallmark of the Montessori method of teaching.

Recordings for Focused Listening Activities

You can find recordings of individual instruments at the following links:
  • "Baby's First Instruments of the Orchestra" This is one of my favorites. This album is not in mp3 format, and the cd is sometimes hard to find, but well worth it! The recordings are authentic instruments as opposed to electronically produced sounds. Also, information about each instrument is introduced by the narrator and so the children are given the First Period of the Montessori 3-Period Lesson. However, this limits the use of this cd for the "Which Instrument Sound Is This?" Game because the name of the instrument is given at the beginning of each recording. 
I usually begin our series of Instrument Family lessons with the Brass Family, because the sounds are so dynamic and somewhat familiar to young children.




You can find some wonderful YouTube videos for children to watch and also videos for you as the teacher to watch and learn more about the sounds of the Instrument families.

  • "Instrument Families" Powerpoint presentation with text, great photos, and sounds to go with each of the instruments. For older kids and adults
  • Young Person's Guide to the Orchestra: A wonderful site based on the music from Benjamin Britten. A story format with exquisite music from The Weill Music Institute at Carnegie Hall. Suitable for children of all ages and informative for adults as well.
  • "Toot, Whistle, Plunk, Boom": Vintage Disney-style educational video in cartoon setting with talking and singing animals, so not quite in keeping with Montessori principles of reality based instruction. However, it may be something for elementary kids to enjoy and learn a little. The music in the video is authentic instruments and the stories are fun. There's a lot of information!
  • "Happy and You Know It" from Melody Street. An amazing little video with a child prodigy narrator (and fantastic pianist!) who introduces the viewers to the instruments of the orchestra with little animated versions of the instruments. Okay, not quite Montessori reality based again, but I really do like this one a lot. Very engaging! 
  • "Tubby the Tuba" Beautifully presented concert performance of this lovable story featuring the instruments of the orchestra and Tubby the tuba, who wants to find his own song and play a solo in the orchestra.
  • "Tubby the Tuba" Song: Music originally sung by Danny Kaye.  

Photo from Adobe Stock

Helpful Articles and Websites

Montessori-Style Shelf Works

Picture Books at Amazon
(CLICK on the picture to link)

Child-oriented Musical Performances   

  • "Watch Our Favorite Tiny Dancer Perform the Nutcracker with the New York City Ballet"  An adorable, endearing, one-minute video that goes well with the famous ballet concert that many children attend during the winter season.
  • "Carnival of the Animals" A lovely presentation parts of the wonderful piece for children by Camile Saint-Saens. A 2-minute video combination of the actual performers and sweet cartoon characters of the "animals" racing through the music. Very tastefully done and very engaging for children and adults.
  • "Tubby the Tuba Movie" The full length 1977 movie (1 hr +) based on the story/musical first narrated and sung by Danny Kaye in 1945. 
  • "Tubby the Tuba" Music originally sung by Danny Kaye.
  • Sergei Prokofiev's "Peter and the Wolf" performed by the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra. The story of a little boy who went into the nearby woods to observe his animal friends and then had to capture the wolf he discovered who was after Peter's friend, the bird. Exquisite music that illustrates a story with the instruments of the orchestra.
  • Tchaikovsky's "Waltz of the Flowers" performed by the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra. One of the most well-known pieces from the musical story and ballet of the Nutcracker Suite performed just beautifully. A child can really see the instruments playing their parts. I saw in the comments that a music teacher was planning to have a little in-class-concert-going experience for her students with tickets, seating, and then the children would be sitting in the rows of chairs in their classroom as the "audience." I think this sort of activity is very beneficial and a wonderful practice run for preparing children for attending an upcoming concert.
  • Hans Christian Anderson's "The Ugly Duckling" sung by Danny Kaye and NY Symphony Orchestra.  The story of the ugly duckling in a song see a picture book along with the audio.

  • Authentic Replica Miniatures
    As a music specialist, I have purchased authentic replicas of the orchestra instruments over the years. These are carefully passed around the circle for each child to examine the parts of the instrument. I have found that, next to having a musician come in and play/show their instrument to the children, these miniatures give the children a concrete experience without the teacher having to have a collection of real orchestra instruments. My Blog articles tell how I give a lesson about "Real and Model" when presenting these replicas. 

    These are pricey, but it is nice to consider having one example from each of the 4 Instrument Families.

    Here is the link for one source I like: Wild About Music

    Whew! Lots of resources here. I hope you find some useful ones! 

    Are you looking for more?

    A wonderful sequential curriculum that prepares the children for the upcoming seasonal music performances that happen in December.  

    In this twelve weeks of training with me, you'll receive:
    • Lesson Plans
    • Video Instruction
    • Printable Downloads for your Music Circle and Montessori Music Shelf
    • MP3 music downloads of Movement Activities from Classical Fun Singalongs (Part 2)
    • More MP3 music downloads of recordings of the sounds of the instruments for your Focused Listening Activities 
    • Community with others in the eCourse through the Musically Montessori FB group   

    Thank you once again for visiting my Blog today. I'm looking forward to our next visit!

    This article is part of the "Montessori Monday Link-up" At Living Montessori Now, where you'll find even more resources for your Montessori environment!
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    Musically Montessori: "Children and Music Go Together" Photo Essay

    THEY SAY A PICTURE IS WORTH A THOUSAND WORDS...I AGREE. DO YOU? This Photo Essay gives a little peek into the music and children of my life so far.
    The children in the above photo are enjoying music in one of my studio classes in Willits, CA (2011)

    It was a delight to walk into one of the schools where I teach Montessori Music classes and find this unique bulletin board display of me with the children in one of our music classes.  I do truly love my job as a Montessori classroom music specialist! You can read more about Little Flowers Montessori HERE.

    Little Flowers Montessori School Bulletin Board (2015)

    These little ones are inseparable and they always enjoy making music together! The one on the right is just 2 years old. Here's more about Kiran's Montessori School.

    Kiran's Montessori (2016)

    Years ago, when I went to Fiji to teach little children, I discovered that they were going to teach me a lot more than I taught them. In fact, to this day, the children's songs I learned in Fijian are my favorites of all children's songs I sing. Read more about my Cultural Travel Project in Fiji HERE.

    Nasinu Village, Fiji Islands (1996)

    When you're fortunate enough to have the beautiful Montessori Brass Bells in your classroom, it makes you feel like every child is a budding Mozart. More info about Fountainhead Montessori School HERE.

    Fountainhead Montessori (2012)

    The first time I played my autoharp for my youngest grandchild, he was a little shy about touching the instrument. A few months later he wasn't shy at all!

    My Little Grandson (2016)

    I've felt so lucky to be able to make music with all my grandchildren over the years.  The photo below is one of those the Montessori Preschool with my granddaughter a few years ago. The Montessori Center of Pearl Harbor in Hawaii is located in the landmark historic Post Office building on the Base. 

    My Little Granddaughter (2006)

    During my time as the Director of a Co-Op Nursery School in Geyserville, CA, we always played lots of music at our annual Halloween fund raiser. This was one of our promotional photos for the local news.

    River Valley Nursery School (1998)

    Moving to music comes naturally to little children. These boys are exploring the concept of "pitch" in music. Up high and down low.

    Kiran's Montessori (2016)

    The intense concentration and imaginative exploration shown by the children is always a pleasure to observe. The boy in this photo created a little conversation with the castanets.

    Fountainhead Montessori (2015)

    The very youngest student in one of my groups began to play a fairly steady beat right away when she discovered a different way to play her castanets. 

    Kiran's Montessori (2017)

    The joy on the children's faces is probably the greatest pleasure of all. There's just nothing quite like making music. More about Big City Montessori HERE.

    Big City Montessori (1993)

    It's a joy for me, too. Making music makes me complete! This picture below is our Rumpus Dance from our "Where the Wild Things Are"  musical performance at my little Montessori school overlooking the Pacific Ocean in Mendocino almost 30 years ago. The children spent weeks creating their wild things masks and practicing our dance.

    Albion Children's House, Albion CA (1989)

    To keep my heart and soul nourished, I often have to simply sing somewhere out in the forest. This photo is a cherished moment in time when I could sing my heart out with Edison Chiloquin, the last chief of the Plaikni tribe of Southern Oregon. We were singing Gene Autry cowboy songs in the high desert piney woods. Watch this video about Edison's amazing story HERE. 

    Plaikni Village, Chiloquin Oregon (1994)

    Lastly, and most important. When in with somebody!

    Thank you for visiting my Blog today. I am sure you have photos of your children enjoying music in your environment. There's a reason why children love musical experiences...CHILDREN AND MUSIC GO TOGETHER.

    Check out my Magical Movement Company Facebook page this week for more photos, article and videos (from around the world) of children having fun with music. And you'll find a free download featuring a  Montessori music activity: "Command Cards" for children to make their own musical shakers.  CLICK HERE and just scroll down to my Montessori "Magic Friday" posts at my FB page.

    I am always honored to be included in the Montessori Monday Link-up at the Living Montessori Now site, where thousands of Montessori educators go to check out the many resources, articles, and even free Printables!

    Advertising Disclosure: Magical Movement Company may be compensated in exchange for featured placement of certain sponsored products and services, or your clicking on links posted on this website. Thanks for your support!

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    Musically Montessori: The Sweetness of the Woodwinds and Little Children


    Photo from Adobe Stock

    Over the years, I have discovered that even very young children are fascinated with the sound of a woodwind instrument and even more fascinated with how the sound is created. 

    A woodwind instrument has a reed as its mouthpiece. 
    From Wikipedia: 
    "A reed is a thin strip of material which vibrates to produce a sound on a musical instrument. The reeds of most woodwind instruments are made from Arundo donax ("Giant cane") or synthetic material..."

    The Orchestral instruments that I introduce as the Woodwind Family are: 

    • Piccolo
    • Flute
    • Oboe
    • Clarinet
    • Bassoon

    The Flute happens to be the best known of the Woodwind Family, even though it does not have a reed and it is not made of wood. However, the way the sound is created is by blowing across the mouthpiece so that the "wind" you create will "split" and cause the tube of the instrument to vibrate and make a sweet sound.


    In my video below, you'll see that in my music lessons about the Woodwinds, the children  have often started by twirling a "sound tube" until they hear the whistling that happens from the air flowing through the tube... like wind.
    You can learn more about the science of sound and "twirly tubes" at this really fun site: Steve Spangler

    When it comes to exploring woodwind instruments, the children in  my groups can't really try out a flute, or recorder or even a piccolo or clarinet because these are instruments that are played by blowing into the reed or mouthpiece of the instrument. This simply does not work in a group experience of passing an instrument from child to child.

    However, the twirly sound tubes can be a way to begin to explore how woodwind instruments make sound. 

    My video below has a quick little progression of a child's possible exploration of woodwind instruments.

    Next, you can offer each child their own blade of grass (or plant reed) to try blowing through it to make a whistling sound. This is challenging but lots of fun. Even more fun if everyone goes outside to gather the blades of grass! 

    If you hold the blade of grass between the thumbs of both hands and then will hear a slight whispery sound, or even a whistling sound. This shows how the "reed" can split the vibrations and create sound. 

    Photo from Adobe Stock

    If you play a woodwind instrument, this is the time to bring it in to class and play it for the children. Another resource may be the families of the children in your group, or a woodwind player from your local symphony orchestra or high school band. Your group will certainly be lucky to hear the instrument live and then maybe even be able to see the reed inside the instrument.


    Eventually, it will be time for the children to hear recordings of the woodwind instruments of the orchestra. 

    This is still my favorite album of recordings for young children learning about the instrument families of the Orchestra. This album is only available as a cd, but it is well worth it. The music is made by authentic instruments rather than synthesized. It's available on Amazon at this link: Baby's First Introduction to the Instruments of the Orchestra.

    If you haven't yet introduced the children to the Orchestra, then you can see the visuals I use for that introduction at my post HERE: "Musically Montessori: The Percussion Family"

    Below is a photo of the Woodwinds Section of the Orchestra. 

    Photo from Adobe Stock
    When, we are listening to each instrument, I like to show the children a photo of a young musician playing that instrument.

    Photo from Adobe Stock

    The Piccolo is the smallest of the Woodwind Instruments, and the highest in pitch. It is in the flute family of instruments and so it is played the same way the flute is played.

    You can listen to a piccolo at this link:  Sound of the Piccolo 

    Photo from Adobe Stock

    The Flute is usually familiar to the children and lovely for them to hear. 
    You can listen to a flute at this link: Golden Flute Sound

    Photo from Adobe Stock

    The Oboe is fascinating to me because you can actually see the reed. It is also the instrument that all the other instruments of the Orchestra tune up to. 

    You can listen to an oboe at this link: Oboe Sound at Amazon   

    Photo from Adobe Stock

    The Clarinet has a sweet and mellow sound that children usually like very much. It's appearance is very similar to the oboe; however, the reed is inside the mouthpiece rather than visible like it is in the oboe.

    You can listen to a clarinet at this link: Clarinet sound at Amazon

    Photo from Adobe Stock

    Since the Bassoon is the largest member of the Woodwind Family, it has the lowest pitch. Before I play a recording of the bassoon for the children, I like to prepare them for it's very low sound. Also, this photo of a bassoon shows how large it is and how the mouthpiece (reed) extends out from the middle of the body of the instrument.

    You can listen to a bassoon at this link: Bassoon sound

    Mozart's Opera, "The Magic Flute"

    Mozart's opera, "The Magic Flute", is often featured at local opera houses in communities all over the world. In my area, I've discovered that the performance schedules for this opera often include a Saturday matinee especially for children. These are fun for children and usually offer this mesmerizing story in an edited version that is more engaging for children. The prince in this story acquires a flute that has magic powers to tame wild animals, open a path through a raging river, and even give the prince protection from an enormous fire as he travels on his journey. So, this opera has lots of beautiful flute music to go along with your Montessori music lessons!

    I like to introduce the music from this opera by presenting a children's picture book about the story. I will show the pages of the book and play snippets of recorded music from the opera as I read or tell the story to the children.

    Here is the book I use, and it is available at Amazon at this link: Magic Flute at Amazon  

    Children are often introduced to the Recorder in their lower elementary music classes, and this instrument is a woodwind instrument, but it is not usually played in orchestral performances.
    Recorders date back to the Middle Ages, and are considered easier to play than a flute. From wikipedia: "The sound of the recorder is often described as clear and sweet, and has historically been associated with birds and shepherds. It is notable for its quick response and its corresponding ability to produce a wide variety of articulations."  

    In my woodwinds video above, you will notice my little 4 yr old friend playing his own tune on the beautiful wooden recorder for his baby brother. Recorders are a wonderful family instrument to give authentic music experiences to even the youngest children. 

    The second lesson in my upcoming Montessori Baby-Ed eCourse suggests playing the Recorder for your baby as part of the emphasis on woodwind music from that "Nido Basket" #2 for your baby's second month. Eventually, when Baby is old enough to try the Recorder on her own, she will have had lots of experience observing family members playing the Recorder throughout her babyhood!

    Photo from Adobe Stock

    In this article, I have presented some ideas for having fun with the Woodwind family of the Instruments of the Orchestra and I hope you've discovered some activities to offer your group. Thanks again for visiting my blog today!

    Are you looking for a Montessori Music curriculum that emphasizes a sequential progression of hands-on activities for young children? 

    At this very moment, I am developing my second 12-week eCourse, "Musically Montessori: Instruments of the Orchestra." You can learn more by clicking THIS LINK.  

    My first eCourse, "Musically Montessori: First Twelve Weeks" is already available for enrollment. You can learn more by clicking THIS LINK. 

    And, if you're interested in bringing Music and the Arts to your baby in a Montessori way, I am almost done creating my monthly eCourse, "Montessori Baby-Ed, Month-by-Month." You can learn more by clicking THIS LINK.

    Lastly, if you haven't joined my email list, please feel free to do so by filling in the quick form on the side bar of this Blog. Along with my newsletter right to your in-box, you'll receive a complimentary copy of my eBook, "Musically Montessori, First Lessons" to get your Music Curriculum off to a good start. (retail value $12.99)


    If you have enjoyed this post, you'll find lots more articles at the "Montessori Monday Link-up" where I am proud to be linking my article. Deb Chitwood, at Living Montessori Now, and Montessori educators from all over the world offer their expertise that you will want to be part of, I'm sure!

    Advertising Disclosure: Magical Movement Company may be compensated in exchange for featured placement of certain sponsored products and services, or your clicking on links posted on this website. Thanks for your support!

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