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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