Discover Instruments of the Orchestra

Learn about the instruments that make up an orchestra with the Chineke! Junior Orchestra

By Chineke!

Chineke! Junior Orchestra (2018-07-01) by Eric RichmondChineke!


The string section, which contains violins, violas, cellos and double basses, is the largest section of the orchestra. 

Chineke at Royal Festival Hall (2020-09-28) by Mark AllanChineke!


The violin is the smallest instrument in the string section and is the highest in pitch. There are two different violin sections in the symphony orchestra - First Violins, which usually play the melody, and Second Violins, which play a mixture of melody and harmony. The violinist who sits at the very front, on the conductor’s left hand side, is called the Leader, or Concertmaster. The other musicians watch the Leader to match the way they play. 

Chineke! Challenge: Darcy explains her bowing technique (2020-07-01) by Darcy LambChineke!

Violin techniques

Chineke! Junior violinist Darcy takes us through some handy techniques, including 'the jellyfish', to improve bowing and create a smoother sound on the violin.

Chineke! Chamber Ensemble (2020-08-21) by Matt Jolly © Britain Pears ArtsChineke!


The viola is larger than a violin, and lower in pitch. The viola section usually plays the "inner parts" - the harmony that glues the string section together. 

Danya plays 'Lua Branca' by Chiquinha Gonzaga

Danya leads the viola section of the Chineke! Junior Orchestra. During lockdown she has been researching the black and minority ethnic composer Francisca Edwiges Neves Gonzaga, or Chiquinha Gonzaga, as part of her #ChinekeChallenge. She performs an arrangement for viola of one of Gonzaga's songs called 'Lua Branca' which translated from the Portuguese means 'White Moon’. 

Chineke at Royal Festival Hall (2020-09-28) by Mark AllanChineke!


Watch Sheku Kanneh-Mason MBE

Sheku was winner of the 2016 BBC Young Musician of the Year and an original member of Chineke! Orchestra. 
Watch his inspiring performance of Dvorak's Cello Concerto with Chineke! at the BBC Proms in 2017. 

Chineke! Junior Orchestra at the Southbank Centre (2020-02-23) by Orlando GiliChineke!

Double Bass

The double bass is the largest and lowest sounding instrument in the string family, and is the foundation of the orchestra. 

#ChinekeChallenge - double bass

Chineke! Junior double bassist Charles has been working hard on the 1st movement of the Koussevitzky double bass concerto. In this metronome challenge, he is gradually building up the speed of a particularly difficult passage so that it's at the right pace for a concert performance. 

Chineke! Junior Orchestra (2018-07-01) by Eric RichmondChineke!

The Harp

The concert harp has 47 strings which are plucked using the thumb and first three fingers of each hand. It also has 7 pedals which raise and lower the pitch of the strings, allowing the harp to play chromatic notes. The harp was not really used in orchestral music until the 19th century when the pedalling system was developed. Certain effects characterise the harp’s sound, such as glissandos, arpeggios and repeated figures. Watch out for harpists tuning on stage before a concert starts - with 47 strings it takes a while to tune them all! 

Chineke! Challenge: Jamaal explains the harp structure (2020-06-23) by Jamaal KashimChineke!

Chineke! Junior harpist, Jamaal, demonstrates how to play the harp for the #ChinekeChallenge. He also performs some beautiful harp pieces.

Chineke! Junior Orchestra (2018-07-01) by Eric RichmondChineke!

The oboe

The oboe is a double reed instrument in the woodwind family. It is made of wood and has metal keys and a flared bell. Sound is produced by blowing into the reed, causing it to vibrate with the air column. The oboe has a rich, distinctive tone due to having a conical bore, as opposed to the cylindrical  bore of flutes and clarinets.  Most professional oboists make their own reeds, so that they can control the tone, intonation and responsiveness. The oboe is the instrument which tunes the orchestra before a rehearsal or concert, playing the distinctive 'A'. 

Multi-instrumentalist Nia-May runs through her favourite practise routines, with scales and arpeggios on the piano, oboe and harp!

Chineke! Junior Orchestra (2018-07-01) by Eric RichmondChineke!

Woodwind section: the flute

The flute is the highest pitched instrument in the woodwind family, and the only one which does not use a reed. Sound is created by blowing across an embouchure hole in the lip plate, and pitch is changed by pressing down on different keys. There are several flutes commonly used in the orchestra: the C flute, piccolo, alto flute and sometimes the bass flute.

Chineke! Challenge: Rianna on practice technique (2020-04-22) by Rianna HenriquesChineke!

Practise tips for the flute

Chineke! Junior flautist Rianna shares her top tips for practising the flute as part of her Chineke! Challenge.

Chineke! Junior Orchestra at the Southbank Centre (2020-02-23) by Orlando GiliChineke!

Brass - Trumpet

The trumpet is the highest pitched instrument in the brass family. Sound is produced by vibrating the lips into a mouthpiece, causing vibrations to flow through the long brass tubing and out of the bell. Pressing down on the three valves with the right hand changes the pitch. Trumpets and other brass instruments commonly play fanfares. 

Meet the Brass!

Backstage at the Royal Albert Hall, trumpet players from the Chineke! Junior Orchestra demonstrate how to play the trumpet. 

Chineke! Challenge: Sana on Timpani technique (2020-04-27) by Sana Abu-JabirChineke!

Percussion - Timpani

Timpani are large drums consisting of a copper shell and calfskin drumhead. They are hit with drumsticks or mallets and have foot pedals for changing pitch. Timpani provide the underlying heartbeat of the orchestra, dictating the beat and playing the bottom notes of chords. 

Chineke! Challenge: Sana and Shesh on sightreading and ensemble playing (2020-04-27) by Sana and Shesh Abu-JabirChineke!

Sight-reading with Sana and Shesh

Performing regularly with the Chineke! Junior Orchestra in the percussion and double bass section, Sana and Shesh have a few tips to share on how they tackle sight reading and performing with other musicians in an ensemble.

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