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Intro

edX: Discovering the Instruments of the Orchestra

 with  Dr. L. Michael Griffel

The world’s greatest orchestras have the incredible ability to sound so unified they feel like one single instrument. Listening to the music of an orchestra can feel invigorating, exciting, and life-affirming all at the same time. But how do you learn to hear and appreciate the nuances of each instrument? How have the instruments that make up an orchestra evolved and improved over time?

Dr. L Michael Griffel, Chair of Juilliard’s Music History Department, takes you on a journey into the orchestra and introduces you to the history of its principal instruments.

You will learn about each instrument, from violin to timpani, and will gain the ability to recognize their individual sounds and textures when listening to any orchestral music.

Through four modules you will discover the four families of instruments: strings, woodwinds, brass, and percussion, giving you confidence to further discover the music of the orchestra. No prior musical experience necessary.

Syllabus

Week 0: Introduction
After completing this module, you should be able to:

  • Categorize orchestral instruments into four families;
  • Summarize the evolution of the orchestra.

Week 1: String Instruments
After completing this module, you will be able to:

  • Identify the sound of the violin, viola, cello, and double bass in orchestral, chamber, and solo music;
  • Describe the historical evolution and construction of each string instrument;
  • Discuss the experience and technical aspects of playing string instruments.

Week 2: Woodwinds Instruments
After completing this module, you will be able to:

  • Identify the sound of the flute, oboe, clarinet, and bassoon in orchestral, chamber, and solo music;
  • Describe the historical evolution and material make-up of each woodwind instrument;
  • Discuss the experience and technical aspects of playing woodwind instruments. 

Week 3: Brass Instruments
After completing this module, you will be able to:

  • Identify the sound of the horn, trumpet, trombone, and tuba in orchestral, chamber, and solo music;
  • Describe the historical evolution and material make-up of each brass instrument;
  • Discuss the experience and technical aspects of playing brass instruments.

Week 4: Harp and Percussion Instruments
After completing this module, you will be able to:

  • Identify the sound of the harp, timpani, cymbals, triangle gong, snare drum, bass drum, celesta, piano, and harp in orchestral, chamber, and solo music;
  • Describe the historical evolution and material make-up of the harp and select percussion instruments;
  • Discuss the experience and technical aspects of playing harp and percussion instruments.
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Cost Free Online Course
Pace Self Paced
Subject Music
Institution Juilliard
Provider edX
Language English
Certificates $49 Certificate Available
Hours 2-3 hours a week
Calendar 4 weeks long
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What are MOOCs?
MOOCs stand for Massive Open Online Courses. These are free online courses from universities around the world (eg. Stanford Harvard MIT) offered to anyone with an internet connection.
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