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Lesson Plans
Paul R. Chapin
Riverside School, Princeton, NJ

Overview:
In the upper elementary grades, music education programs regularly devote considerable instructional time focusing on "Instruments of the Orchestra." Students' playing experiences, as well as general music study typically concentrate on Euro-centric instruments such as violin, cello, trumpet, flute and snare drum to name a few. Students rarely have the opportunity to explore the origins of these instruments or the process by which they have developed out of many traditions from around the world. By examining the mechanics of typical orchestral instruments and by comparing/contrasting them to their predecessors, students will strengthen their understanding of the function and use of instruments in many cultures.

The following series of lessons, each focusing on one family of instruments (Woodwind, String, Percussion and Brass), allows students the opportunity to explore and articulate the use and characteristics of each family through the examination of Euro and non-Euro-centric instruments.

Core Questions:

  1. How is the initial sound (vibration) made on each instrument? Is this process the same for each instrument in its respective family? Briefly define each family (Woodwind, String, Percussion, Brass).
  2. Considering both mechanics and use, in what ways has each instrument changed over time?
  3. What are important similarities/differences in the use of both Euro and non-Euro-centric instrumental ensembles within their respective cultures?

List of Lessons:


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