The Music Spot has been supporting local schools for over 20 years. We have specially tailored Accessory Packs for students participating in the Instrumental Music Program at school, and we keep an up-to-date list of the particular books required by each local school.
To purchase your School Accessory Pack,click here.
To check which book your school requires,click here.
If you would like to know more about School Music programs, we have compiled this helpful guide:
Parents’ Guide To School Instruments
If you are reading this page, it is probably because you child has been chosen to participate in their School Instrumental Music Program.
Music is a wonderful skill to have and it not only enhances your quality of life (and that of those lucky enough to hear you play!) but it has been proven to enhance learning abilities, social skills, and be a great form of stress relief.
But at this point, you may well be wondering what this “thing” is that little Johnny or Janey has been chosen to play and is so excited about. Well don’t worry, you are not alone, none of us were born with the knowledge of the whole orchestra!
So for your convenience, here is some helpful information about the most common Musical instruments that are taught in schools.
The Flute is a Woodwind instrument. It is a long silver tube with round silver keys. It is played by being held out to the side and blowing across the mouthpiece hole.
Flutes have been around for many years, and the name “Flute” can be used to describe many seemingly different instruments. The Recorder (which you will all be familiar with!) is a member of the Flute family, as is the Tin Whistle. But the instrument most commonly referred to as a Flute today is the Western Concert Flute, which came into its present form in the 1840s.
The Flute is usually made of silver or silver-plate and is in the key of C.
They are light instruments and come in small, easy-to-carry cases, usually around 40-50cm across.
The Clarinet is also a Woodwind instrument, but unlike the Flute, it is a member of the Reed family, which includes Saxophones, Oboes and Bassoons. It is usually black or dark brown, with silver keys, and is held down straight in front when it is played.
The sound is produced when air is blown down the mouthpiece, causing the reed to vibrate. Reeds are inexpensive to purchase, but you will need to keep buying them, as in the beginning a reed will usually last around 2 weeks. It is important to take the reed out when finished playing and store it in a Reedguard, so that it will dry flat. This greatly increases the lifespan of the reed.
The Clarinet has been around in its present form since the beginning of the 18th century. Professional models are usually made of wood (like Grenadilla), however for reasons of both cost and ease of use, student models are usually made of a synthetic wood called ABS Resin.
The Clarinet is in the key of B Flat and is also known as the Soprano Clarinet. They come apart in five pieces and are easy to carry in lightweight cases of around 20cm by 30cm.
Thanks to Lisa Simpson, the Saxophone has become very popular in recent years! However, it is important to know that Saxophones at school come in two different sizes, Alto and Tenor. And it is also interesting to know that the one Lisa Simpson plays is actually a Baritone, which is even bigger than the Tenor!
Even though the Saxophone is made of brass, it is known as a Woodwind instrument, as the sound is produced by the vibration of a Reed in the mouthpiece. Reeds are something you will need to continually purchase, but they are inexpensive and if looked after can last for a few weeks at a time.
The Saxophone was invented in 1856 by a man named Adolphe Sax, who wanted an instrument that was similar to the Clarinet, but easier to play. And so the Saxophone is very similar to the Clarinet, but there are less fingering patterns to be learnt, which means that you can be playing fun songs sooner!
The Alto Sax is in the key of E Flat. It is around 60cm long and weighs around 8kg, so a neck strap is advisable.
The Tenor Sax is in the key of B Flat, and sounds lower than the Alto. It is around 80cm long, and weighs around 9kg, so a soft, comfortable neck strap is a necessity!
The Trumpet is a member of the Brass family. All Brass instruments produce sound by “buzzing” the lips into a cup-shaped mouthpiece, and notes are made by pressing down valves, to change the length of the pipe. The only Brass instrument that does not use valves to create notes is the Trombone, which uses a Slide instead.
The Trumpet has been around for a very long time, but the first Trumpets were just long, coiled tubes, with no valves. They could only play certain notes, so valves were introduced in the mid-19th Century, to enable the Trumpet to play all notes of the chromatic scale.
Trumpets are made of brass and either coated in silver-plate or clear lacquer (which gives them a gold appearance).
Lightweight, they usually come in a hard case (or backpack type case) of around 50cm by 40cm.
Trumpets are in the key of B Flat.
The Trombone is another member of the Brass instrument family. They are played by “buzzing” the lips into the circular mouthpiece. However, unlike other members of the Brass family, they produce the different notes by using a slide to alter the length of the pipe.
Trombones have been used in their present form for over 500 years. They are made of brass and are either coated in silver-plate or a clear lacquer.
They are an unusual shape, and come in long cases that are around 1m in length. However, being an empty tube, they are very lightweight and easy for even young children to play, providing their arms are long enough!
The size of Trombone used in schools is the Tenor Trombone, and this is in the key of B Flat.
One thing that is very important to note when looking into all of these weird and wonderful new instruments!
Brand is very important when deciding to purchase a new Brass or Woodwind instrument. You will notice that instruments are made up of lots of very small and intricate parts. The cheaper the brand, the lower grade of materials will be used to make these parts. We have seen many horror stories of Saxophones that are crushed when gently picked up by a child, Trumpets that have fake water keys, Flutes that have the silver flaking off when you blow on them, Clarinets whose keys don’t even line up, let alone play the correct note…
All of this adds up to some pretty hefty repair bills, that is, if the instrument is able to be repaired at all. Our repairers come across instruments each week that are simply unable to be fixed. So think twice before you purchase that $100 Clarinet you found at your local supermarket. You may just throw that $100 straight into the bin!
The String Section
Violins are the smallest members of the String family. They are also the most popular, with there being more Violins in the Orchestra than any other group of instruments.
Violins have four strings, and are played with a Bow. You must first coat the hairs of the Bow with Rosin to enable the hair to grip the string, causing the vibration that the body of the Violin translates into sound. Rosin in an inexpensive but necessary accessory for the Violin player – there is no sound without it!
Violins are available in ¼, ½, ¾ and Full Size outfits (consisting of a Violin, Case and Bow).
The Viola is the second-smallest member of the String family, being just a few inches larger than the Violin. Like the Violin, they also have four strings and are played with a Bow and Rosin.
However unlike the Violin, which plays Music written in the Treble Clef, the Viola plays Music written in the Alto Clef. There are not many instruments that use this clef, which makes Viola players very special, and also very rare. If your child is going to learn the Viola, they will have more opportunities open to them, as the competition will not be as strong.
Violas come in sizes such as 14 Inch, 15 Inch, 15 ½ Inch, and 16 Inch.
The Cello (pronounced Chello) is a larger member of the String family. It is played while sitting in a chair and holding the Cello in between the knees.
Like the Violin and Viola, it is played using a Bow and Rosin, however it sounds a lot lower than both the Violin and Viola.
Cellos come in ¼, ½, ¾ and Full-Size outfits.
The Double Bass (or String Bass, or Upright Bass)
The Double Bass is the largest member of the String family, and is played while standing up and having the instrument stand next to you. It can be played by either a Bow or by plucking the strings with your fingers.
Because of its size, most schools will only use ¼, ½ or ¾ sized Double Basses in their ensemble.
As with Brass & Woodwind instruments, you need to be very careful when looking for a new String Instrument.
Violins are very fragile Instruments and the quality of timbers used will reflect in the sound they produce. We have all heard cheap Violins that sound like a cat getting its tail pulled! Generally, the more you pay for your Violin, the nicer the sound will be.
However sound is not the only concern in regards to the “cheapy” Instruments we have seen flooding the market in recent years. Just for one example, take the thin black line you can see around the edge of the Violin. It actually serves a purpose – it is an inlaid strip of rubber that protects the thin soundboard (top piece of timber) from splitting when it encounters light knocks. But on the cheaper Instruments – you guessed it, it is painted on! Therefore, especially if you are buying a new Violin for a youngster, it will not last long at all.
If you need any further advice, contact our friendly team on 07 3800 5229 or email us on firstname.lastname@example.org. We are here to help!