Preschool Activities for Musical Instruments

An orchestra uses instruments from four main instrument families.

Preschool students respond well to activities involving a hands-on approach, making music an exceptional activity for young children. Learning about the different instruments is enhanced when students can actually see the instruments. Since most preschools don't have access to several musical instruments, the alternative is to show pictures and play samples of music. Children will be stimulated and excited when they begin to learn and correctly identify the sounds of musical instruments.


Find individual recordings of each major brass instrument, starting with the tuba, trombone, and trumpet. Avoid more subtle instrument timbres, such as the euphonium, baritone, and cornet. Play an example of each instrument and help the students describe the sound. While they are listening, show the children a picture of each instrument. When the music is finished, have them create a story using characteristics from each instrument. The tuba might represent a lumbering beast that is holding the trumpet captive. The trombone. with its majestic tone quality, could be the hero of the story by saving the trumpet.


Woodwind instruments come in many forms, so stick only to the most prominent instruments in the orchestra -- the flute, oboe, bassoon, and clarinet. Avoid using instruments with similar sounds to the woodwinds you've selected, such as the piccolo, English horn, and bass clarinet. Show the child a picture of each instrument and play "Peter and the Wolf" by Sergei Prokofiev. Explain that the flute represents a bird, the oboe is a duck, the clarinet is a cat and the bassoon is the grandfather. If you can access a film version, play that instead of the music to keep the kids' attention through both visual and musical representations.


String instruments are very difficult to teach to children, mainly because the difference in sound between a violin and viola is subtle. Other than the relative difference in range each instrument occupies, a violin may simply sound to a child like a high viola. For this reason, it is best to teach the strings as a group and have the children identify the homogenous characteristics of the string instruments. Show them pictures and play various musical examples. Create worksheets allowing them to color violins, violas, cellos and basses according to their own preferences. Teach them about the major parts, such as the strings, body, neck, tailpiece and bow.


Percussion activities provide ways for children to interact and experiment with objects in the environment. Tell the children percussion instruments consist of items that can be banged, struck, slapped, stroked or rubbed. Knock on the desk, then help them come up with words to describe the sound. Let them walk around the room for five minutes and interact with objects to hear the different sounds materials make. Show them pictures and play audio examples of a bass drum, snare drum, xylophone, glockenspiel, and timpani. Brainstorm on the classroom board to come up with a description of each instrument.


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